Idaho Falls Police officer: Not your average interview

Justin Gramm does situps with the the help of Preston Smith as the two take part in the agility test to become police officers. As part of the hiring process, applicants must score minimum standards in vertical leap, situps and push ups, as well as 300 meter and 1.5 mile runs. Monte LaOrange /

Grace Hansen easily finishes the 1.5 mile run within the allotted time while testing for a position with the Idaho Falls Police Department. As part of the hiring process, candidates must complete a 300-meter run in under 77 seconds and a 1.5 mile run in under 17 minutes and 17 seconds. Monte LaOrange /

Fighting crime and keeping the peace is no job for a wimp.

That’s why applicants to become an Idaho Falls Police officer must pass a rigorous set of tests before the interview process even begins.

With eight of the department’s 87 sworn officer positions coming vacant since June, officials announced they would be testing potential hires Tuesday and Wednesday. Police spokeswoman Joelyn Hansen said 99 people showed up to test for the five available spots. The department already has candidates in process for the other three openings.

The department will send those who pass the tests and are hired to Meridian for the Idaho Peace Officer Standards and Training, or POST training camp, which lasts 11 weeks. After that, they begin a probationary period where they shadow veteran officers for three to four months. Hansen said it usually takes about a year from the time officers are sworn in until they can start patrolling city streets on their own.

In Idaho Falls, officers start at a salary of $37,752 with medical and dental benefits. Officers do not need a college education. Candidates must be at least 21 years old.

Hansen said Wednesday that most of the candidates are in their 20s. Two women were among those taking the tests.

Grace Hansen, 22, of Idaho Falls, was one of 30 people who scored highest on the aptitude exam and moved on to the agility test. The Brigham Young University-Idaho communications student said the job is a perfect fit for her.

“I like helping people, and I want to work close to home,” Hansen said.

Nick Lawrence, 22, traveled from Seattle to test for the job. Lawrence, who works as an EMT, said he applied because he wants to move to Idaho Falls.

“I like this city a lot, and I think they have a really solid (police) department,” Lawrence said.

The test

After the initial 100-question aptitude test Tuesday, the top 30 candidates returned Wednesday for panel interviews and an agility test. They were split into groups of 13 and 17. Hansen said they were briefly interviewed by a panel composed of law enforcement officers, members of the public and city officials.

In the agility test, candidates had to pass minimum physical requirements set by POST. They had to be able to vertically jump 14 inches, do 15 situps and 21 pushups, run 300 meters in 77 seconds and 1.5 miles in 17 minutes, 17 seconds.

Of the top 30 scorers on the aptitude test, all but one passed the agility test, meaning 29 people await calls for interviews.

Officer Sage Albright, who helped administer the test, said while many would see the physical requirements as easy, it’s important for officer-hopefuls to give it their all.

“Nobody in this group stopped at the minimums,” Albright said. “That’s important in this career; it’s not the kind of job that you can get away with doing the bare minimum.”

Albright said the testing is an important way of gauging whether candidates are able to do the job.

“There is a lot of physical demand on our police officers,” Albright said. “Being fit is the only way to handle those demands.”

What’s next?

New recruit Jon Baird, who was sworn in Aug. 25 by Mayor Rebecca Casper, tested for the job last year.

After taking the written and agility tests, he said department officials called him in for an initial interview. Later, Baird had to undergo a psychological test, a polygraph test and an extensive background check.

The 25-year-old said he “actually enjoyed parts of it.”

Reporter Ali Tadayon can be reached at 542-6746