The Division of Public Safety, which is currently on a search to hire two more Penn Police officers, spoke with The Daily Pennsylvanian this week about the qualities the office looks for when hiring.
Due to the sensitive nature of police work and the particularities of policing in an urban university system, DPS goes to lengths to ensure the quality of applicants in order to develop a diverse workforce, in compliance with the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity.
“We strive to hire diverse candidates to reflect the diversity of our community,” said Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush, who has a large role in the selection of new hires.
DPS pays careful attention to the character and history of job applicants before hiring them, and even after being hired, new enlists must go through a lengthy orientation program.
After looking at police academies and other departments in southeast Pennsylvania for new recruits and prospective veteran officers, potential new hires face three rounds of interviewing. They are first given a few questions, which are for the first time being asked over video interview platform Spark Hire. Next, they speak with a community hiring board, consisting of a Penn Police representative and one to two Penn associates from resource centers such as the African-American Resource Center and LGBT Center. Those who are approved then go through a final vetting by Rush and one of her deputies.
Answering questions about the hiring process, Rush emphasized the importance of rigorous hiring scrutiny.
“They’re entrusted with power and a weapon, so we want to make sure we get it right,” she said.
During this process, applicants’ backgrounds are thoroughly investigated through financial background checks and interviews with their peers and past employers.
After hiring, DPS then goes to efforts to prepare officers for the specific policing needs of a college campus and interacting with the institutions and members of the university. They go through a “stringent Field Training Officer program” akin to a New Student Orientation that lasts several weeks. New officers are introduced to the various resource centers at Penn, the culture of DPS and paired with a hand-picked veteran Penn Police officer to mentor them.
“We Penn-ize them,” Rush said. “They meet with me and my commanders and talk about the philosophy of policing at Penn. They understand they are not only hired as Penn Police but as members of the DPS team and Penn team.”
Rush made a point of the importance of the orientation program for preparing officers to deal with the subtlety of interacting with students.
“The individual needs to be chameleon-like in that they need to be handling a hospital case for a student one minute and might be responding to a crime in progress five minutes later,” she said. “We turn people away when we think they can’t make that transition.”