This week, the assistant town clerk swore in three new Londonderry police officers. Monday at "0730" their police careers will begin in earnest.

As hard as the first day of the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council's 144th Police Academy is, the process to get there is much more difficult.

It begins for Londonderry, as with most agencies, on a Saturday morning with a written police aptitude test. Larger agencies like Nashua, Londonderry, Concord and Dover will hold their own testing process. Smaller agencies often pool resources and use the assistance of an outside assistant to help them.

Once a person passes the aptitude test | and many do not | it's on to the physical fitness.

Since Jan. 1, 2001 police officers in New Hampshire are required to pass a physical fitness test every three years. The test is based on standards developed by the founder of the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas, Texas and includes push-ups, sit-ups, a mile and a half run, a maximum bench press based on body weight, and a flexibility test. Passing scores are adjusted for age and gender.

In Londonderry, the testing process begins with the bench press. Pass, and you move on to the push-ups. Fail and you go home. From push-ups it's on to sit-ups. Again pass and you move on, fail and it's over until next time.

By the time the physical test is done, fully half of the applicants have been disqualified.

Those who pass both the physical and aptitude test are invited within a week or two to an oral board. The board is a standardized interview process made up of 10 questions posed to each applicant by the three board members. Each candidate sees the same board members.

We try to make the oral board a mixture of rank and experience from our agency. So it often includes someone from the administration, a detective, a first-line supervisor and a patrol officer.

About a third of those candidates move on to the chief's interview, which is more accurately a senior staff interview as it is with the chief and the three division captains.

Where the oral board is very formal with predetermined questions for all applicants, the chief's interview is free flowing and relaxed. Its purpose is to determine "fit" both ways | is the candidate a fit for Londonderry and is the LPD a good fit for the applicant.

Both try, with limited information, to make that assessment.

About one-third move on to the next step. The pool getting much narrower each time.

At this point a conditional offer of employment is given by the town and accepted by the employee. It is an offer of employment conditioned upon passage of the background investigation.

The background investigation is an in-depth look at a person's history and make up. It includes a polygraph, a psychological assessment, a physical and a review of employment, credit, motor vehicle and criminal history.

It's at this point the chief will say to the prospective employee, "We are not hiring angels; we are hiring honest people who will be good police officers for the town of Londonderry."

Even so most people don't make the background investigation.

When the candidate has completed all of the requirements, he or she is ready to be sworn in and ready for the police academy.

Londonderry police Capt. Bill Hart's column appears Fridays in the Derry News.

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