Otay Ranch High School recently turned into a training ground for prospective Chula Vista police recruits.
Nearly 200 participants tested their physical strength and cardio during the department’s physical agilities test or PAT exam.
Saturday’s test was the second part in an ongoing battle to win one of four positions available at the Chula Vista Police Department.
Candidates were required to run a mile and a half in 10 minutes or less and also complete an obstacle course within three minutes and 30 seconds.
During the obstacle course, men and women crawled beneath bars, climbed chain-link fences, moved laterally in between posts, ran up and down stairs, scaled short to high walls and lugged a 165-pound dummy.
Chula Vista Police Lt. Leo Banales said the physical test provides a strong indicator that a person can survive the police academy.
“The expectations are for them to be able to simulate some of the typical requirements of the average police officer,” Banales said. “They might have to run after a suspect, they might have to jump over a fence.”
A total of 505 candidates who applied by March 2 were weeded out during application requirements and after taking a written assessment, which tested them on basic reading, writing and comprehension.
Candidates were also automatically disqualified for a history of violence, felonies, burglaries or robberies, or multiple recent traffic tickets on their record.
The applicants were diverse and included parents, athletes, college students and prior military.
Kelsey Parsons, 21, lives in Riverside and decided to apply while finishing her bachelor’s in criminal justice at California Baptist University.
“I’ve always wanted to do police work,” Parsons said. “I want to get into the investigative field, specifically arson.”
Shirley Rubin, 36, is a fitness coach in Newport Beach. She previously applied for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department as well as the Torrance Police Department in LA County.
“It’s always been my passion to be a police officer,” she said. “I feel like that’s my mission in life.”
Rubin said she would ultimately like to become a K-9 officer.
Roberto Reyes, 23, is a Chula Vista resident and native.
“This is my first time applying,” Reyes said. “But I’ve always wanted to study criminal justice and law enforcement.” Reyes graduated from San Diego State University last year.
Candidates who passed the physical exam were granted an interview with officers on the police board.
Banales said the interview process is crucial because a bad interview could ruin a person’s chance at being chosen.
“They could be the No. 1 candidate but if they don’t convey that it doesn’t matter,” he said. “The bottom line is they have to set themselves apart from the other candidates.”
A lucky few will be selected for an interview with Police Chief David Bejarano and given a conditional job offer contingent on passing medical, psychological and lie detector tests.
Dela Pena said that many candidates would get washed out during comprehensive background checks prior to police academy training.
“We end up hiring the top one percent,” dela Pena said.
The department will sponsor four recruits to go through the academy.
“If they fail any portion of the academy, then they are let go,” dela Pena said. “It is a big investment for us. We are trying to be vigilant in hiring the best applicants.”
Sometime later in the year, the application process will open up again and the department will hire five or six more people. The candidates could either be sponsored or hired on as lateral applicants, meaning they have already been through the academy or are coming straight from another agency, according to dela Pena.
At the academy in Miramar, recruits are in school five days a week, which begins in October and ends in April with a graduation ceremony.
Recruits will complete four to six months with a field-training officer before they are sent out on their own. The entire process takes 13 to 18 months.