Oct. 24, 2003 As the government began its first round of testing for new police officers in three years, an official with the Police Department called for more people to sign up and try out as trainees.
"We are asking persons who would be interested in sitting for the police exam to come in and sign up at the Division of Personnel, so we stand ready to go through this process all over again," Sgt. Thomas Hannah, police spokesman, said on Thursday, the first day of testing on St. Croix. Testing on St. Thomas is set for Saturday.
Kevin Rodriguez, Personnel Division acting director, and Hannah agree the numbers of those who signed up for the police test left something to be desired — although Rodriguez pointed out that 175 applied and 150 made it through the application process, figures roughly equal to the last batch.
Hannah said shortages within the police rank and file made it necessary to call for more applicants even before start of the current testing. He said that is why Police Commissioner Elton Lewis asked Personnel to issue a call for additional recruits.
"Our hope and our goal," Hannah said, "was to increase the level of police officers in the territory for Fiscal Year 2004." He said there's a need for "at least 98 officers," 50 for St. Croix and 48 for the St. Thomas-St. John district. On St. Croix, he said, "right now we're experiencing a manpower shortage."
Among the respondents who completed the application process, Rodriguez said, there were 50 signed up to take the test on St. Croix and 100 on St. Thomas.
Special arrangements have been made for a handful of applicants who will fly in from off-island and for Seventh-day Adventists, who cannot take the test on Saturday since their faith prohibits work on that day, their sabbath. Exams for those persons will be administered on Oct. 28.
Rodriguez explained that testing 150 people does not mean there will be 150 new trainees ready to go to the Police Academy. Applicants still must pass a series of additional tests including psychological and physical checks.
"The rate of persons not making it through the entire process is very high," Rodriguez said. It's likely that "at least 70 percent" of those taking the qualifying exam will pass it, he said, and that "probably 40 percent of those persons" will make it through the entire eight-step process and become police officers.
Rodriguez said it has been three years since the last round of testing because that's how long it has taken taken to process the last group of successful applicants through the Police Academy. Hannah said the process may move more quickly this time, given the need to bolster the police ranks as early as practicable.
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