It’s been said that law enforcement involves long hours of tedious boredom occasionally interrupted by moments of sheer terror.
“But, I would not have any other job in the world,” insists Robert Maginnis, assistant sheriff with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. “You won’t absolve the world from sin, but you can make an impact.”
A great place to start an arresting career is in Alameda County, where the Sheriff’s Department plans to hire 200 new deputies over the next two years.
The role of the sheriff in county law enforcement is different from police departments. In addition to maintaining county jails and policing unincorporated areas of the county, the department has contracts to protect the city of Dublin, Oakland International Airport, Peralta Community College, Alameda County transit, county hospitals and many social service agencies.
“Local law enforcement operates out of police department whereas the sheriff’s department operates out of 35 duty sites,” he advises. “We also run the coroner’s office, bomb squad, and manage a police marine unit on bay waters.”
Applications are accepted online, and information about testing (conducted four to five times a year) is posted on the website (AlamedaSheriff.org).
The application process is rigorous. Candidates must first pass a, general knowledge exam and then a physical abilities test that includes running and lifting their own weight. The third phase is the interview process. At that point, Maginnis says, a pool of 100 applicants has been winnowed down to 30 or 40.
“Phase four is the background check that requires transcripts from schooling and delves into personal history,” he continues. “A thorough investigation is what you would expect us to do.”
Next is a psychological test to weed out those with serious character flaws, followed by a medical exam.
Once testing is complete, candidates go to the police academy for 28 weeks. Then into the field training program where rookies put into practice everything learned in the academic setting.
“You have to be a ‘people person’ because we are not looking for ‘knuckle draggers’,” he jokes. “It’s a difficult, complex business and not for the faint of heart. The job is academically challenging and physically difficult. It’s also demanding and can be very dangerous.”
But in spite of the danger, the department is attracting a lot of second-career people. Everyone from accountants to construction workers seems interested in wearing a badge.
“What attracts most candidates is the air of mystery and just doing something different,” Maginnis notes. He has a long and varied law enforcement career – from walking the streets during the Berkeley anti-war riots in the ‘70s to being chief of police in a Bay Area city. Through it all, he has never regretted his choice of employment. “Police work is better than Disneyland’s greatest ride,” he boasts. “In fact, it’s far ahead of anything in second place.”
Central Valley Crime Fighters
The Modesto Police Department is hiring officers on a continuing basis, according to spokesman Rick Applegate.
“We are recruiting on all different levels for people who are open to diversity and can adjust to those situations,” he reports. “That includes lateral transfers or those, like me, who went through the police academy on their own before being hired.”
Applicants must be at least 21 years old, with a clean driving record, no felonies, and at least 45 college units completed. Applegate recommends that prospective recruits get their college education before applying to the department. The whole school experience adds to the maturity that a police officer needs.
“Finding qualified candidates is difficult,” he says. “Out of 100 applicants, only about one is hired.”
He points to today’s drug-permissive culture as one of the reasons. The department conducts a thorough background check, and past drug use or financial difficulties can disqualify a candidate.
A Modesto Police officer can be assigned to pursue a broad range of cases, including economic crime, auto theft, traffic problems, street crime, nuisance abatement, illegal drugs, or the fastest-growing crime in America – identity theft.
“We look for applicants with life experiences and common sense to understand a gamut of situations,” he explains. “Police work is the only career in the country that can deprive people of their freedom, and you need a mature person to handle it.”
Academy Grads Only
The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department is accepting applications from those who have gone through the six-month police academy on their own.
“When they finish they can go to law enforcement agencies with graduation certification in hand,” reports Lt. Ken Rohde, personal and training officer with the department. “There are some extended academies at several junior colleges where courses are held Tuesday and Thursday nights and all day Saturdays for nine months.”
No extensive background check is required for entrance into the police academy, but the Sheriff’s Department’s checks are in depth, including a polygraph test. If a candidate cannot show dependability, a good work history and a clean background, then money spent on academy training will be a worthless investment. Rohde says only one applicant in ten passes the background check.
He also has some advice for young men and women planning on an exciting career in police work. “These recommendations are aimed at 18 and 19-year-olds who are just starting to think about the future,” he emphasizes. “Don’t let peer pressure or other life situations compromise your judgment.
“Have good work ethics and good morals in every part of your lifestyle, because sooner or later they will be tested.”
For more information on law enforcement careers, check these source:
Alameda County Sheriff - AlamedaSheriff.com; (510) 208-9870
California Dept of Corrections - cdc.state.ca.us; 866-232-5627
Contra Costa County Sheriff - CocoSheriff.org; 877-4-DEPUTY
GovtJobs.com/safe - Nationwide public safety job bank also lists agencies and resources by state.
Modesto Police Dept - ModestoPolice.com; (209) 572-9500
Oakland Police Dept - OaklandPolice.com; (510) 777-3333
Peace Officer Standards & Training - post.ca.gov; (916) 227-3909
PoliceEmployment.com - Job searches, links, career information and tips on pursuing law-enforcement work.
Sacramento Sheriff’s Dept - SacSheriff.com; (916) 875-0085
San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Dept - co.San-Joaquin.ca.us/sheriff; (209) 468-4400
San Mateo County Sheriff’s Dept - co.SanMateo.ca.us; (650) 363-4911
Santa Clara Sheriff’s Dept - goSheriff.com; 866-GO-SHERIFF
Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Dept - StanislausSheriff.com; (209) 567-4412
Stockton Police Dept - StocktonGov.com/police; (209) 937-8233