How to make good police hires and other tips

​Some of the best law enforcement advice comes from experience. Ryan Alphin, executive director of the S.C. Law Enforcement Officers' Association and the S.C. Police Chiefs Association, Jackie Swindler, director of the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy and Larry McNeil, employee safety and law enforcement liaison for the S.C. Department of Social Services, fielded an assortment of questions during a panel discussion before municipal officials in Columbia earlier this year.

On body cameras
Law enforcement officers commonly attach their camera to their chest, said McNeil. However, the former Bennettsville police chief said he recommended his officers position the camera higher, where the device would follow the movement of the officer's head.

"You're going to see more," said McNeil. "If you hear a gunshot, your chest will not turn, but your head will."

He also urged agency supervisors to randomly sample camera footage every two weeks to make sure the camera is operating properly and capturing viewable footage. Simply deploying body cameras to comply with the law without revisiting the devices can shortchange the department.

"Just to do it and never look back, you're losing a whole lot," said McNeil.

On hiring
Alphin urged police departments to spend the approximately $15 up front to give candidates the National Police Officer Selection Test to see if a candidate has the education and skills required to be successful at the Criminal Justice Academy. The exam, offered by consulting firm Stanard & Associates, Inc., assesses proficiency in math, reading, grammar and incident report writing.

"You'd be surprised — candidates who can't read," said Alphin. "You cannot be a police officer if you cannot read."

On physical fitness
In order to graduate from the Criminal Justice Academy, recruits must complete an obstacle course in 2 minutes and 6 seconds. The course includes dragging a 150-pound dummy, leaping through window frames and scaling a fence. But there's no reason to send a recruit to the academy who hasn't prepared for the course or to send someone who will take up a precious academy training slot but has little chance of passing the obstacle course.

Swindler recommends police departments set up a close duplicate of the course in their towns so that recruits can practice. The practice course is a good way to make sure the recruit has a chance of passing the real thing.

"Test your candidates before you think about sending them," said Swindler. "When you send a candidate that does it in 2 minutes 50 seconds or 3 minutes, there is no way they'll pass it."

On vetting
The Criminal Justice Academy director offered another bit of advice to departments that are weighing a job candidate's qualifications.

"You can call the academy on any candidate and see if they've been enrolled before (at the academy) and see what their training records are and what their disciplinary records are," said Swindler. "It blows my mind to think that that opportunity is available and someone would hire somebody — put them in a position that carries the liability that it does to be an officer — and you're not vetting that officer."