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Rigorous process to become Anaheim officer

Kazakos, James 5

Sgt. James Kazakos

Hundreds apply. But only a select few make it through the rigorous hiring process that leads them to wear an Anaheim Police badge.

That’s because the police department’s standards are so high, said Sgt. James Kazakos, the man who ultimately decides who earns the coveted jobs.

Kazakos, a 27-year veteran of law enforcement – 22 of which have been at APD – is finishing his first year as the sergeant in charge of screening recruits for the department, his first administrative job.

“We take the selection of new police officers very seriously,” said Interim Police Chief Raul Quezada. “We have developed over the years a rigorous and comprehensive process to ensure we hire the best of the best.”

Why did Kazakos take the job so late in his career?

“I enjoy the challenge of something completely new,” he said. “I have the utmost pride in the department and this job allows me to make a lasting impact on it.”

Sgt. Kazakos is old school, priding himself on using a number two pencil and post-it notes to stay organized.  Integrity is among the first attributes he looks for in recruits.

“They have to be a good person, first and foremost.  If they don’t respect me in an interview – whether through manners, attentiveness, and even how they keep themselves – how can I expect them to respect someone not personally responsible for their career ambitions?” he asks.

He goes by a simple slogan: “Hire slow, fire fast” – thus ensuring a rigorous hiring process and elevated expectations for those that hope to make the cut.

For the first time in years, APD is adding police positions throughout the department.  Field and clerical positions alike are up to be filled throughout the department.

“It’s very exciting.” he said.

Approximately 200 entry level, academy graduates, and lateral applicants will apply to become an officer, of which only a handful will make the cut.  “Anyone you see out there in an APD uniform is truly elite,” he said.

Applicants must endure several steps to don the badge.  First, academy graduates and entry level aspirants attend a mandatory orientation where APD gives specific, automatic qualifiers and allow candidates excuse themselves respectfully.

A month later, those remaining take a written exam – something other police department don’t require.  That same day, those who pass the written exam are then tested by a 1.5 mile run, 100-yard obstacle course, 400-yard sprint, and a 31-foot dummy drag – all done one after the other. Both tests have 60 percent pass rates.

Later in the week, those who make it through to this point take an oral exam with a sergeant, an officer, and a qualified member of the community.  Only half pass.

Whoever is left is required to fill out a 27-page application, personally reviewed by Kazakos and edited with his number-two pencil.  A pre-screening interview is held between the applicant, Kazakos, and a representative from an outside company, which conducts background checks.

Anyone left is then submitted to a background check and polygraph tests.  Those who pass the polygraph have their applications reviewed by the chain of command and receive a conditional offer of employment.

Should they accept that offer, psychological and medical tests are given, followed then by a one-on-one interview with the chief that is graded on a pass-or-fail scale.

That entire process only ensures those remaining a paid-for spot in the academy and Field Trainee Officer program – a grueling six-month course.  None who made it through each of those steps have failed in the academy, however.

There are, at this point, several officers in the field that have made it through Kazakos’ program.  “When I see them walking around the office, patrolling, or anywhere else, I can’t help but feel a sense of deep pride in what we’re doing.”

Here are the steps APD officers must pass:

  • Orientation
  • Written exam
  • Physical agility exam
  • Oral test
  • 27-page application
  • Pre-screening interview
  • Post-application screening
  • Background check
  • Chain of command approval
  • Conditional offer of employment
  • Psychological test
  • Medical test
  • Chief’s interview
  • Academy
  • FTO program