NEW BRITAIN — The police department is looking for men and women – especially from the city – to join its ranks next year.
The agency is setting up a training academy class for next spring, and this month is sending officers to community groups, local festivals and Neighborhood Revitalization Zone meetings around the city to recruit applicants.
For those who succeed in the testing and screening processes, the job comes with plenty of incentives: Salaries that start at more than $53,000 for trainees. And the cadets who complete the six-month-long academy are in line for a salary of nearly $65,000 in less than three years, extensive benefits and 25-year retirement.
Only a select few of the initial waves of applicants are chosen, though, and recruit training has the reputation of being grueling. The job itself is demanding and sometimes dangerous, and in New Britain newly hired officers face two other requirements: They must sign a no-smoking affidavit and comply with the department's weight-control rules.
Capt. William Steck, commander of the patrol division, said the ideal candidate brings a mix of strengths and talents.
"We definitely want someone with a high level of self-discipline, someone who understands the value of honor and integrity, and someone who can relate to different cultures and different socio-economic groups," Steck said. "We look for somebody who's emotionally intelligent and can be compassionate."
Truthfulness throughout the application process is absolutely essential, Chief James Wardwell said.
"I can't over-emphasize the importance of straight-up honesty. We have no expectation of finding the perfect person," he said. "But I've seen candidates crash and burn because they try to convince us they've never done anything wrong in their lives. It comes down to telling the truth about your past and letting the chips fall where they may."
People who've been convicted of a Class B or A misdemeanor or any felony aren't eligible, but smaller offenses don't automatically rule out applicants. Commanders review the circumstances of relatively minor misbehavior when they assess candidates; they generally want to see that significant time has elapsed since the offense and that it's clear there's no intention of doing it again.
Beyond that, "people skills" are critical.
"An applicant needs a willingness to be a team player and at the same time be able to operate independently," Wardwell said. "Those ideas seem at odds with each other, but they make the perfect officer."
Training includes a high level of discipline: Even small signs of tardiness, sloppiness or inattention aren't tolerated.
"It's pretty rigorous, but it's also very, very rewarding," Wardwell said.
The application deadline has been set at Sept. 30, and commanders hope that will give time for returning students at Central Connecticut State University time to consider applying. The city is eager to hire local residents who know the community and also have a personal stake in making it safe.
Testing includes a written exam, a background investigation including a polygraph test, a psychological examination, a medical examination, an interview and a physical agility test.
The training academy will begin next spring. Cadets who complete it and the subsequent three-month field training period are assigned to patrol shifts. Officers work for four days, then have two off. The 164-member agency offers a variety of special assignments as well as promotional opportunities. Officers rise to detective, sergeant, lieutenant or captain through civil service testing, but city residents get extra consideration because of a charter provision to encourage police to reside in the city.
Prospective applicants can get details at http://www.PoliceApp.com; all applications must be completed through that site.