Buhner.com Takes The Police Test
By Tom Edwards, Buhner.com

    The job market is really horrible (don't let anyone tell you differently), so people are finding themselves trying to do whatever they can to make themselves available for more jobs.  Me?  I find myself taking tests as often as possible, in an effort to make money some time in the future.

    I took the Suffolk County Police Exam Saturday, to the shock of pretty much anyone who hasn't spoken to me recently.  I'm not exactly one who "seems" like I'd make a good cop, but in times like these, you do whatever you need to do to get a job.

    So, without the support of any of my family (with the exception of my wife, naturally), I embarked on a police test mission this past Saturday.  Apparently, so did everyone else in the world.  I know that the test was being given in several school around the county.  The parking lot for the William Floyd School District (junior and senior high schools) was completely full, and people were parking outside on the street and walking to the schools to take the test.  It looked like a Giants game.

    Now, normally, you probably wouldn't have this many people attempting to try to become police officers.  It's not exactly a fun job.  There's a good amount of people who don't like you, you have to go into unfavorable situations and locations, your life is in danger, and you have to wear a uniform.  However, it makes a good living, there's a pension, and once you get the job, you retire in twenty-something years.  It's not that bad of a deal.

    In previous years, it would have been people who "wanted" to be police officers taking the test.  Now, it's people who want to work.  People in fields question switching over to other fields.  Doctors don't think that they could be lawyers.  Animal trainers don't think they can be computer programmers.  Taxi drivers don't think they can be pastry chefs.  However, everybody thinks they can be a cop.

    So, I took the test Saturday, and as I looked around the room at the people who were going to be taking the test with me, I'd say 50% of them looked like they would have been here, regardless of the job market.  They've got Marine cut hair, 5% body fat, and look like they'd be friendly but people you wouldn't want to cross.  There were also a handful that looked like they had plenty of police experience, but none of it on the "good" side.  Me?  I just shrugged and waited for the test.

    The test is a three part experience.  270 (I think) questions, broken up into "intellegence" questions, "personality" questions, and "life experience" questions.  The first hundred are the actual "test" portion of the exam.  They're questions that determine whether you're smart enough to be a cop.  Matching a sketch with another sketch out of four possible (with very minor differences in each), putting sentences in a police report in logical order, determining which witness' account was different from the rest, etc.  Here's an example question taken from the "candidate preparation guide", distributed to applicants a few weeks before the test:

      Police Officer Wilkins is preparing a report after leaving the scene of an accident.  The report will include the following sentences.  (These sentences are NOT listed in the correct order.)

      1) The Dodge struck the right rear fender of Mrs. Smith's Ford, and continued on its way.

      2) Mrs. Smith stated that she was making a left turn from 40th St. onto Third Avenue.

      3) As the car passed, Mrs. Smith noticed the dangling rear license plate #412AEJ.

      4) Mrs. Smith complained to police of back pains and was removed by ambulance to Bellevue Hospital.

      5) An old green Dodge traveling up Third Avenue went through the red light at 40th St. and Third Avenue.

      The most logical order for the above statements to appear in the report is:

      A. 1,3,2,5,4
      B. 2,5,1,3,4
      C. 4,5,1,2,3
      D. 5,3,1,2,4

    In other civil service tests I have taken, this question would test your English language knowledge.  By determining the context each sentence was said in, you'd have to determine what order to put the statements in to make the most clear statement.  However, for the police exam, they've made it simple enough to look at the statements, figure out the time order they belong in, and place them in that order.  In addition, the four choices are explained to you, so you really don't have to determine the best order by reading the statements first, but just by reading the statements in the order that the answers state, you can determine which sounds best.  This was pretty much cake, and

    The "personality" portion is a series of statements that you rate one to five on how much you agree or disagree with them.  It's hard to believe, but these questions are reportedly "graded", so the years and years of hearing that there "is no wrong answer" for questions about your personality, this test shows that there apparently is a wrong answer when you talk about how you act in certain situation.  Two example statements:

      Insults don't bother me.

      I set goals and strive to achieve them.

    For these statements, you would answer on a scale of one to five, with one being that you "strongly disagree" with the statement, and five being that you "strongly agree".  Now, apparently, one of those five answers is considered the "right answer", although questions answered by showing your personality aren't exactly the best judge of a person's character, especially considering it's rather easy to lie when asked the question.

    In a statement like the first one, it seems that if you were a police officer, you would want someone who isn't affected by insults, as policemen generally have to keep a thick skin, as they can sometimes find themselves in unpopular situations, and one of the worst things that can possibly happen to a police officer is to take action on someone on someone who may just be using these comments to vent anger seeing someone he or she loves taken away to jail.  It causes a negative image for the police, it turns a bad situation into a worse one, and it puts the police officer in danger.  So sure, you want a potential police offer to have a thick skin.  That being said, is it really a good idea to screen applicants through the "honor system"?  Insults generally bother most people.  However, are you really going to say that insults greatly bother you if you're trying to get a police job?  Most likely, no.

    The second statement even moreso asks for a "right" answer than it asks for a truthful one.  Does anyone really think that an applicant would say that he/she "doesn't set goals" and "doesn't strive to achieve goals"?  Sure, this question could weed out the few people that are shockingly honest AND are lazy as hell, but how many of those are going to pay $100 for the opportunity to take this test?

    So, as lying is the key to success in the second part of the exam, the third part of the exam lets you know immedately that lying will not be tolerated.  Section three, known as the "background information and life experience" survey, is "designed to access characteristics related to each candidate's past history or experience."  Sounds happy and friendly, right?  Well, that goes out the window in the next paragraph in the preparation guide, written in both BOLD and UNDERLINED.  What's the big deal?  Read:

      You will be required to sign a disclaimer prior to participating in the exam indicating that all information you will provide is true/accurate to the best of your knowledge.

    Ok, that's not too bad.  Read on.

      Any false information provided in your responses is punishable as a Class A Misdemeanor pursuant to Section 210.45 of the Penal Law of the State of New York.


      Any person who chooses not to sign this disclaimer, or fails to do so for any reason, will be disqualified from the testing process.

    Well, as you can imagine, I signed that thing.  Twice.  Hell, I started signing outher people's disclaimers until I started getting dirty looks.  I know I don't want to break the LAW.

    This part of the exam really wasn't overly complex.  It called for a little bit of memory, but outside of that, it was probably the easiest part, because questions were relatively straightforward.  Some questions asked about your high school career, though, so that takes a little bit of memory.  Again, even with the vicious BOLDED AND UNDERLINED threats, there were some questions that almost asked you to lie, if anything to show that you could actually get away with it, and saying anything outside of the "desired" answer, was almost grounds for rejection.  Example question:

      Within the last two years, how many times have you taken a day off because you did not feel like going to work?

      A. never.
      B. once.
      C. twice.
      D. three times.
      E. more than three times.

    Barring the Suffolk County Police Force's mind reading technology getting more advanced, I doubt seriously they're going to know if I took a day off from work because I didn't feel like going to work, unless I specifically told my boss that I didn't feel like coming to work.  Usually, those requests are followed by a lot more vacation time.  So, for the sake of argument, let's say that you did take a day off or two because you didn't feel like going to work.  You can tell the truth on that question, and lose a few billion points on the test, or you can lie, say that you never did such a dishonest and horrid thing, and risk the BOLDED AND UNDERLINED WORDS and hope that Suffolk County's mindreading device is still a few months away from completion.

    As a side note, I recently looked up what exactly a "class A misdemeanor" and "section 210.45 of the Penal Law" were.  Section 210.45 basically says it is a crime to make a "false written statement".  A class A misdemeanor can get you up to a year in jail.  Can you imaging being in prison for a year because you stated on your police test that you took a day off once because you didn't feel like going to work, when you actually went twice, and WERE CAUGHT?  How would you survive in federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison with that story?  Exactly.

    So, I took the test.  I fought temptation to test the penal code, and I took it.  I found it to be relatively easy, especially considering I counted more than one person who couldn't follow instructions BEFORE THE TEST STARTED.  People seem to have this obsession with trying to "get the jump" on everyone else during tests, even after you get out of school.  I saw more than one person start filling in the respective circles for their name as soon as they got the answer sheets, even though the monitor said not to mark the sheets whatsoever until after she totally went over the instructions.  Granted, I know that when she starts talking, she's going to say exactly that, but people who do things like that apparently can't follow directions, and/or have a serious complex about finishing on time or quicker than everyone else.

    When it was all over, I finished the test with an hour and fourty minutes remaining on my time.  No one else was done, not even the speed demons filling in their name early.  Whether or not I'll end up a police officer is out of my hands; it takes quite a while to grade these tests, and I'm hoping I'll have some kind of job by then so that even if the opportunity arises, some thought will actually have to go into it.  But I made the effort, and if I do decide to become a police officer (and they want me), that day will be one to look back upon, as a day that changed my life.  And if I don't?  Well, it gave me something to write about.