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Prepare For The Tests

The following are the seven steps that you will have to go through during the selection process and some helpful hints on how to best approach each step. A final average score of 70% or higher and successful completion of all steps in the selection process is required to be placed on the eligible list. However, eligibility does not guarantee an offer of employment.

The Seven Steps

Step 1 - Online Application
Step 2 - Personal Qualifications Essay (PQE)
Step 3 - Background Investigation and Polygraph Exam
Step 4 - Physical Fitness Qualifier
Step 5 - Department Interview
Step 6 - Medical Evaluation and Psychological Evaluation
Step 7 - Certification and Appointment



Step 1 - Online Application

The online application consists of two (2) parts:

  1. Registered Information - personal application information
  2. Application Questionnaire - recruitment source information

Sections 1-2 will take you approximately 5 minutes to complete. You must complete BOTH sections before your application can be processed, and must print the Online Application and bring it with you to the written test.

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Step 2 - The Personal Qualifications Essay (PQE)

The Personal Qualifications Essay (PQE) is administered at the written test site. The PQE requires you to write essays in response to questions regarding demonstration of your personal qualifications for Police Officer. Essays will be evaluated based on your written communication skill and demonstrated effectiveness in judgement and decision-making and behavioral flexibility.

Candidates are not successful in the PQE for numerous reasons, including the following:

  • Using poor examples that fail to showcase their abilities and potential
  • Failure to provide enough details that would make the essays clear and easier to understand
  • Failure to stay on topic (i.e. rambling, too much detail, or irrelevant information)
  • Failure to provide all information asked for in the essay questions (i.e. did not completely answer the questions)
  • Lacks adequate written communication skills (i.e. English usage, grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.)

 

If you feel that you may need improvement in your written communication skills, we encourage you to take steps to improve in this area. You may want to consider taking a college course in business English and/or essay writing. Below are some courses offered through the Los Angeles Community College District that may interest you.*

Course Name Course Number Description
Business English Business 31 (or CAOT 31) Knowledge of English grammar and punctuation rules; practice in writing sentences and paragraphs
College Reading Skills English 20 Techniques to improve reading skills and to write clear, coherent compositions
College Reading and Composition I English 101 Develops proficiency in college-level reading and writing through the practice of critical thinking and well-developed logical expository writing

* Course names, numbers, and descriptions from the Los Angeles City College 06-07 Catalog

For more information on the Los Angeles Community College District, please call (213) 891-2000 or visit http://www.laccd.edu.

Factors Judged During PQE Rating

Written communication skill
Police Officers are required to fill out many different forms, logs, and reports. Correspondingly, Police Officers must write legibly and clearly and have a good working knowledge of English grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary, and spelling. Police Officers must be concise, descriptive, and thorough in all written documents. You must read the questions carefully to ensure that your answers are appropriate to the questions.

Judgement and decision-making
This has long been part of what a Police Officer does on a daily basis. Police Officers are expected to recognize small problems and solve them before they become big problems. They must note trends and develop preventive solutions to potential long-term problems. Think about problems you have confronted in the past and how you approached them. Why did you do what you did? Would you do it again?

Behavioral Flexibility
Police Officers must be able to work alone, responsible only for their own actions; with a partner, where responsibility is shared; as a member of a team, capable of following the orders of others and working cooperatively with other team members; or as a leader, taking control of a situation and directing or helping others. Officers must be able to assume these different responsibilities at appropriate times and as circumstances change, often during a single work shift or even during a single event. Plan to talk about your past behavior and how it has prepared you to adapt to this behavioral flexibility.

What to think about before taking the PQE
There is no right or wrong answers to the questions. You will be asked to elicit the information needed to evaluate your qualifications for each of the factors discussed above. Each candidate's response will be unique to that candidate, based on his or her life experiences. Prior to your PQE you may want to spend some time reviewing the many events and incidents that make up your personal history and that have helped make you who you are today. Which of these many experiences have prepared you for the position of Police Officer and the factors on which you will be rated?

Your PQE Score
The passing score for the PQE portion is 75% or higher, and your score is valid for 18 months. If you do not pass, you may take the PQE once every three months.

Your score determines your rank on the eligible list and what happens next. The City can only consider candidates in order of their score on the list. The highest scoring candidates will be scheduled for additional testing. The lowest scoring candidates will not be considered further. If your score is in the middle, you may be scheduled for some further testing, but there is no guarantee that you will ultimately be successful.

The number of candidates needed (and what score is high enough to be called for further processing) depends on two major factors -- the number of appointments expected and the number of applicants. These numbers can change dramatically over time, with new applicants testing every week, making it impossible to exactly predict what will happen to you. Continuing assessment of these external factors is done to determine what scores will be needed to fill expected Academy classes.

If you have one of the very highest scores, you can expect to be scheduled to take the Physical Abilities Test (PAT) and to complete the Personal History Statement (PHS). If you have one of the lowest passing scores, you will not hear further from the City, but you may recompete (see below) to try to improve your score. If you are in the middle ranges, you will be notified by mail if further processing is available to candidates with your score. It is your responsibility to make sure your contact information is up to date. Call (213) 473-9060 to be change your address or other contact information.

Plain talk about this test part:
Read the essay questions and make sure that you answer the questions that are asked. Reread your answers and look for careless errors. You will be taking this test with paper and pencil. You won't be able to rely on spell-check. It's not enough that you know how to write or have created excellent written papers in the past - you have to demonstrate your skill on the day of the test.

Tips for the test day

  • When you write your essays, consider a thoughtful answer to the question before you begin writing.
  • Read the question carefully and answer the question as it is asked.
  • Save time to review your essays and correct any careless grammatical or spelling errors you can find. It's not enough to know proper grammar and how to spell - you have to demonstrate your knowledge on test day. Don't be overconfident - check your work.

 

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Step 3 - Background Investigation and Polygraph Exam

Prior to the Initial Background you will be required to complete Personal History Statement, which requires the compilation of extensive biographical information. On the day of the Initial Background, a background investigator will review the Personal History Statement and interview you about any issues noted. You will also be fingerprinted. If, based on the information obtained, it appears that you may meet the City's background standards, a thorough field investigation will be conducted. The field investigation includes checks of employment, police, financial, education, and military records and interviews with family members, neighbors, supervisors, co-workers, and friends. The investigation may take from 60 to 180 days to complete. You will be evaluated on your past behavior and the extent to which your behavior demonstrates positive traits that support your candidacy for Police Officer. The findings of the background investigation are valid for 12 months.

Plain talk about this test part: Honesty is the best policy. Everyone has done things they're not proud of, but the worst possible action is to try to cover it up. Please take time to carefully evaluate your background and experiences before you get started. Click here to see what types of things might negatively impact your progress.

Quick Tips

  • Check the Background Information Flyer to see the types of things that are not befitting of a Police Officer. Be prepared to address any that may apply to you.
  • Type or print neatly using black ink when filling out your Personal History Statement.
  • You must do the research necessary to provide accurate answers in every area. "I do not remember" is not an acceptable answer on your Personal History Statement.
  • Be well rested and have a good meal before your background interview. Hunger and thirst can distract you.
  • Dress comfortably. (Business casual, Military Class C Uniform)
  • Arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your scheduled background interview appointment time.
  • For parking during regular business hours, there are 10-hour meters in the surrounding areas of the building (bring change) and also parking lots within a couple of blocks (Temple & Alameda) of the Personnel Building are available for a nominal fee.
  • Please click here for Frequently Asked Questions regarding the background investigation process.
  • PLEASE BE AWARE: A Release and Waiver form is needed at the time of your Initial Background. The Waiver needs to be signed in the presence of a Notary Public. If you reside outside the State of California, you can get the Waiver notarized in your hometown. Please submit the Notarized Waiver form with your documents at your scheduled Initial Background. 
  • You must fill out the Personal History Statement (PHS) before you appear for your Initial Background appointment. Do not leave blank spaces in any section, especially email addresses for your references. You must do the research necessary to provide accurate answers in every area. "I do not remember" is not an acceptable answer.

Background Standards
The Background Standards for public safety positions in the City of Los Angeles reflect the very high standards demanded of candidates for public safety job classifications and safety sensitive positions within City service. They are designed to identify the kinds of behaviors which are required of Public Safety Officers serving the citizens of the City of Los Angeles. Each candidate's past choices, judgments, and behaviors will be compared to these demanding standards. Candidates who fall short of demonstrating consistently sound decision making, maturity, and responsible past behaviors in each of these areas will not be further considered for employment in these critical positions.

Each Standard represents an area that is essential for success in public safety employment. Positions such as Police Officer, Police Specialist, Port Police Officer, Special Officer, and Firefighter, along with other public safety positions designated by the General Manager, are positions of special public trust for which these exacting standards have been designed. The City identifies and selects only those individuals with the highest chance of success in their training and in continuing employment in these critical positions.

Candidates are asked to critically assess their own background in light of these Standards before beginning the examination process.

THE STANDARDS

INTERPERSONAL SKILLS, SENSITIVITY, AND RESPECT FOR OTHERS
Public Safety Officers must be able to draw on extraordinary levels of tact and diplomacy to achieve their goals while dealing with the diverse population of the City of Los Angeles. They must be able to use advice, appropriate warnings and persuasion to engender cooperation from the public. Additionally, they must be able to work effectively either as an individual or as a member of a larger team. Each candidate shall demonstrate an understanding of the skills necessary to deal effectively with others in a cooperative and courteous manner. Desired behaviors may include, but are not limited to:

  • Understanding the impact of words and behavior on others, and modifying one's own behavior, comments, or course of action accordingly
  • Concern for the feelings and perspectives of others
  • Demonstration of impartiality in dealing with issues of age, gender, sexual orientation, race or ethnicity, religion, and cultural diversity
  • Use of tact and diplomacy to achieve goals, resolve disputes, and to diffuse or deescalate conflict
  • Ability to work effectively as a member of a team, making appropriate contributions and recognizing the achievements of others

    Examples of Potentially Disqualifying Evidence
    Incidents of domestic violence; use of verbal or physical abuse or violence toward others indicating a lack of self-control; inability to get along with others in work or personal life; failure to listen effectively; use of derogatory stereotypes in jokes or daily language; making rude and/or condescending remarks to or about others; use of physical force to resolve disputes; demonstrated overreaction to criticism; inability to work effectively as a "team player"; disruptive/challenging to authority; use of harassment, threats, or intimidation to gain an advantage.

DECISION MAKING AND JUDGEMENT
Public Safety Officers must possess extraordinarily good sense and must demonstrate through their past behavior that they can analyze a situation quickly, make sound and responsible decisions, and take appropriate action. Desired behaviors may include, but are not limited to the ability to:

  • Critically analyze options and determine an appropriate course of action in a given situation
  • Act assertively and without hesitation, but without overreacting
  • Make quick, responsible decisions under pressure
  • Persuade others to own point of view or to desired course of action
  • Know when to make an exception; exercise appropriate discretion
  • Prioritize competing demands
  • Simultaneously and appropriately address multiple tasks
  • Make appropriate choices without constant supervision or detailed instructions
  • Creatively develop innovative solutions to problems
  • Examples of Potentially Disqualifying Evidence
    Making poor choices given known circumstances; indecision when options are not clear-cut; failure to take action when appropriate or demonstrating insecurity about making a decision ; behavior indicating poor judgment or failure to consider appropriate options; failure to learn from past mistakes; inability or unwillingness to modify a position; rigid adherence to rules without consideration of alternative information; failure to see or consider all options; succumbing to peer pressure.

MATURITY AND DISCIPLINE
Public Safety Officers must present a background which demonstrates maturity and readiness for such employment. Their past choices must be free from behavior inappropriate to the position being sought. A significant degree of personal discipline must be displayed to ensure that candidates can consistently refrain from taking actions which may be detrimental to their own health and well-being or the health and well-being of others. They must be able to maintain their composure and stay in control during critical situations, maintain a positive attitude, and accept constructive criticism without becoming defensive. Desired behaviors may include, but are not limited to the ability to:

  • Refraining from engaging in conduct which, by its very nature, would reflect poorly on the City and limit a Public Safety Officer's ability to do his or her job effectively
  • Adhering to legal and societal constraints and requirements of conduct
  • Considering the consequences prior to taking an action
  • Accepting responsibility for past actions and mistakes
  • Taking proper precautions and avoid unnecessarily risky behavior
  • Using constructive criticism to improve performance
  • Working well in unstructured situations with minimal supervision

    Examples of Potentially Disqualifying Evidence
    Use of illegal drugs; abuse of alcohol or prescription medications; failure to follow all laws and common rules of conduct; associating with individuals who break the law; being argumentative, defensive, or blaming others (or circumstances) for mistakes made; past behavior which indicates a tendency to resort to use of force to gain objectives; overbearing in approach to resolving problems; unnecessarily confrontational taking unnecessary personal risks; placing others at risk through one's own actions; reacting childishly or with anger to criticism or disappointment.

HONESTY, INTEGRITY AND PERSONAL ETHICS
Public Safety Officers are required to demonstrate the highest possible personal integrity through their honesty and ethical conduct. They must be able to maintain high standards of personal conduct, abide by the law, and demonstrate attributes such as truthfulness and fairness in relationships with others. Each candidate must demonstrate a willingness to work within "the system". Examples of behaviors which meet this standard include, but are not limited to:

  • Being truthful in dealings with others
  • Fully cooperating and being completely forthcoming during the pre-employment selection process
  • Admitting and understanding past mistakes
  • Refraining from using employment or a position of authority for personal gain
  • Refraining from "bending" rules or otherwise trying to "beat the system"
  • Accepting responsibility for one's own actions

    Examples of Potentially Disqualifying Evidence
    Makes false and/or misleading statements or intentionally omits relevant information; purposefully withholds information; minimizes past mistakes or errors; blames others/makes excuses for mistakes; attempts to induce others to give false information; "bends" the rules or uses a position of authority for personal gain; refuses to accept responsibility for improper actions; condones the unethical behavior of others through silence; engages in illegal or immoral activities of such a nature that would be offensive to contemporary community standards of propriety; theft; fraud.

SETTING AND ACHIEVING GOALS
Public Safety Officers are required to demonstrate the ability to set and achieve personal and professional goals. Candidates for public safety positions can best position themselves for positive consideration through continuing achievement in the workplace, educational environment, volunteer activities and/or community involvement. Each candidate must demonstrate initiative and the ability to follow through on all commitments without constant supervision and detailed instruction. Candidates have the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to set and achieve goals, their ability to work in a diligent, reliable, and conscientious manner in accordance with specific rules and policies, and their readiness for, and commitment to, public service through the following:

  • Advancement in the workplace through promotion or increased responsibilities
  • Completing work as required and on schedule
  • Meeting high standards for punctuality and attendance
  • Meeting family obligations
  • Educational achievement
  • Involvement in volunteer or community improvement activities
  • Easily meeting unpredictable or unexpected challenges

    Examples of potentially disqualifying evidence
    Failure to meet commitments to work, school, family, volunteer or community activities.

RECORD CHECKS
Candidates for public safety positions are held to exacting standards of behavior throughout all aspects of their lives. Candidates can expect specific inquiry to be made into their past behavior regarding:

  • The exercise of fiscal responsibility and acceptance of responsibility for financial obligations
  • Employing safe driving practices
  • Maintaining stable employment
  • Obeying laws, rules, regulations, and orders
  • Military accomplishments

    Examples of potentially disqualifying evidence
    Past due accounts, discharged debts, late payments, collection accounts, civil judgments and/or bankruptcy; failure to exercise fiscal responsibility commensurate with income; failure to follow all traffic laws; numerous moving and non-moving violations; at fault traffic accidents; terminations or suspensions from work; reprimands or counseling for poor work performance (including Military service); failure to meet obligations (for example, auto insurance, auto registration, selective service registration, IRS requirements, child support obligations, etc.); law enforcement contacts, arrests, and convictions (as appropriate); other than Honorable discharge from the military.

It is in every candidate's best interest to be completely forthcoming and truthful during the background investigation process. Many candidates are disqualified during the background portion of the selection process as a result of dishonesty. These candidates purposely omit information they think will result in their removal from the selection process, when that may not have been the case. When this information is later discovered during the background investigation, the candidate is disqualified, but not necessarily for the behavior he or she failed to disclose. Rather, the candidate is disqualified for what the failure to provide complete, accurate, and honest information reveals about his or her character.

The Polygraph Examination is conducted to confirm information obtained during the selection process.

Plain talk about this test part: For some, this is the most frightening part of the examination. Relax, be yourself, and tell the truth.

Quick Tips

  • You must have had at least 6 hours of sleep the night before your exam. Eight is better!
  • If it takes you over one hour to drive to Los Angeles, please consider coming into the City the day before your appointment and staying at a local hotel or arriving well ahead of your appointment. You must be well rested for your exam.
  • Have a good meal. Hunger and thirst can distract you.
  • Do not wear a suit, tie, long sleeves, jeans, or high heels. Dress comfortably. Wear a short-sleeved, polo style shirt/blouse. (Business Casual)
  • For evening appointments, please report to guard.
  • Do not take polygraph test if you are ill.
  • Remember to relax and be honest. Do not take steps to "help" yourself pass or attempt to beat the polygraph. Listen only to the examiner's instructions at the time of your polygraph.

 

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Step 4 - The Physical Fitness Qualifier

Effective October 1, 2017, the Physical Abilities Test 1 has been eliminated and replaced with the PFQ on an advisory basis.

In order to better prepare for the exam and the physical demands of the academy, you are required to attend the Candidate Advancement Program (CAP) and complete the Physical Fitness Qualifier (PFQ). Your score on the PFQ is advisory. You must complete the PFQ at least once prior to appointment. You are welcome to retake the PFQ as many times as you like, and the score is valid for 12 months. If you score less than a 50 on the PFQ, you are strongly encouraged to attend CAP more regularly and retake the PFQ.

Being part of CAPs will significantly increase your success in the academy. CAP will also make transitioning to Academy life much easier. If you currently live more than 150 miles away from the Los Angeles area, you should contact your mentor to arrange a PFQ while you are in town completing other test parts. For information regarding CAP and the PFQ, click here.  For a demonstration of the PFQ, click here.

Prepare for the PFQ with the Candidate Advancement Program (CAP).

The ACADEMY PHYSICAL TRAINING PROGRAM is intense and demanding, and the first physical fitness test occurs during the first week of the Academy. Therefore it is critical that candidates don't wait until they are in the Academy to get into good physical shape. It is recommended to begin a physical conditioning program as soon as you apply.

For Physical Preparation Tips to help candidates who want to work out on their own, click here. To help you track your fitness click here to download the Fitness Log.

The PFQ consists of four events: 1) maximum sit-ups in on minute, 2) 300-meter sprint, 3) maximum push-ups in one minute, and 4) 1.5 mile-run. This is the same physical fitness test that academy recruits take the third day of the police academy.

The Treadmill Test
This test measures aerobic capacity. The treadmill is programmed to SIMULATE running 1.5 miles in 14 minutes on a track. During the test, the speed and incline of the machine will vary and, as a result, the actual test time is 10 minutes and 20 seconds. The pass/fail score for this test is based upon your completion of this test for the specified period; it will usually be administered after the Medical Evaluation.

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Step 5 - The Department Interview

A panel interview will be conducted to assess your personal accomplishment, job motivation, continuous learning orientation, instrumentality, interpersonal skills, and oral communication skills. Only those candidates who are selected during this part of the process will receive a Conditional Job Offer.

If you fail, you may retake the interview after 3 months. If you subsequently attend an Orientation/Oral Prep Seminar, you will not be required to wait 3 months for another interview.

Oral Prep is 2nd Thursdays from 6-7:30 PM
Personnel Department Building
700 E. Temple St., Los Angeles, CA 90012

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Step 6 - Medical Evaluation and Psychological Evaluation

Medical Evaluation
The medical examination is thorough and it is essential that you be in excellent physical, emotional, and mental health with no conditions that restrict the ability to safely perform the essential functions of the police officer job. Good physical condition is necessary, as training in the Academy is rigorous. Failure to be in excellent physical condition may delay or disrupt training and result in a dismissal from the Academy. Medical examination results are valid for up to 12 months, at the discretion of the City's medical staff. Written psychological tests (valid for up to 18 months) and the second portion of the PAT will be administered at this time.

    Body Fat
    Each candidate will have their percent of body fat determined during the medical evaluation process. A candidate must not exceed the current body fat percentage standard. The current standard is: Female 30% and Male 22%.

    Vision
    Vision must be at least 20/30 in each eye with the following exceptions. If glasses are worn, vision must be at least 20/30 in each eye while wearing the glasses and uncorrected distance vision must not exceed 20/70 in either eye and the better eye must be at least 20/40. If soft contact lenses are worn, they must have been worn for at least three months and vision must be at least 20/30 in each eye tested with the contacts in. If a LASIK procedure (refractive surgery) was performed, vision must be at least 20/30 in each eye. In addition, candidates must be able to accurately and quickly name colors, and must be free from other visual impairments that would restrict the ability to perform law enforcement duties.

    Hearing
    Candidates must be able to understand speech in noisy areas, understand whispered speech, and localize sounds. Specialized testing methods are used to determine hearing capability. Although hearing aid use is not automatically disqualifying, additional specialized tests will be administered to determine if the use of hearing aids will be permitted.

Psychological Evaluation
The Psychological Evaluation consists of an individual oral interview and evaluation by a City psychologist on factors related to successful performance in the difficult and stressful job of Police Officer. The information evaluated includes the written psychological tests completed during the medical evaluation along with information obtained in the background investigation process.

    Psychological Factors of Concern
    Candidates with a history or prior diagnosis of a psychological or psychiatric condition, including learning disabilities or Attention Deficit Disorder, or who have been treated with psychotropic medication or therapy, will be asked to provide relevant medical records before a final psychological determination can be made.

    Certain conditions that have been suspected or diagnosed such as most learning disabilities or Attention Deficit Disorder, with or without hyperactivity, may require additional testing and review of relevant medical records. In some cases, these conditions/diagnoses are accompanied by functional limitations that might necessitate a psychological disqualification.

    Conditions such as bipolar disorder, recurring major depression, with or without psychotic features or suicidal ideation, recurring anxiety disorders, with or without panic attacks, obsessive/compulsive disorder, and most diagnoses leading to a psychiatric hospitalization require review of relevant medical records. These conditions are frequently accompanied by functional limitations that are difficult to manage, and as a result, tend to result in a psychological disqualification. . Be assured, each candidate receives an individualized assessment of his or her unique circumstances, and no condition or diagnosis is automatically disqualifying.

Plain talk about this test part: If you know you had prior treatment or a major injury, go to your doctor in advance and bring your records with you to the examination.

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Step 7 - Certification and Appointment

Certification and Appointment are the final steps in the selection process. To be considered, you must have successfully completed all steps in the process. Certification of a candidate's name to the Police Department does not guarantee appointment to the Police Academy. More names are provided to the Police Department than there are vacancies so that the Department can select those best qualified for appointment based on results of the interview and test process. Appointments to the Police Academy are made by the Police Department from the civil service eligibility list. In accordance with City Policies, a pre-employment substance screening for drugs and alcohol may be required prior to appointment because this classification has been designated as Safety Sensitive.

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Downloads: Fitness Log Downloads: Nutrition Guide Downloads: PHS Prep Downloads: Personal History Form Downloads: Release and Waiver Only Downloads: Scheduling Booklet Downloads: Credit Authorization Downloads: CAP Manual