Selection & Hiring

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This directive is for internal use only and does not enlarge an employee’s civil liability in any way. The directive should not be construed as creating a higher duty of care, in an evidentiary sense, with respect to third party civil claims against employees. Violations of this directive, if proven, can only form the basis of a complaint by the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office for non-judicial administrative action in accordance with the rules and laws governing employee discipline.
DIRECTIVE TYPE: Policy SUBJECT: Selection & Hiring NUMBER: PERS-507.00
APPROVED BY: Sheriff Ken Christesen EFFECTIVE DATE: 4/2/2017
NMLEA STANDARDS: PER.01.01 - PER.01.05 LAST MODIFIED: 3/15/2017 LAST REVIEW: 3/15/2017



PURPOSE:


This policy establishes the minimum standards and guidelines used by the Sheriff’s Office in the selection and hiring of sworn and civilian employees.


POLICY:


It is the policy of the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office to utilize a job related and non-discriminatory selection process to identify those individuals who best possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to be effective and respectable employees.


PROCEDURE:


CONFIDENTIALITY


The processes involved in selection and hiring is extensive in nature and often contains sensitive and personal information. To preserve the integrity and reputation of all applicants, the following guidelines will be adhered to:


  • All personnel engaged in any part of the hiring process will maintain confidentiality of all information learned. Sharing of information will only occur with those who are in a position associated with the hiring process.
  • Any sharing of information amongst appropriate employees regarding an applicant must be made in a private location to ensure confidentiality.
  • Any employee who has information (either positive or negative) about an applicant that may be beneficial to a background investigation is encouraged to speak with the background investigator individually.
  • Employees will not gossip about applicants.


GENERAL (PER.01.02 & PER.01.03)


The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office is an equal opportunity employer in compliance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and all related state and federal guidelines.


No individual inquiring about or applying for employment with the Sheriff’s Office will be discriminated against based on:


  • Race,
  • Color,
  • Religion,
  • Sex,
  • Age,
  • National origin,
  • Disability,
  • Pregnancy,
  • Sexual Orientation,
  • Marital status, or
  • Political affiliation.


All elements of the selection process for sworn personnel will be designed to measure traits, characteristics, skills, and knowledge that are job related. The procedures set forth within this policy ensure that each element will be administered, scored, evaluated, and interpreted in a fair and uniform matter. To facilitate uniformity, operational elements of the process such as time limits, instructions, and scoring formulas will be clearly set forth and carried out identically for like applicants.


The administrative lieutenant, with assistance from San Juan County Human Resources, is responsible for coordinating and conducting the selection process for sworn personnel.


To ensure all applicable laws and policies are adhered to, the Sheriff’s Office requires that any testing, examinations, interviews, or investigations be conducted by personnel trained in those functions. It is acceptable for training to be conducted in-house by qualified personnel.


The Sheriff’s Office recognizes four categories of applicants for deputy sheriff. These are:


  • Entry Level
  • In-State Lateral
  • Out-of-State Lateral
  • Military Lateral


MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS (PER.01.01)


The Sheriff’s Office abides by all statutory requirements (29-7-6 NMSA 1978) in regards to the minimum qualifications of an applicant for deputy sheriff.


ENTRY LEVEL


Entry level applicants are those with no prior police experience or those who have not attended a basic law enforcement academy. These applicants will be required to successfully complete the basic academy and become certified peace officers in the State of New Mexico.


Entry level applicants must successfully complete the following testing to be eligible for a position as a deputy sheriff:


  • Written test;
  • Physical ability test (NMDPS Academy entrance standards);
  • Written exercise;
  • Panel interview;
  • Pre-background interview;
  • Background investigation;
  • Polygraph examination;
  • Psychological examination; and
  • Full medical screening.


IN-STATE LATERALS


In-state lateral applicants are those who have received a peace officer certification through the State of New Mexico and that certification is still valid. Prior police experience is not required to be considered an in-state lateral.


In-state lateral applicants must successfully complete the following testing to be eligible for a position as a deputy sheriff:


  • Written test (lateral applicants with a minimum of five years’ experience from an agency in San Juan County are exempt from the written test requirement);
  • Written exercise;
  • Panel interview;
  • Pre-background interview;
  • Background investigation;
  • Polygraph examination;
  • Psychological examination; and
  • Abbreviated medical screening.


OUT-OF-STATE LATERALS


Out-of-state lateral applicants are those who have received a peace officer certification from another state, or, at a minimum, have attended and passed an academy in its entirety that is equivalent to the State of New Mexico standards. Out-of-state applicants will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine the extent of their experience. If their training and experience is found to be insufficient, these applicants may be processed as an entry level and required to go through the basic academy if hired. This determination may be made by the administrative lieutenant.


Out-of-state lateral applicants must successfully complete the following testing to be eligible for a position as a deputy sheriff:


  • Written test;
  • Physical ability test (obstacle course);
  • Written exercise;
  • Panel interview;
  • Pre-background interview;
  • Background investigation;
  • Polygraph examination;
  • Psychological examination; and
  • Full medical screening.


MILITARY POLICE APPLICANTS


Military police applicants satisfying the requirements of NMAC 10.29.6.11 may be considered as lateral applicants. Qualifications of military police applicants will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine the breadth of their experience as it related to law enforcement operations at the Sheriff’s Office. The determination regarding military police applicants being processed as a lateral or entry-level may be made by the administrative lieutenant.


Qualified military police lateral applicants must successfully complete the following testing to be eligible for a position as a deputy sheriff:


  • Written test;
  • Physical ability test (obstacle course);
  • Written exercise;
  • Panel interview;
  • Pre-background interview;
  • Background investigation;
  • Polygraph examination;
  • Psychological examination; and
  • Full medical screening.


WRITTEN TEST


The written test will be a standardized and validated aptitude test. Testing is monitored to ensure that testing guidelines and time requirements are strictly adhered to and to assist applicants as required. Facilitators may be either Human Resources or Sheriff’s Office personnel.


Cheating will not be tolerated. Applicants observed cheating will not be allowed to continue in the selection process.


The minimum required score for passing the test will be determined through the appropriate validation methods. Once established, this minimum required score will apply to all applicable categories of applicants and not be deviated from.


PHYSICAL ABILITY TESTING


Once an applicant has successfully completed the written test, he or she may move on to the physical ability testing. Physical fitness standards vary depending on the applicant category.


Prior to any applicant attempting the physical ability testing, a current physician’s release form and hold harmless form must be filled out. No test will be conducted without these forms.


The standard for entry level applicants is identical to the standards mandated by New Mexico DPS for entrance into the academy. Further information on academy entry standards can be found on the New Mexico DPS website at: www.nmlea.dps.state.nm.us


In-state lateral applicants are exempt from physical ability testing.


The State of New Mexico no longer requires those seeking certification by waiver (out-of-state and military laterals) to complete a physical ability test. However, the Sheriff’s Office will require all out-of-state lateral applicants to pass and complete the “Pursuit & Control” obstacle course. This is the same obstacle course utilized in the academy exit standards. There are no allowances or differences made for altitude, age, or gender.


WRITTEN EXERCISE


The written exercise is required for all applicants and will be evaluated and graded (utilizing standardized grading criteria) by the interview panel. This timed evaluation is in essay form and is a standardized topic for all applicants.


The interview panel will score the essay on handwriting, spelling, grammar, content, and clarity of the message.


PANEL INTERVIEW


Applicants who have passed both the written test and physical ability test will proceed to a panel interview.


In order to ensure the uniform and fair scoring of applicants, the Sheriff’s Office maintains a pool of panel members consisting of sworn personnel. Three members will be assigned to conduct interviews for all the applicants in any particular round of hiring if possible. If panel interviews are conducted out of town it is acceptable to use a minimum of two panel members.


The panel interview will consist of a list of standardized questions. The questions are divided into dimensional sections with separate descriptions of possible answers to facilitate objective scoring. Two separate lists of standardized questions have been developed. Applicants with no prior police experience will be interviewed utilizing the entry level questions while those with prior police experience will be interviewed utilizing the lateral applicant questions. A “lateral” applicant with no prior police experience should be interviewed using the entry level questions.


Each applicant will be asked the standardized questions however; it is permissible for the panel to ask follow up questions for clarification and to discuss applicant’s answers.


Each panel member will score their questions independently of each other. Once all individual scores are completed, the average of scores from each category will be found and multiplied by the associated weight to determine the actual score of that category. All actual scores will be added to determine the final score.


The minimum required score for passing the interview will be determined by the Sheriff. Once established, this minimum required score will apply to all applicants and not be deviated from.


If an applicant is deceptive during the interview, or the panel discovers they have been deceptive in any part of the process, or if an issue is discovered that was missed during screening that would have made them ineligible, the interview may be stopped at that time, the applicant informed of the reason, and dismissed.


CONDITIONAL OFFERS OF EMPLOYMENT


Upon successful completion of the panel interview, an applicant may be given a conditional offer of employment. Conditional offers are contingent on the passing of the pre-background interview, background investigation, polygraph examination, psychological examination, and medical examination. The conditional offer of employment will specify what the offer is contingent on.


PRE-BACKGROUND INTERVIEW


A pre-background interview is conducted only if the conditional offer of employment is accepted. The purpose behind this interview is to determine if there are any issues in the applicant’s background that may prohibit them from proceeding in the process.


There are two separate groups of preliminary background interview questions:


  • “Preliminary Background Interview” for entry level applicants
  • “Lateral Preliminary Background Interview” for lateral applicants


Laterals possessing no prior police experience should be interviewed as an entry level applicant.


BACKGROUND INVESTIGATIONS


Applicants will be required to complete and have notarized a “Release of Information Authorization Form” before the background investigation is started.


A standardized questionnaire and personal history statement will also be required prior to the background being conducted. These questions will cover a broad range of aspects concerning behavior and may be used to investigate an applicant’s background and also to develop polygraph questions to verify their truthfulness.


Background investigations will be conducted by personnel who are trained to gather and document information. These investigations are assigned to a sworn employee or to a civilian employee with experience conducting investigations as a law enforcement officer.


Once completed, the results of the background investigation will be forwarded through the chain of command to the Sheriff for review. The Sheriff will make the final determination as to an applicant’s eligibility to continue in the process.


POLYGRAPH EXAMINATIONS


All applicants will be required to take a pre-employment polygraph examination. Polygraph examinations will be used as an investigative aid to the background investigation. Information or an admission obtained during the pre-test or post-test interviews that indicate deception, acts, or omissions indicating unacceptable behavior or character traits may be grounds for disqualification from the selection process. A follow-up investigation and additional polygraph examinations should be conducted into an issue if the results indicate deception and the applicant denies being deceptive.


Only polygraph examiners who hold a current polygraph examiner’s license or provisional license through the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department are authorized to administer polygraph examinations. An exception to this requirement may be made if an applicant is allowed to take a polygraph outside the State of New Mexico. In these cases, a polygraph examiner may be utilized that has successfully completed training recognized by the American Polygraph Association and is licensed to conduct polygraphs in their state if such a license is required.


The polygraph examination is paid for by the Sheriff’s Office. The findings report will be submitted and maintained as part of the background investigation file.


PSYCHOLOGICAL EXAMINATIONS


Applicants for sworn positions will be required to take a psychological examination conducted and assessed by a qualified professional. This is a requirement of the Sheriff’s Office as well as the State of New Mexico for certification.


The psychological examination is paid for by the Sheriff’s Office. Once the application for either entrance to the academy or certification by waiver has been received back from the State of New Mexico, the psychological examination findings report will be forwarded to Human Resources for filing.


MEDICAL EXAMINATIONS


Applicants for sworn positions will be required to take a medical examination to certify general health and fitness for duty.


Medical examinations are required for all applicants to confirm the employee’s fitness to perform assigned tasks. Their status as a lateral or entry level applicant determines which medical exam they are required to take.


  • Entry level applicants, out-of-state laterals, and military laterals, require a full medical examination including a drug screening.
  • In-state laterals require an abbreviated medical examination including a drug screening and TB test.


The medical examination is paid for by Human Resources. Once the application for either entrance to the academy or certification by waiver has been received back from the State of New Mexico, the medical examination findings will be forwarded to Human Resources for filing.


FINAL REVIEW


After successful completion of all parts of the hiring process, the applicant’s file is ready for final review. If there are no concerns, this review may be completed by the administrative lieutenant or higher (in the same division). Once this review has been conducted, the applicant is ready for a final offer of employment.


APPLICANT DISPOSITIONS (PER.01.04)


All applicants will be notified of their disposition to include the failure point and eligibility for re-application.


Those who fail the written test or physical ability test may re-apply and re-test during the next testing cycle without observing a waiting period.


Applicants who fail the panel interview must wait one year prior to re-applying.


Those who fail the preliminary background interview, background investigation, or polygraph examination must wait at least one year prior to re-applying. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the failure, applicants may have to wait longer or may be considered ineligible for future consideration.


The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with the Human Resources Department, abides by all Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requirements. Aside from those requirements, background investigations and all associated findings are private materials belonging to the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office. Should an applicant request specific details about the findings of their background investigation, they should be directed to submit a letter to the administrative lieutenant requesting such information.


Pursuant to NMAC 10.29.9.12, those who fail the psychological examination must wait at least 12 months prior to re-applying. Applicants have a right to appeal a psychological failure to the director of the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy. The Sheriff’s Office will not participate in the appeal.


Applicants who fail the medical examination will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine the significance of the failure, the possibility for correction, and the mandates set forth by NMDPS. The Sheriff’s Office will consult with the examining physician to assist in determining the above considerations.


CIVILIAN HIRING PROCESS


The selection and hiring process for civilian positions is conducted by the Sheriff’s Office with assistance from Human Resources. For most positions, this process consists of:


  • Application;
  • Skills Testing;
  • Panel Interview; and
  • Background Investigation.


Due to the sensitive nature of positions dealing with evidence and crime scenes, a polygraph examination will be utilized to confirm the background investigation findings for these positions.


All procedures set forth in this policy in regards to non-discriminatory practices, applicant dispositions, and records retention will be followed for civilian positions.


ADMINISTRATIVE:


RECORDS RETENTION (PER.01.05)


The results of any medical and psychological examinations will be retained at the Human Resources Department.


Any file and/or associated paperwork for a failed applicant will be forwarded for secure storage to Human Resources who will maintain the documentation for the time period required by the applicable records retention laws. Prior to forwarding the file to Human Resources, any NCIC/Triple I background check must be removed and permanently destroyed.


The hiring file of a successful applicant will be filed by the Sheriff’s Office hiring coordinator in the locked records storage room. The files will be stored in the locked filing cabinet with access limited to the hiring division and staff members. Files will be maintained for at least the amount of time required by records retention laws. Hiring files from employees who break employment will be sent to Human Resources.


Aside from removing an NCIC/Triple I background check prior to forwarding a file to Human Resources, at no time will any document regarding any hiring related material specific to an applicant be discarded. All documents must be maintained in the hiring folder.


CROSS REFERENCES:


  1. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  2. Qualifications for certification [29-7-6 NMSA 1978]
  3. NMAC 1.21.2.206 “Employment Screening”
  4. NMAC 10.29.6.11 “Requirements for Active Duty Military Police Applicants”
  5. NMAC 10.29.9.12 “Psychological Examination”
  6. Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681