Long road to becoming a Delta police officer

Department has an extensive hiring process where no stone is left unturned

So you have an interest in law enforcement and want to join the Delta Police Department? Well, get ready for a challenging process that will test you not only mentally and physically, but emotionally too.

Recently, the department welcomed seven officers, two from Alberta and five recruits who are in the final stages of their training at the Justice Institute of BC in New Westminster.

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The officers come from diverse backgrounds, bringing with them unique skills and life experiences, factors the department’s recruiting team considers for all candidates.

Prior to the swearing-in ceremony at municipal hall, the Optimist sat down with the three-member DPD recruiting team -- Sgt. Kim Campbell, Const. Danny Simone and Const. Dennis Mah -- for a behind the scenes look at what goes into becoming a Delta police officer.

Hiring process

Six or seven times a year, the DPD will invite applicants to write exams, the first step in an exhaustive process.

“We usually get 150 applicants for that and pick the most competitive people in the range of 25 to 30 people who will write that first test. The people who are successful in writing that exam are then invited to put in a full application,” said Simone.

“That application will include a resume, cover letter, a lifestyle questionnaire. All of that is vetted and we then conduct an intake interview and will move forward if we think the candidate is ready to proceed to the next steps.”

Those next steps include physical, medical and psychological testing, informational interviews, a polygraph test as well as background and reference checks, culminating in a final interview with the senior management team.

“At every stage of this process we begin to weed people out and the pool of candidates does get smaller as we go,” said Campbell. “We have to ensure that every candidate understands the culture and the work that they have signed up for and that they align with the professional values of our organization.”

Simone said no stone is left unturned.

“At the end of the day we don’t want any surprises,” he said. “We check in with neighbours, former teachers, coaches. We ask for 30 references and then we also go off that list to talk with people that they didn’t supply. We want to get a fair look at what this person is all about.”

Once an applicant meets with the senior management team, it will be up to that group to decide whether the candidate will be hired and move forward to the Justice Institute.

“When we make the decision to take them to a senior management interview, we are very committed to hiring these people,” Campbell said. “I would say 99 per cent of the people are hired out of that senior management meeting.”

Justice Institute training

Once an applicant is fully vetted and approved by the senior management team, the recruiting team takes the candidate through a pre-hiring process, which usually takes place a week before their first class.

This pre-hire will go through policies, on-board training, issuing of equipment and uniforms, and some study work so each person is on solid ground before they start at the Justice Institute.

Unlike the RCMP where following graduation officers can be stationed across the country, when a person is seeking to be a municipal police officer in B.C., they actually apply directly to the department of their choice.

“From the day they walk into the police academy, they know what agency they will be working for,” said Campbell.

Three classes are held at the Justice Institute every year (January, May and September) and the DPD aims to put at least two people into each class.

Each class usually has up to 36 students, but some recent ones have had as many as 48 thanks to a huge hiring push by the Vancouver Police Department.

Block one is 12 weeks and consists of bookwork as well as driving and firearms training.

Block two is 19 to 21 weeks with the candidate integrated with a field-training officer from the department.

In Delta, there are four patrol squads (A-platoon through D-platoon) with each squad having two to three designated field-training officers.

Finally, block three sees the candidates return to the Justice Institute for nine more weeks of studying law and applicable applications.

If there is an exempt officer, as is the case with the two hired from Alberta, they will not go to the Justice Institute for full training. The officers need to get their provincial certification and might go through a bit of training to get acclimated to the community and the department, but can essentially hit the ground running.

What makes a good candidate?

One of the top intangibles is a person who has a strong sense of community.

“Certainly we look for people who were born or brought up in Delta, but also others who have been brought up in communities that have a small-town feel to them,” said Mah. “Those who were active in sports and have the team-player mentality, a good lifestyle, integrity, honesty, strong family and friends, a good job history — these are all the attributes we are looking for. This is a lifetime commitment.”

Policing can be a high stress career choice, so a certain “grit” factor is also high on the list.

“We want people who are resilient, those that can be knocked down, but can get back up. This is a tough job, but it is very rewarding,” said Campbell.”

Swearing-in ceremony

At the recent ceremony, the officers sworn in included Const. Sunny Gahunia, who was with the Calgary Police Department, and Const. Dan Tatla from the Edmonton Police Department. Both are originally from B.C. and decided to move back to the Lower Mainland for family reasons and quality of life.

“I came from a large police service, and I wanted to go to a smaller police service and Delta was highly spoken of from my research,” said Gahunia. “I started here in September and I don’t regret my decision at all. This is a great community. The people of Delta have been phenomenal.”

Constables Scott McClure, Michael Santos and Jessica Slater are part of Class 152, which started training at the Justice Institute Sept. 19 and will graduate June 23.

Constables Navjot Bring and Andrea Tuttle are part of Class 153, which started training Jan. 16 and will graduate Nov. 3.

Bring was born in Richmond, but grew up in Surrey and North Delta. He said he has always had an interest in policing, even as a young boy playing cops and robbers with his friends.

“When I got into university and the criminology program I took a youth justice course where we dealt with kids and how they are affected by crime and I just saw that you can really make a difference and that really tipped the scales for me,” he said.

“Delta is a tightknit organization and it seemed like a natural fit. It is one of the only departments that wear its last names on their uniforms, so that goes to show the connection with our community. We are just not a number to the community, we are actual members of the community and we are here to help, serve and protect.”

Born and raised in Langley, Slater started working for Delta a few years ago as a public safety representative and dispatcher.

“I wanted to take a more hands-on approach. There is only so much you can do from the radio room,” she said. “I applied with Delta and was deferred to the reserve program, which was a huge blessing, as it afforded me a lot of early training. It’s such an interesting workplace and I love the idea of no two days being the same. People generally don’t call the police if they are having a good day. They call in times of crisis, so I like the idea of being in a position to help people.”

Following the presentation of badges and the swearing-in of the officers, Chief Neil Dubord offered a few thoughts. As the ceremony was the day after Valentine’s Day, Dubord borrowed a line from Forrest Gump.

“Policing is like a box of chocolates — you just never know what you are going to get,” he said. “Everyday when a police officer goes out on patrol they have to be prepared for anything. At times this career will bring you a deep sense of joy, a sense of grief, at times anger, and times great laughter, so the lesson is to always be prepared, mentally, physically and emotionally.

“Attitude is everything. Never lose the drive, enthusiasm and passion that got you here today to get your badge. This is a noble profession. Police work is a gift, much like a box of chocolates, so be sure to treat it as such.”

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