Wednesday, July 6, 2022

With intensive training requirements, JCC Police hope to fill openings quicker by doing this

James City County Police officers stand on Noland Boulevard blocking traffic while emergency crews secure a hazmat situation in a postal service vehicle on Aug. 30, 2018. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
James City County Police officers stand on Noland Boulevard blocking traffic while emergency crews secure a hazmat situation in a postal service vehicle on Aug. 30, 2018. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

In James City County, 105 people wear the badge, patch and blue uniform of the James City County Police Department.

But to wear that uniform, officers must undergo months of training and on-the-job shadowing before they can even patrol on their own.

The process can be lengthy between listing a job for hire and finally getting that officer on the streets, so James City County Police are working ahead to fill positions — sometimes before they’re officially open.

“It takes a while,” said police spokeswoman Stephanie Williams. “Six to seven months can go by by the time they finish the academy and field training.”

Time-consuming process

On Aug. 2, James City County Police opened up hiring for police officer I and II positions.

The position is open to all already-certified officers as well as new recruits with no former law enforcement experience. Williams said there is no hiring preference unless the next academy class will not start in the near future.

Police also encourage women and minorities to apply for officer positions.

Before a police officer is hired, candidates must pass a background check, polygraph, psychological and physical exams with a drug test. The department will also interview candidates’ references, neighbors and previous employers, Williams said.

A comprehensive background check, which is done in-house by James City County investigators, can alone take between four and six weeks. 

While background checks are done in-house, another James City County investigator is also certified to give polygraph tests, which keeps that process in-house as well. 

The fitness test is also done at the Law Enforcement Center, and includes lifting a 50 pound weight off the ground and carrying it for 25 feet, ascending and descending stairs within a certain timeframe, running 300 feet in less than 45 seconds, and more.

After jumping through pre-hire hoops, hired officers must attend a 17-week police training academy at the Hampton Roads Criminal Justice Training Academy at Oyster Point.

From there, once the person is a certified officer, they must enter the county’s field officer training program before they are allowed to patrol on their own. All police officer hires enter the patrol division before being considered for any other special assignments, Williams said.

Depending on the officer’s previous experience and their familiarity with the county, field training can range from eight to 12 weeks.

Working ahead

Williams said the department anticipates there could be some opening this year, as there are several officers eligible for retirement, and that is why they are accepting applications.

Besides retirements, Williams said there’s always some turnover in the force, like any job.

“But on top of routine turnover, it’s a difficult time to be a law enforcement officer in the country right now,” Williams said. “Some people are leaving the field altogether. We have to contend with that as well.”

The listing will only be open for 16 days, until Aug. 18, but Williams said the department anticipates those two weeks will garner a sizeable pool of applicants. The last time a police officer job was listed, the county received 99 applications.

The police department aims for this round of hires to attend the police academy starting Nov. 4. County officers go to the training academy.

“We’re continually recruiting and putting forth efforts so we can maintain a list of acceptable candidates as openings occur,” Williams said.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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