Please welcome Lakewood Police recruit Berg. He left one beautiful state to make a home in another.
My name is Recruit Berg, and I am one of the many recent transplants to the Denver area. I was born near Seattle, Washington and lived there most my life. I wanted to get into law enforcement since high school, but I got married fairly young. My wife and I moved around a bit early on in our marriage. We moved to Hawaii to finish our degrees, and moving is not especially conducive to a career in law enforcement. So I waited...
My wife and I decided we wanted to start a family, and she wanted to start a graduate program not offered in Hawaii. We found programs that matched my wife’s career goals in the beautiful state of Colorado. Since we knew we’d finally be settling down, I applied to a number of police departments. It was time for me to pursue a career in law enforcement.
I began to fully invest my time and energy in applying to departments across the ocean, in a place I’d never been. This was my first challenge. Other than looking at a map to know where someplace was, I was completely unaware of what each city was like and what each department had to offer.
As an out of state candidate, I was left with information that could be found on each city and department’s website. I made phone call after phone call, clarifying information and ensuring I understood the hiring process that proved unique to each department. For example, most departments require passing a written test before moving forward in their process. Others skip the written test entirely and start off with an oral board. If you’ve never sat for an oral board, I don’t have any consoling remarks. It is intimidating, getting grilled with questions from a panel of 3-5 law enforcement officials. No matter the answer you give, you walk away thinking of how you could have answered better.
The time difference (4 hours) didn’t help. I continued to do my best and communicate efficiently when I had to get something scheduled. Every candidate has to deal with requesting time off work to complete each step in the hiring process. Out of state candidates also have to bear travel costs with no assurance of success. In fact, I expected to be rejected by several departments.
Which is exactly what happened to me. My first trip to Colorado was a redeye flight where I changed into my suit (suits are expected at most parts of the hiring process) in the airplane bathroom minutes before landing. I didn’t want to get it wrinkled on the plane, so I carried it on with me. I felt like Superman, changing in a phone booth, as I stepped out excited and ready for the seemingly unending tests I was about to take.
Except when I stepped off that flight (sleeping fitfully), I arrived at my first department within an hour only to find I hadn’t quite scored high enough to continue. Now you tell me.
Quick rejection isn’t any easier to swallow. I had an oral board the following morning with a different department, an hour and a half drive from where I was staying. I passed their process and was placed on an eligibility list. A quick hop in my car, an hour back to take another written test that I “passed”, but didn’t score high enough to move forward (uhhh-gehn). The rest of the weekend was two more tests and a polygraph. I wouldn’t find out my results for those until I was back home.
That was one trip. Four departments, four written tests, an oral board, and a polygraph squeezed across four days. I was responsible for scheduling all of these appointments and ensuring there were no time conflicts. And still, nothing is guaranteed, but I pushed through it.
Lakewood consolidated out of state hiring into one weekend. Exhausting doesn’t begin to describe what it was like, but no other department did this. Typically, an out of state candidate would be expected to make 3-4 trips out for the hiring process. Lakewood made each advancing step contingent on clearing the previous hurdle. I met some who didn’t, so their trips were cut short. The pressure was intense, but it was refreshing to receive results immediately and do everything in one trip.
And so I completed four tests over three days. I anxiously awaited my results after each stage, attempting to deal with the butterflies in my stomach to see if I would be moved onto the next stage. Obviously, I successfully passed each part, or I wouldn’t be here writing this!
Through several rejections, I persevered and was offered a position with the Lakewood Police Department. Although it was a grueling process, I’m with the department I truly want to be with. Not only that, but the friendships and experiences I’ve been piling on over the last 16 weeks of academy have made it all worth it in the end.