I am sure if your reading this you have either been to a police oral board already or are getting ready to go to one, or you are interested in becoming a police officer and want to know what a police oral board is and what it’s like, and maybe even get lucky and get some tips on how to do well in one. Well, I will try to do all of those things here for you. How’s that for help!!Police oral boards are one of the most nerve-racking things you will do. Most people are very nervous when they walk in the door of the room and see the police oral board panel sitting there. You’re before a live audience and it’s time to perform your best!
What is an oral police board? It’s a live panel of people, usually, 3-5 people (sometimes only 1 in small agencies) that ask the applicants a set of questions that they rate your answers and then score them. These scores are compared with the required passing score, and against other applicants. You can in some agencies be removed from the application process for not passing the police oral board. It’s a must pass part of the application process. You usually are seated in a room across a table from these people, they ask you questions in turn and then listen to, take notes on, and score your answers to the questions.
So how can you perform well on these boards? There are a few things that can help you do well and get a better score or make a better impression on the panel, and I will cover those here.
I get questions a lot about is there anything I can study to help on a police oral board? The answer is YES! are really two things you can do. You should study the department. By that I mean get to know its make-up and how many police officers/deputies there are, what divisions, Sourcebook there are. That stuff will come in later (down below). Even if your not in the academy yet and are applying as a non-certified person, you should buy a copy of the Florida CriminSourcebookfrom LexisNexis you will need it anyway. And read and study the Legal Guidelines in the front (about 73 pages) if you know that stuff before you go in, your golden. If you learn that material it will not only help you in any police oral board where they ask you any type of law or police procedure question, but it will help you out in the academy A LOT!
Then remember to dress accordingly. That means for men, a suit and tie (conservative style) and women should wear a pants suit or dress. Whichever they are more comfortable in. Also, ladies, a conservative cut is always best. Both male and female, you are dressing to impress, not get a date. Clean and neat hair (conservative cut), clean fingernails and no gaudy jewelry. No overpowering cologne or perfume. Take out all the facial metal piercings, and if you have tattoos on your arms, wear a long sleeve to cover them. (I have tats, so no comments about not liking them, this is for those going to a police oral board) Nothing makes a worse impression that someone walking into the board in jeans and tee shirt and looking like they just woke up and crawled out of bed minutes before. First impressions are very important, so make a good one.
When you walk in, say hello and reach out to shake the first member’s hand. If they take it, shake the hand of each board member and introduce yourself. Your name is good enough. Shake the hand, “John Jones”. They will more than likely introduce themselves by name. TRY TO REMEMBER HOW THEY INTRODUCE THEMSELVES, if they use a title and name or only their name, this will come in later.
Sit down in the chair provided and place your hands on the table in front of you in a comfortable position. Don’t put them down in your lap and don’t pick your nose or ear. Just try to relax and be comfortable. As much as you can that is.
They will tell you what they are doing and how the police oral board will be done. If they provide a pencil and paper, use it. Use it to write down the points of the questions they want you to answer. In some oral interviews, I have been a part of they will purposely ask multi-part questions and see if the interviewee writes things down to keep track of the points, and then answers them in the order they were asked.
What kind of questions will be asked? Well, it varies from department to department, but they are generally structured to see if you have any knowledge of law and procedures, and to see if you will tell the truth. Also, some are designed to see if you will keep the department’s interest in mind over other things.
Here are a few I have seen or heard of:
1. Why do you want to be a police officer?
2. If you witnessed another police officer steal something what would you do?
3. If you stopped the Mayor for drunk driving what would you do?
4. If you stopped a family member what would you do?
A current Recruit of mine just took her oral board the other day and here are some of the questions she was asked:
1. Name 5 misdemeanor exceptions
2. Name 4 criminal Traffic Violations
3. What makes a good police officer?
4. Why do you want to work for us?
5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
6. When does loyalty to a fellow police officer end?
Those were just a few of the ones she was asked.
Those are just a few common ones. Answer questions in a chronological order. When they give you a scenario and ask you to tell them what you would do, answer from the beginning to the end and don’t jump around.
Always notify your supervisor of anything that you may think of as being of that nature your boss would like to know about. And make sure you request him/her to any scene that they need to be present on. One question I remember from the boards I sat on was “You respond to a possible suicide. When you arrive it appears to be a suicide, what would you do and who would you notify?” Answer; “First I would see what I have and check the victim for signs of life if that has not been done, then I would close off the scene and notify my supervisor to respond.” While that may not be to the department’s exact procedure, it shows your thinking and also you know about the chain of command and its proper use.
We know you would not write your family member a ticket (unless it was that brother you hate so much..joking..) so be honest and tell them what you would do, here is a good answer I saw to this one: I told them “No I wouldn’t.” They, of course, began drilling me as to “So it’s OK if your family speeds?” I said “No it’s not, but I certainly would not write my own Mother a ticket. However, I would tell my Mother not to speed anymore, and explain that she’s putting me in a bad position.”
Also, make sure you ALWAYS put the departments’ interest first. The typical question of “You see another police officer steal a candy bar from a store while you are there on a burglary call, what do you do?” is actually a very simple one. You would tell the police officer you saw what he did, and you have no choice but to notify your supervisor immediately. You just observed a crime and you can not overlook that. And it places the department in a bad position. Most stores have cameras, and if they find out about it and you did not report it, you would also be fired along with the police officer for failing to report the crime. Get the idea? Other police officers do not pay your rent or put food in your families’ mouth. You do not cover for anyone, you take care of yourself and the department. The days of cover-ups and stuff like that are gone, about 20 years ago.
Make sure to look at the person that asks you the question. Eye contact is very important, looking from one-panel member to the other is a good idea. In fact here is where remembering the titles and names of the panel members would be a plus. If Lt. Johnson asks you a question, beginning your answer this way is an impressive tactic; “Lt. Johnson I would………..” showing your ability to remember names and titles is a good way to make an impression on the panel members. And it shows respect for the title they used.
The question “why do you want to be a police officer?” is one of the hardest for some reason for people. A simple short decisive answer is best. “I want to be a police officer because I would like a secure, steady occupation that I can enjoy and is not the same thing day after day. One I can make a 20-year career of. I want to be able to meet people and see if I can help them when they are in need, and I want to be able to protect those that cannot protect themselves, and I think I would be very good at that. That’s why I want to be a police officer.” That short answer is a good one and does not go overboard. Please don’t tell them because you want to play with or carry a gun and shoot people. Or tell them that you want to drive a police car fast and beat up on bad guys. Those are not impressive answers.
Most police oral boards end with the panel asking you if there is anything you want to add. This is your chance to shine and put yourself apart from the rest. You should research the department you are applying to on the Internet and see if you can gather some information on the department. When asked do you want to say or add anything, you can say (JUST AN EXAMPLE!) “Yes I would, I have looked closely at your department and I like the fact that it has 4 Districts, and a Dive team and K9 both of which I might be interested in. I like the fact your department has ____ and ____ and that the size of your department, 345 officers, is just right for where I would like to be a member of, it gives me a chance to work at ______. I think I would be a very good police officer at your department.” Look up some things that you can use to show the panel you have looked at the department and like it and how it is being run. If you have a particular interest and the department has this unit or program, tell them you saw they have such and such and would be interested, in due time, looking onto helping in that program or unit.
Always stick to the truth, honesty, and ethics. It’s what you’re supposed to stand for as a police officer.
Then when they say you’re done, get up, thank the panel for having you there, and excuse yourself.
If you follow those simple guidelines, you should do well enough to pass, and you may even stand out just enough to be the one at the top of the list.