Twenty-three men and women recently took the first steps of what they hope will lead to careers as police officers with the Seymour Police Department.
Those steps, however, involved a busy and strenuous day of proving they have at least part of what it takes to handle serving and protecting the people of the community.
All of the candidates applied in hopes of being selected for the one position Seymour Police Chief Bill Abbott has open for the department at this time.
The work started Saturday at Trinity Lutheran High School with a physical agility test that included a vertical jump test, a 300-meter run, a 1½-mile run and completion of an obstacle course.
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After the agility test, the candidates met at Seymour Police Department for a two-hour study period before taking a two-hour written exam.
“This will be a busy day for a lot of them,” Abbott said Saturday. “This is really only the beginning, though.”
Becoming an officer is no easy feat, Abbott said.
He has personal experience in the difficulty of becoming an officer to back up that statement because he went through it three times before becoming an officer in August 1989.
“Generally, not very many make it the first time they come through here,” he said.
Kevin Settle, 23, of Vallonia can relate to that experience.
The 2011 graduate of Brownstown Central High School attended the testing program for the second time.
“I went through it this past year, but I feel I did better this time,” he said. “I knew what to expect and heard they were doing it again, so I went to the gym and started really working out.”
Settle received a degree in conservation law enforcement from Vincennes University in 2014 and said he has had an interest in law enforcement since he was a little boy listening to the stories of his grandfather, who was a state trooper.
He became the youngest reserve officer with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department two years ago at the age of 21, but his ultimate goal is to become a full-time police officer somewhere in the county if possible, he said.
On Saturday, three candidates left the testing early after they had failed the first round.
“This is something you have to prepare for, and you can’t just show up and expect to be able to do it,” Abbott said.
After completing the written test, candidates are ranked from worst to best for the department. Abbott then takes a serious look at at least 10 of the applicants and invites them back weeks later for an oral interview at the department.
After the interview, the candidates go for a physical and psychological evaluation in Indianapolis. Once the candidates pass the evaluations, it’s back to the department for a second round of interviews.
“Those second interviews are more laid back but more in depth,” Abbott said.
But there’s more to do before they can become an officer.
“They then have to go through the police academy, which is a 16-week, military-style academy where they’re in dorms Monday through Thursday doing training,” he said. “That is if they have not gone through the academy yet.”
Even after graduating from the academy, the new officers serve a three-month probationary period in which they have driver training and must ride with other officers before being sent out on their own. They also have to be approved for the local and state pension fund.
Abbott said the process takes a long time, and both the candidates and department have to exhibit patience.
“The quickest I’ve ever seen anybody get hired here is probably six months,” he said. “Usually, it’s about nine months.”
Abbott said the additional officer, which will bring the department to 40 officers, will help the department with its workload.
In 2015, the Seymour Police Department responded to 14,988 calls. That ranks as the second highest since Abbott began tracking such totals in 2007.
Abbott had the numbers fresh on his mind Saturday morning, as he was toward the end of preparing his 2015 annual report to the city.
He said the number of arrests in 2015 was the second highest the city had experienced in the past nine years, and the number of charges requested against those arrested ranked at No. 1.
“Crime is overall up,” he said.
Abbott said the officer that may get hired from this group will help to keep those numbers at bay. He said he didn’t seem convinced it would begin to lower the number of arrests and charges.
“I think we could use about 10 more officers,” he said.
Abbott said one issue the department deals with heavily is drugs. He said the department can only do so much until the county establishes a drug court.
That’s something Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Richard Poynter has proposed. Abbott sits on the committee to start the court along with other officials and stakeholders.
“Incarceration is not working,” he said. “I don’t think it should be done away with because some crimes you need to go away for for a really long time, so I think we need a drug court to help repeating the same crimes, and with drugs, the crimes become more violent.”
For now, Abbott said he would work with the department’s other officers to continue the effort of making the community safe. But one fact remains the same — the battle of crime these days is one that doesn’t seem to be ending soon.