NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - "And the second time you make that approach you jump that fence," instructs a deputy to an applicant who wants a similar job at the Nacogdoches County Sheriff's Department. Law enforcement applicants can't just say they want the job. They have to prove it.
"Dispatch. This is 512. I'm in a foot pursuit," simulates the applicant as he begins a grueling agility test, an application requirement. A simulated foot pursuit over a fourth mile course, designed by the sheriff himself, puts applicants to the test physically and mentally.
"This officer here has to tackle the dummy, assume a position of an arrest," Sheriff Thomas Kerss explained as an applicant fell over the mock prisoner. Other obstacles include a bleach run, managing a run through boxing bags, a zig zag through a line into a narrow cattle panel and finally the take down.
The applicants have just over four minutes to complete the course. Most finish in less than half that time. Faster if it wasn't for that six foot fence. "When you get to that six foot fence, that's the most challenging because you're testing your body's limit," Jacob Bailey said in between deep breaths. "You jump over it. Climb over it. And I'm tired already," was about all applicant, Omar Ivara had the breath to say.
When the going gets tough, cheerleaders from both sides of the thin blue line keep things moving. Jail trustys and sheriff's deputies clap and yell out words of encouragement.
Becoming a deputy patrolman requires more than agility. It requires someone who can think on their feet. "The initial phase of this started with a 100 question two part written test," Kerss said. Unfortunately, that's the element of the application process that eliminated a few applicants. All passed the agility test. In addition to the test on reading comprehension and the law, there was a section where applicants are asked other law questions. Time is also given to test their computer skills.
A salary adjustment attracted applicants. Starting pay is $35,000, with a top out at $41,000 in three years. The job opening came when a deputy quit after being deployed to Afghanistan.
The goal is to get the one who can do all this and more in real life, on a daily basis for the protection of all.