Police Officer Selection Process

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Police officer selection process

Our guide to the police officer hiring process in California can help you learn about all parts of the process, from the background investigation to the psychological evaluation.

Hiring Process Outline


Written Exam ( Reading and Writing Assessment )

Physical Ability Test

Oral Interview

Background Investigation


Complete and provide Personal History Statement and other materials


Meet with background investigator for background interview ( s )




Polygraph examination

Medical Evaluation

Psychological Evaluation

Selection process in detail


The application will require you to provide basic information such as name, address, date of birth, etc. It may also require more extensive information, such as personal history information.

Written Exam

You will be asked to demonstrate reading and writing ability bypassing the POST Entry-level Law Enforcement Test Battery ( PELLETB ) or another examination designed to measure reading and writing ability. The PELLETB is a paper and pencil, multiple-choice examination.


Additionally, if you will be required to submit to a written essay exam, online writing labs ( OWLs ) can provide useful information. A simple internet search for “online writing lab” should result in links to various OWLs. OWLs provide information on the basic mechanics of writing, which is generally what agencies are looking for – good writing skills, not content.

Physical Ability Test

The majority of law enforcement agencies administer a physical ability test ( PAT ) in some form; however, POST does not require this type of test as part of the selection process.

Oral Interview or Oral Board

The oral interview will likely be conducted by an oral panel consisting of the head of the department, department staff, and/or human resources personnel, and will minimally cover the following six categories:

Experience – assesses your ability to accept responsibilities and perform assigned tasks, as demonstrated through achievements in work, school, and other activities.

Problem Solving – assesses your reasoning skills in developing timely, logical responses to a wide variety of situations and problems.

Communication Skills – assesses your oral communication skills, which includes speaking, listening, and non-verbal communication.

Interest/Motivation – assesses your interest and preparedness, which includes an assessment of your general level of interest, initiative, and goal orientation.

Interpersonal Skills – assesses many facets, such as social knowledge/appropriateness, social insight, empathy, social influence, social self-regulation, sociability, team orientation, social self-confidence, conflict management skills, and negotiating skills.

Community Involvement/Awareness – focuses specifically on your experiences and interest in community issues; as well as, your interest in and ability to fill multiple roles and serve a diverse community.

The oral interview is a professional interview with very important people. You should 100% prepare for this. Below are some tips, but make sure to do your own research:

 Do research – do your due diligence when learning about the department, job description, community interactions, and current law enforcement issues. Feel free to utilize social platforms, news stations, and communal resources to assist in your research

 Dress professionally – you will be scheduled to meet with very important people and first impressions are unforgettable. Be sure to wear formal attire such that this is a professional setting

 Prepare yourself – get a good night’s sleep, eat and hydrate appropriately, and arrive at least 15 minutes early to allow for delays due to traffic and parking

 Be gracious – at the end of the interview, take time to thank each interviewer and shake their hand with confidence. smile and speak in a clear and concise manner

Background Investigation

The background investigation portion of the police hiring process is very time and labor-intensive. It requires the collection of a variety of official documents, contacts with relatives, friends, employers, and many others, and checks of almost every aspect of your personal history. The specific POST requirements for the conduct of the background investigation are found in Commission Regulation 1953.


The background investigation process commonly begins with a meeting with the background investigator, who will explain the process and have you sign and complete numerous forms. The most lengthy and important form you will complete is the Personal History Statement ( PHS ). The investigator may have you complete the POST PHS or a similar form created by the agency. The information you provide on the PHS will be used in the background investigation portion of the hiring process. The information provided must be complete, accurate, and straightforward.


Note that there are very few automatic bases for rejection. Issues surrounding previous misconduct, such as prior illegal drug use, driving under the influence, theft, or even arrest or conviction are usually not, in and of themselves, automatically disqualifying. However, deliberate misstatements or omissions can and often will result in your application being rejected, regardless of the nature or reason for the misstatements/omissions. In fact, the number one reason individuals “fail” background investigations is because they deliberately withhold or misrepresent job-relevant information from their prospective employer.


At some point during the background process, you may be asked to show proof of age, education, and citizenship status. Since it will take some time to acquire the official documentation ( i.e., certified copies of birth certificate, official sealed copies of high school and/or college transcript(s), citizenship verification ), you may consider collecting the information ahead of time. You should contact the employing agency to determine their specific documentation requirements.


Also, as part of the background investigation process, you may be subjected to a detection of deception examination, such as a polygraph or voice stress analysis. Although it is not a POST requirement, detection of deception examinations are not uncommon. The primary purpose of these examinations is to verify the truthfulness of information that applicants have provided on the PHS and to the background investigator directly.

Medical Evaluation

The medical evaluation must be conducted by a licensed physician. This and other POST requirements are described in Commission Regulation 1954.


The medical evaluation will begin with the completion of a medical history statement. This form will ask questions regarding your medical history. As with the background investigation, completeness and accuracy are extremely critical. The agency will provide you with information on when and where you will be having your medical examination, and with whom ( i.e. you cannot obtain a medical evaluation from your own physician ).


Agencies must establish their own medical screening procedures and evaluation criteria based on the job duties, powers, demands, and working conditions as defined by the department [Commission Regulation 1955(c)]. As such, you would need to contact the agency directly concerning any questions about the medical evaluation during the police hiring process.

Psychological Evaluation

The psychological evaluation must be conducted by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist. In addition to licensure, the psychologist must meet POST continuing professional education ( CPE ) requirements. These and other POST requirements are described in Commission Regulation 1955.


The hiring department will schedule your psychological evaluation with their contracted screening psychologist. The evaluation generally begins with the completion of a personal history questionnaire. This questionnaire is different from and supplementary to the personal history information you would have given to the hiring department as part of the background investigation portion of the police hiring process. The evaluation will consist of the administration of written psychological tests, as well as a clinical ( in person ) interview with the screening psychologist.