Police recruits gather at Maricopa High School to start the physical test during MPD training Saturday. Photo by Craig Cummins

By Craig Cummins

Dressed in gym shorts and sweats, dozens of hopefuls came to Maricopa High School today to take their first steps toward becoming the first rookies sworn into the Maricopa Police Department.

The department, which was started back in 2007, has traditionally hired police officers that already had experience in law enforcement.

“It took the department six months to become operational and we needed experienced officers to help mold the department,” said Ricky Alvarado, the department’s public information officer.

This is the second round of testing for new officers in the last year for the department. The first round ending with the potential hiring of one officer who is currently attending a post-certified police academy.

More than 50 recruits showed up to MHS’s track to take their physical fitness evaluation, known as the Cooper Standards.

The Cooper Standards is a three-part test and is a preliminary requirement for recruits and consists of a 1.5-mile run in under 15 minutes, 29 sit-ups in under one minute and 25 consecutive push-ups without a time limit.

While delivering a pre-test speech to the recruits, Maricopa Police Chief Steve Stahl said, “As you go through this process today, there are several things that are going to happen. Obviously the first thing is this physical conditioning part, to make sure that you are of the proper physical condition to make it through the academy.

“For us here today, we’re testing you at everything. We’re watching how you dialogue with each other; we’re watching whether you support one another,” Stahl added.

Competition was tough on the track, with many of the recruits coming from backgrounds or experience close-knit to law enforcement.

One such recruit, Michael Martinez, 26, from Casa Grande, comes from a family with a history in law enforcement, including his father who has served in numerous departments across the state. Martinez himself works in corrections at the Eloy Detention Center and is looking to make the transition into a traditional police department.

“I’m trying to make a difference and see some change within the industry of what policing is,” said recruit JB Smith, 28. He is no stranger to the strict guidelines and physical standards of the Maricopa Police Department, having served active duty in the U.S. Navy, which included a deployment to Iraq.

Currently the department is looking to hire two or three new officers, meaning only the best of candidates will make it through. And while the candidates are technically in competition with one another, praises of encouragement and camaraderie were constantly heard among the hopeful future officers as they ran their laps and proved they physically had what it takes.

The physical fitness test is only the first part of a long process towards becoming an officer. After completing the physical fitness test, the recruits who passed headed to Maricopa City Hall to take a written test, which will end the first day of testing.

“The written test is mainly reading comprehension,” Alvarado said. “There are some scenario-based law enforcement questions, but nothing a reasonable person couldn’t answer. We don’t expect them to be cops yet.”

The recruits who make it through the physical and written tests will later go through a long series of interviews and background checks before they are even given the opportunity to attend an academy. While many will not make it, those who do may one day dawn the uniform of a Maricopa Police officer.

Closing his speech to the recruits, Stahl said, “You all are the cutting edge of America today. Be proud you made the first step, showing up. That’s the first step of anything – showing up.”

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