Recently, the City of South Bend released several new datasets on our Police Transparency Hub’s open data portal regarding South Bend Police Department’s recruitment and application process.
The new tables summarize the status of all applications created on or after April 12, 2017 (when the City started using the software My Staffing Pro to collect online applications). Before that time, the City collected applications by hand.
While this data release will answer some questions, we recognize it will likely inspire new ones as well. Recognizing the need to provide some key background information with these datasets, we’ve addressed some questions below about police recruiting.
What are the different steps in the recruitment process shown on this table and what do they mean?
(1) Submit Application. The first step is successfully submitting an application to SBPD.
(2) Physical Test. You can watch a video that SBPD made about the physical test here.
(3) Written Exam. This test measures basic math, reading, grammar, and incident report writing. Tutoring sessions are held the day before the test.
(4) Personal (aka the Pre-Polygraph). Applicants are asked to answer the same questions they would in a polygraph test. There is a standard list of questions for everyone about use of hard drugs, sexual misconduct, job history, traffic violations, and other legal issues. After the Personal, an applicant is either recommended, recommended with concern, or is not recommended. Being recommended with concern might look like someone with a complicated job history, historical recreational marijuana use, or financial history that is otherwise qualified. On the other hand, someone not recommended admitted to more serious offenses like hard drug use or sexual misconduct.
(5) Oral board. At this step, applicants are interviewed by a group of officers with a variety of ranks and assignments. These officers are trained by HR on scoring interviews. The interview itself looks more like a traditional job interview where questions revolve around experience, problem solving, work ethic, knowledge, and character. Interviews are judged as pass/fail. An applicant that dropped off at this stage might’ve been someone who lacked civic knowledge (ex: What is the name of the Mayor? The police Chief?) or had vague or poor answers to questions.
(6) Background. The background check is conducted internally by SBPD staff. Staff checks with an applicants’ employers, neighbors, landlords and others. Failing this step could look like the applicant having poor references or discovery that the applicant lied or omitted a serious piece of history from SBPD.
(7) Polygraph, Medical and Psych. These tests are last and, at present, do not happen in any one set order. The medical and psych exams are required for an applicant to be accepted into the pension program.
More information on the recruitment process can be found at https://police.southbendin.gov/get-involved/start-career-sbpd
What does it mean for applicants to fall under the “Disqualified/Withdrew/Incomplete” category?
An applicant falls in this category if…
(1) They withdraw at an unknown time in the process.
(2) Before advancing, they are discovered to not meet qualifying required standards: citizen, age 21-35, no hard drug use within 10 years, and being a high school graduate (or equivalent).
(3) They fail to complete the application.
Has this always been the recruitment process? How has it changed?
- In 2018, SBPD lowered the passing score of the written test from 82 to 80
- In 2018, SBPD did away with a doctor’s note requirement. There used to be a rule that applicants needed to show up to the physical test with a doctor’s note, but the department found that it was an extra cost barrier
- In early 2019, SBPD started offering a practice physical test
- A month ago, SBPD reduced the number of interviewing officers in an oral board from 6 to 4.
- The scoring of the oral board was also changed to pass/fail from a per-question scoring system. The reasoning behind this was so that applicants that were qualified but perhaps not good or eloquent interviewers would still have an opportunity to move forward.
How is SBPD examining and improving its recruitment process?
The SBPD has been a part of SB Stat, the City’s performance management program, since Spring of 2017. Recruiting and staffing has been a consistent topic. The public can access SB Stat documentation here: https://southbendin.gov/police-performance-management/
What kind of regulations or rules does the Police Department have to follow regarding recruitment?
- The physical test has the same standards as the Police Academy physical exam. These are ILEA standards.
- Applicants be age 21-35 upon hire and must pass medical and psych to join the pension program in Indiana.