Like many teenagers, Debbie Justice was unsure what she wanted to do once she finished high school.
She wound up working at a government job that wasn’t going anywhere, so Justice decided it was time to explore other options.
One of those options was going back to school to get an education. Another was volunteering with the Victoria police reserve constable program for three-and-a-half years. It was there that Justice received first-hand experience working with the police, paving the way to a career that’s now spanned nearly 20 years.
“It was a long road for me. I started applying in my early 20s and didn’t have the education or volunteer experience,” said Justice, noting officers have to have thick skin. “Getting a job in Victoria in policing was like winning a lottery.”
The Victoria Police Department consists of 243 sworn members and continues to actively recruit as more veteran officers retire from service. Four retirements are anticipated in January. Human resources Sgt. Greg Holmes expects a “significant amount” of officers will be hired during the next three years.
When searching for future candidates, Holmes conducts recruiting information sessions at community events, career fairs, colleges, universities, and meets with various organizations — both on and off the Island. To further promote the application process, he also uses social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter — which he’ll take to on Nov. 12.
The process of becoming an officer starts with candidates submitting a resume and cover letter, followed by a screening interview. Those selected as a competitive candidate will undergo a language proficiency index exam, physical testing and another screening interview. The completed application package will then be reviewed by the human resources department.
Those who advance to the next stage will be invited to attend the assessment centre at the B.C. Police Academy in New Westminster for a day of role-playing exercises. A follow up interview then takes place, followed by a panel interview, psychological testing, a polygraph test, another interview with human resource managers, an occupational health assessment, background investigation and an inspector’s interview.
In the end, the Victoria and Esquimalt police board make the final decision on an offer of employment.
Holmes noted it can take anywhere from eight months to two years for applicants to get through the selection process. When reviewing a potential candidate, he looks at a number of things, such as applicable work experience, post-secondary education, volunteer experience and life experience.
There are no specific requirements for post-secondary education. The department recently hired a chemistry major. Holmes said her unique skill set could later be used in the identification lab.
“The folks we’re looking for is the type of people that not only want to serve the community, but serve the people and that’s a big indicator for us,” said Holmes.
“Policing is still and traditionally has been a very competitive process. One of the things that’s attractive about it, is it’s still an honorable career. It’s one of those careers that holds a lot of stature in the community.”
Of the 243 officers with Victoria police, approximately 25 per cent are women — a number Insp. Penny Durrant noted is comparable with police agencies across Canada. In Victoria, two female officers were recently hired in April and another four in September.
Police would like to see those numbers increase, but Holmes said it all comes down to who’s the best candidate.
“If you’re the best candidate you’re going to get a job and a career in policing,” he said. “It’s long and it’s demanding and it’s stressful for the candidates. That’s why we always have a process ongoing.”
For more information visit vicpd.ca/careers.