The process to become a police officer, even in a small town, can take from five months to a year, with a full range of physical, mental, and psychological tests and interviews, according to the Bin-gen-White Salmon Police Department’s (B-WSPD) newest recruit, Officer Kate Daniels.
Daniels, originally from Tacoma, has had a long-held interest in public safety and always knew she would have a career in the field.
“My dad was a firefighter in King County, and I worked as an EMT in Pierce County for a while. I started taking classes in criminal justice at UW [University of Washington] and from there began the process to become a police officer,” said Daniels.
In order to become a police officer in Washington State an individual must meet certain basic requirements. Candidates must:
- Be 21 years of age.
- Be a U.S. citizen.
- Possess a high school diploma or GED.
- Have a valid Washington driver’s license.
- Have had very limited to no recreational drug use.
- Be able to proficiently read and write the English language.
- Qualify to possess a firearm in accordance with federal and state regulations.
- Have no felony convictions, nor any history of domestic violence.
Additionally, to become an officer an individual must pass a physical fitness test, a background investigation, a polygraph (lie detector test), a psychological exam, and successfully complete training at the Basic Law Enforcement Academy (BLEA).
In Washington State, you cannot apply directly to the police academy. To be eligible to attend the BLEA an individual must first be hired by one of the 272 recognized law enforcement agencies in the State.
“Once their background check is completed, a police department can extend an offer of employment to an interested recruit. Once they pass their polygraph and psychological exam, they can be recommended to the academy by the department,” said B-WSPD Chief Mike Hepner about the process.
Hepner extended an offer of employment to Daniels after she had submitted paperwork indicating an interest in working in the area.
“My sister moved here two years ago; she and I are really close, so I put in my paperwork that this was department I would be interested in,” said Daniels.
Daniels has been doing ride-alongs with Chief Hepner, Sgt. Frank Randall, and the other officers at B-WSPD while she waits to go to the academy.
“They have all been great mentors, really professional but also really fun to work with and learn from. It’s also been nice to really get to know the area through them,” said Daniels.
Officer Daniels will be off at the BLEA in March and will return in July.
“I anticipate that I will be really busy studying cases and doing a lot of physical work as well,” said Daniels.
The Enterprise asked Daniels what she thinks it will be like to work in law enforcement in a small community like this versus a larger city like Tacoma.
“From what I have seen so far, there is a lot better communication between law enforcement and the community, which you don’t see so much in big cities. There’s also a lot more camaraderie between the fellow officers, because we all work in one place rather than different precincts all over the city,” said Daniels.