Hello to everyone! I’m not sure how I feel about the fact my last article was one of my more complimented ones. I really must have hit a chord with the declaration that I am a jerk. Apparently a lot of you agree with me! And I bet there were a lot of you out there who never would have thought you would agree with a cop! It’s taken a few years, but I think I am actually getting better at bridging the communication gap between cops and the community. I don’t think I can get away with just calling myself a jerk in every column, but it’s a start.
Speaking of communicating, tonight is going to be a great chance for you to call me a jerk in person! Tonight at 6:00 p.m. the Resident Assistants at Santa Catalina Hall are hosting a Cops vs. Students Call of Duty tournament. Teams of students will be given the opportunity to take on a team of cops. As much as I love playing C.O.D Black Ops, I am also not delusional enough to not realize I am likely in for a series of major butt- whoopings. But considering the great opportunity for students and cops to interact in a way that doesn’t involve the use of pepper spray, it’s worth it. One of the great rewards of these events is not the winning or losing, but the comments from students weeks and months after when they see us on the street talking about having a good time or about the new map packs coming out. Many believe playing a video game is just a waste of time, but I think it’s a great opportunity for us to find a common ground to talk. I think we often find we are more alike than we want to admit.
I am thinking of being a cop. What are the requirements and how should I go about it?
First of all, the requirements are pretty straightforward. You need to at least have a high school degree, although many agencies are starting to require college degrees. Also, when competing against several hundred applicants for only a few openings, a college degree increases your chances dramatically. Next, you need to have a fairly clean background. I’m not saying we want or expect perfect angels, but a criminal history will make it more difficult for you to pass the background check. You also need to pass the required physical agility tests. They are a series of basic tests to make sure you can hop fences, run and — of course — drag bodies. If you are in pretty decent shape, that should be no problem.
People also ask if prior drug use will automatically eliminate them from becoming a cop. Nowadays it is less stringent than it used to be. The amount of prior drug use that an agency will accept varies from department to department. If it is a concern, you should talk to the department before applying so it is not an issue after the hiring process. The application process can take anywhere from two to six months. Add at least another year of training on top of that and eventually you can be a police officer.
But even before you think of applying for the job, you need to make sure it’s a job you really want. A lot of people have an idea, good or bad, of what cops are and what we do. Whether you think it’s all car chases and gun fights or just kickin’ it at the donut shop, it’s actually a lot more. You deal with everything from marriage counseling to traffic enforcement to computer tech investigations to investigating accounting fraud, and by then it’s only lunch time. One of the great things about the job, yet also one of the most difficult, is that you need to be an expert in so many different fields. Before you do anything else, go on a ride along with a local police officer or sheriff. See what we do from the inside of the patrol car. Every single person I have taken on a ride along for the first time came away from it with a new view of what we do and how it is done. Having a candid conversation with a cop can help you decide if this is really the job for you. If it is, good luck.
Is a “California stop” legal?
A California stop is when a car does not completely stop at a stop sign before continuing through an intersection. How fast must you be going to classify as a California stopper? Well, it actually does not matter. The law requires that all vehicles come to a complete stop at a stop sign prior to the limit line. Whether it’s one mile an hour or 10, if you don’t stop, you have run the stop sign, have violated the law and may get a ticket.
But let’s be realistic here. I will often sit and watch the intersection outside of the police department. Maybe one out of every 20 cars does come to a complete stop. So do I pull them all over? Nope. Could I? Maybe, but I don’t. It’s up to each officer to decide which car to pull over. For me it’s a matter of whether the driver made a reasonable effort to stop, look at the intersection and make sure it was safe to proceed or not. Just thinking about stopping isn’t quite enough. Also, another tip: If there ever is a stop sign not to run, the one in front of the police department should be at the top of the list. Did you honestly not think that there might be a cop around there? And the second-worst stop sign? Come on, you know this one. By the donut shop, of course!
So take care and be safe this week. The roads are slick from the rain, and the burglars are back from their vacations, so drive slow and lock your doors! And if you happen to be in the area of Santa Catalina tonight (Monday), stop by and take a shot at me in the Call of Duty Tournament! It’s all in good fun and you should never miss a chance to question authority!
Mark Signa had to bribe more than a few California stops off his record before making the cut into cop-dom.
Got caught by a cop? Your party popped by the Po-Po? Ticked by a ticket? If you have questions, don’t let it eat away at you — Question Authority! Email me anytime at QA@police.ucsb.edu or call UCSB PD at 893-3446.