Law Enforcement Careers: Joining New York's Finest

Sergeant Alice Lo is a 10-year-veteran of the New York City Police Department. She graduated high school in Hong Kong before immigrating to Canada. After two years in Toronto, she moved to New York City where she worked as a mediator for the city’s Consumer Affairs Department. She joined NYPD at the age of 32, a decade later than the average candidate.

After graduating from the Police Academy in 1994, Lo spent the first four years walking a beat in Brooklyn, followed by three years at a desk processing arrests. Three years ago she was transferred to Greenwich Village and given command of a squad of eight beat officers. A year later she began her currrent job as a recruiting field supervisor. Lo’s own experience as a bi-lingual officer and her current position make her an ideal source of insight into what it takes to become an NYPD officer and the rewards for those who make the cut.

GS: Tell us how you came to join the NYPD.
AL: I had a lot of friends at the time who were on the force. I hung out with them a lot. That’s how I knew about the job.

GS: Were there specific things you were looking for?
AL: The job security is very good, especially for a minority female like me.

GS: Weren’t you concerned about the other aspects of being a police officer like the danger or the irregular schedule?
AL: Of course. This job does have a lot of stress. The odd hours. When I first got promoted, I had to work midnight, which is not a pleasant tour. It’s hard to sleep. But every job has its hardships, but you deal with it. After a few years you get used to it.

GS: Tell us how you became interested in working for NYPD?
AL: I had a lot of friends working in the 5th Precinct (Chinatown).

GS: When you fill out an application do you get accepted into the Police Academy?
AL: No, the application is just for the exam. I went to two free tutorials to learn about the exam before I took it. After they send back your score, you wait for the call for the medical and the psychological tests. Actually I didn’t take the job until five years after I took the exam.

GS: What kind of questions did it ask?
AL: You can get a sample exam on line ( Basically they test your common sense. They give you a scenario and ask what you would do. They give you a map, then ask what’s the best route to go from point A to point B. It’s all common sense.

GS: How did you do on the exam?
AL: Pretty well. It was over 90. 95, something like that.

GS: What was the cutoff?
AL: It think it was 75.

GS: What did they do during the medical exam?
AL: It includes an eye test, ear test. You have to see the doctor, the district surgeon. He asks if you’ve ever had a car accident or major surgery, that kind of thing. They don’t check your body, just ask you questions.

GS: What about the psychological exam?
AL: You have an interview with a psychologist. They ask you a lot of questions. A lot, maybe a hundred.

GS: Personal questions about yourself?
AL: Not your background. Mainly how you look at things. A couple of questions really left an impression. They asked if I liked my father, my mother. If I hate my mother, why do I hate her. After ten or twenty questions they sometimes repeat some questions.

GS: To see if you’re lying?
AL: Possibly. I didn’t know why at the time.

GS: You were able to delay your start with NYPD until over four years after you began the testing process.
AL: That’s our policy. We keep the data in the computer for a maximum of four years. After you pass the medical exam, our applicant processing department opens a file. They assign an investigator to you. The reason I held up so long, besides being pretty happy at my current job, I hadn’t yet become a naturalized citizen.

GS: Do you have to be a citizen to be an NYPD officer?
AL: Yes, you still do.

GS: After they contacted you, you began at the police academy.
AL: They sent me a registered letter, my final notification. They told me I either take the job or I will be dropped.

GS: How long does Police Academy last?
AL: Six months. We’ve heard rumors that they’re going to expand it to eight months but it’s not confirmed yet.

GS: They have one class starting every six months?
AL: Normally it’s twice a year but in past years they had one class a year.

GS: How big was your class?
AL: It was a big one, two thousand people. They’re going to open a new one in July for 1,700 recruits.

GS: What kinds of things do they teach at the Academy?
AL: At the time we had three subjects — police science, the law and social science.

GS: Is police science things like dealing with aggressive suspects?
AL: That’s social science. Police science is straightforward patrol guide. Regulations, what you do on the job.

GS: Is the Academy full time?
AL: Yes, eight hours a day. They pay you while you’re attending. Today the guarantee is $32,000. At the time I was guaranteed $20,000.

GS: Did you have much physical training?
AL: I would say two-thirds of the day would be academic and one-third physical. We used to have to run two miles every day.

GS: Do you learn martial arts?
AL: We learned self-defense, like boxing.

GS: How did you do in that?
AL: I was okay. One time I got hit by a Latina who was smaller than me. She knocked me out.

GS: How tall are you?
AL: I’m 5’-5”. I’m not small. Next

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