New officer exam goes beyond norm

Published 10:24 am Friday, February 12, 2016

The path to becoming a Vicksburg police officer has grown tougher.

Police Chief Walter Armstrong said the department has changed the entry-level examination for prospective officers that goes beyond the previous civil service test procedures. The tests, he said, will be administered by Jackson-based Morris & Associates, which specializes in employee testing and evaluation.

Armstrong said the company also handles testing for the Mississippi Highway Patrol, Clinton police and the Laurel Police Department. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved hiring the company Wednesday.

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“This is our second time (with the company), we did a pilot test about a year ago and we liked it,” Armstrong said. “We’re just going to use them for the entry level test for right now. We liked the way the format went.

“We think it’s a better process. Before, with the civil service test, they might give you 50 questions and they might be multiple choice or true and false, and if you passed that test at 70 percent, you proceeded further.”

The new testing procedure includes four parts:

• Reading ability test for police to screen for candidates who are not able to read at the level necessary to be successful in the department.

Armstrong said the test is a pass/fail test. If the applicant fails the reading test, they cannot proceed further in the examination process.

Under the new policy, Armstrong said, applicants will be presented three different scenarios on a computer and asked to respond with a four-minute response how they would handle a particular situation.

“It allows for the applicant to think and process the information they have read and respond back. That’s a component that I like, and it’s pass/fail, so if you don’t pass it, you will not be allowed to advance to the written portion of the test,” he said.

He said the applicants will be videotaped while they take the test.

“Our officers have to write a lot of reports and they have to interpret a lot of situations,” he said.

“This process allows for that to be put to the test. That’s what we did not have before. We want to make sure we’re getting the right folks. We’ve never done it on the front end.”

In the past, Armstrong said, problems were not discovered until after the officer was hired and on the road, adding that some officers who have needed help were sent to report-writing class.

• Candidate profile summary to assess the integrity, work ethic, and service orientation of the applicants.

• Entry-level test to identify those individuals who possess the abilities needed to be successful as an officer.

• Oral presentation to measure the abilities necessary for police work, such as judgment, problem identification and analysis, oral communication, and service orientation.

Under the terms of the contract, the city will pay Morris & Associates $5 per applicant to administer the reading test, $23 for the entry test, $18 for the candidate profile summary and $75 for the oral evaluation for a total of $121 per candidate. If the applicant fails the reading test, the city owes the company $5 for the reading test.

Test assessors will be paid $100 a day.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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