From the Edmonds Police Chief: So….. you wanna be a cop??

Police Chief Al Compaan

As we all know, it’s been a difficult several years for law enforcement in the United States. As professionals in our chosen field here in Edmonds, we are not immune from law enforcement incidents and issues that happen in our own backyard — or that occur thousands of miles away. At EPD, we take very seriously our core values of Service, Integrity, Respect, and Stewardship, including our Motto of “Service Before Self.” These are all part of the culture of our organization, and this culture truly begins with our candidates as a prerequisite for hiring.

So how does one go about being one of the few who is selected and hired by the Edmonds Police Department? Is it something done on a whim, or is more of “a calling” required to be a law enforcement professional? As you read on, I believe you will quickly come to the conclusion that being part of the law enforcement profession does require a candidate to have “a calling” to serve.

All of our prospective police officer candidates start with accessing our cooperative testing service, Public Safety Testing was formed in 2000 and assists us, and many other jurisdictions in the Pacific Northwest, with advertising, recruiting, application processing, and written and physical ability testing. Applicants may test for any agency that is represented on the website, applying online, choosing their testing date and location and, after testing, having their scores sent to the jurisdictions of their choice. Here at EPD, scores are placed in ranked order and we then invite candidates for an oral interview. Prospective candidates are required to complete a thorough personal history statement, providing initial insight into the background of each.

The scored interview consists of standardized questions, asked by a panel of personnel from our department. Those scores are melded with written scores, and a rank order list is presented to the Edmonds Civil Service Commission as our eligibility list.

We also receive applications from current law enforcement officers in other departments who want to come to work for us. Those applicants are called “laterals,” with a similar process being followed all along, but from a separate Civil Service eligibility list.

The department will then review the testing scores and basic qualifications to determine who will be invited for a non-scored command staff interview with the chief and assistant chiefs. We look for skill set and applicable work and life experiences, as well as an understanding of a candidate’s “fit” with the culture of our organization.

A written personality inventory and polygraph (lie detector) exam come next. Key points that are evaluated are honesty, integrity, work ethic, and anything that may signal any trouble ahead for the candidate or our agency. Those with hiring potential then undergo an extensive background investigation. An investigator will be assigned to gather and evaluate information from the candidate’s family, co-workers and supervisors that will include detailed facets of one’s life to best determine suitability for the mental and physical demands of police work. As needed, we do travel to other places in the country where the candidate has lived or worked.

We look for attributes indicative of one who is customer service driven, who can multi-task and adjust at a moment’s notice, ability to utilize verbal skills, and ability to protect themselves and others from physical harm.

Candidates successful in the background investigation move to a conditional offer of employment, followed by thorough psychological and medical exams. The completed file containing all facets of this pre-employment process will then be reviewed before a final hiring decision is made. New hires, or “recruits”, report to EPD 30-45 days prior to their police academy start date to gain some organizational familiarity with our staff and culture.

The Washington State Basic Law Enforcement Academy in Burien is 18 weeks long and provides foundational knowledge on core components of police work. Upon completion, recruits are assigned to Field Training Officers (FTO) on Patrol, graded on each call and at the end of each shift. Completion of FTO puts the probationary officer out as a solo officer, responding to 911 calls and conducting proactive patrol. Probation is complete one year from academy graduation.

These are a lot of hoops to go through. In 2016, we hired five out of 300 who applied. Our commitment to hiring the very best police officers is a community investment in our most significant resource – the men and women of the Edmonds Police Department – and our commitment to “Service Before Self”!!

— By Al Compaan, Edmonds Chief of Police

  1. I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with the police department. I appreciate the effort to improve pedestrian safety with the orange crossing flags. Now I’d like an educational campaign for pedestrian safety. A friend’s near miss with a pedestrian all dressed in black in the evening impressed on me the need to educate pedestrians and drivers in good safety practices.
    A question to Chief Compaan. Are there fold up orange flags that pedestrians could carry and use when appropriate. If so, are they effective in alerting cars to pedestrians?

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