Officers Should Be Able to Get More Than 33/35 on This Police Entrance Exam. Can You?

Torrance Grey

The short statement you read a suspect at arrest is called their ______ rights.

The Miranda rights were named after a landmark court case involving a suspect with that last name. In "Miranda v. Arizona," the Supreme Court vacated Ernesto Miranda's conviction because he was unaware of his right not to talk to the police when he made his confession.

What is the main purpose of a police uniform?

The uniform helps a member of the public quickly flag down an officer in time of need. It also underscores the officer's official status when they need to ask someone for information, or they make an arrest. Detectives, who work in plainclothes, must use professional clothing, demeanor and sometimes a shield worn visibly in a belt or a chain to underscore that same authority.

Which word is misspelled? "In the chain of evidence, every individuel must sign for receipt of an item."

"Individuel" should be "individual." Watch out for "receipt," too -- it's frequently misspelled, but the spelling above is the correct one.

A small-town police force pays its chief $45,000 per year, its one detective $37,000, a senior officer $32,000 and two junior officers $24,000. Excluding the chief's salary, what is the average pay in this jurisdiction?

Why exclude the chief's salary? Maybe elected positions are paid from a different income source. We're not sure ... we just didn't want to make this too easy! Averaging is fairly simple math, after all: add up the four remaining salaries and divide by four.

Which sentence is most clearly written?

Options 1 and 3 have pronouns without a clear referent: Which of the officers is 'him'? Who is 'she'? In the second sentence, it's not clear whether the patrol officer is letting in four individuals, or whether the bank manager and the teller *are* the witnesses. Only the fourth sentence gives you a clear picture of who's saying what to whom, and why.

Which of these is the most appropriate statement to include in a report?

It's not appropriate for an officer to diagnose mental illness, and phrases like "my considered opinion" don't change that. Relate what the suspect said and did, and it won't be hard for your superiors or prosecutors to draw conclusions.

Which of these is a correctly spelled word?

You don't have to be Hemingway to be a police officer. But your reports will be seen by your superiors, prosecutors, maybe members of the media ... it's important to have basic spelling and grammar skills.

Which of these does a patrol officer NOT routinely carry?

When an aggressive animal is encountered, an officer should call Animal Services. Police officers do not receive extensive training in how to deal with animals.

At a hit-and-run accident, you notice that the driver, who is trying to stop the victim's bleeding, appears to be very drunk. What should you do?

Yup, it's a trick question. There is no driver at a hit-and-run -- they've fled the scene.

You are patrolling at Union Square when a driver pulls up and asks you "How do I get to Union Square?" What should you do?

Maybe the driver is from out of town; maybe they're just a really bad navigator. The fourth option is the most tactful and appropriate way to handle the situation.

Which of these is the legal limit for blood alcohol content in the US?

Though "it varies" or "it depends" is usually the right answer, not so here. All fifty states have made .08 percent the legal limit.

True or false: Legal blood alcohol content is lower for commercial drivers.

Commercial drivers might argue that they are professionals with good driver training, which actually makes them better able to handle a vehicle with some alcohol in their systems. However, commercial vehicles are usually sizable, and their massive weight can make accidents more readily fatal -- making a lower limit a good idea.

Pick the sentence(s) that is/are correctly punctuated:

The fourth sentence is neither a run-on nor a sentence fragment. It also has a smooth flow, using a comma and the conjunction "but" to link two ideas.

You have gone to a suspect's apartment to look for contraband in a robbery. No one answers your knock. What should you do?

There are some exceptions to the need for a search warrant, but you can't just assume that suspects are destroying evidence just because they're not opening the door. And getting a building super to open the door isn't legal either -- he or she can't consent to a search on behalf of a tenant.

Which of these is NOT an important skill for a police officer?

Police officers will sometimes be the first on an emergency scene and need life-saving skills. They also need to be good drivers, and to write clear reports. But, unlike what 1970s TV shows taught us, officers really don't run down suspects like leopards on the savanna. Most foot chases will be short, and if a suspect gets away, it's time to get on the radio with an alert.

Avery is taking the sergeant's exam, which has 60 questions and requires a score of 85 percent to move on to the interview stage. How many questions can Avery miss?

An easy way to do percent problems in your head is to remember that to get 10 percent, you simply move the (unseen) decimal point one place to the left. In other words, 10 percent of 60 is 6. Five percent is half that, or 3. 6 +3 = 9. A simpler (though harder) way is to move the decimal point over two places, getting 1 percent of 60, which is .6. Multiply this by 15 (possibly with a calculator) and you get 9 again.

Four-fifths of Avery's group passed the written exam. What percent of the group is advancing?

4/5 is the same thing as 8/10. This makes it easier to see the relation to 80 percent. This question might have seemed easy to you, but year ago a story made the rounds that a significant number of school teachers in a major public school district could not complete this simple problem. (We're not sure it's true, which is why we're not naming the district).

True or false: Every crime has only one crime scene.

For example, if a murder took place in one location, but the body was dumped elsewhere, both qualify as crime scenes. That is, both should be secured and then examined by detectives and forensic technicians.

What is an officer's first duty at a crime scene?

It should be obvious that job one is making sure no one is further injured, or does not die of injuries. Also, unless the officer has detective status, developing "a theory of the crime" won't be in his/her job description.

True or false: It is important to make a chalk outline around a body.

This misconception comes from TV and movies. In actuality, getting close enough to the body to make an outline is to run the risk of contaminating it with hair, fibers, etc. Vernon Geberth, the author of "Practical Homicide Investigation" calls patrol officers who make outlines "chalk fairies" because they magically disappear when the investigating detective starts yelling about somebody messing up the crime scene.

Which word in this sentence is misspelled? "Her lieutennant ordered a thorough search of the premises."

"Lieutenant" comes from the French language, and like more than a few French words, takes a little effort to spell. The version above has an unnecessary extra n.

A highway pursuit between a suspect vehicle and a squad car covered 42 miles and reached speeds of 95 miles per hour. What was the average speed of the squad car?

Just because you know the cars reached speeds of 95 miles per hour doesn't mean you know the average speed. To do that, you'd have to know the length of the chase (in time, not distance) and the speeds of the vehicles from start to finish. What this question underscores is that it's all right -- important, in fact -- to admit when you need more data to draw a conclusion.

Which of the following sentences contains a spelling error?

In the first sentence, "forewarded" should be "forwarded." We even spelled it correctly in the last sentence, to give you a hint.

You are off-duty when you step into a convenience store that is being robbed. As you enter, the robber bolts through the back door, and the cashier sits down hard, saying he has chest pains. What is your course of action?

Although a police officer is not an EMT, if he or she is the first on the scene, rendering aid to a sick or injured person has to take priority. Calling 911 for more help is not a bad idea, but not because you intend to excuse yourself from the situation entirely.

Which of these is a correctly spelled word?

Don't be fooled by "compleat," an outdated spelling which, for some reason, had a revival in the 1960s ("The Compleat Beatles"). The correct ending is "-ete."

You arrive at a deli and dispel some teenage boys who are harassing customers. The grateful owner offers you a free ham to take home. What do you do and why?

OK, we cite "department policy" above, and police departments are all different. But there are almost certainly none that allow officers to accept "tips" or similar for doing the job.

Which of these should not be transmitted over the radio?

Reporters and crime buffs listen to law-enforcement transmissions over "scanner" radios. It's important to give backup units, EMT or fire personnel the information they need, but names aren't, and might expose a member of the community to undue gossip, et cetera.

Which word in this sentence is misspelled? "No relevant detail should be omited from the indictment."

Though "indictment" looks odd compared to the way it's pronounced -- it's "in-DITE-ment" with a long i and silent c -- that word is correct. But "omited" should be "omitted."

A pair of robbers is digging a hole in which to hide their loot. It's three feet long by two feet wide by three feet deep. How much dirt is in their hole when they're done?

We know you can do the math, but this is a logic question. There's no dirt in their hole -- it's all been removed.

A mint plus a can of soda costs $1.10 total. The soda costs a dollar more than the mint. How much does the mint cost?

This problem is more famously rendered as "the bat and the ball." The temptation here is to say the mint costs ten cents, because one dollar plus a dime equals $1.10. But the mint has to cost five cents for the soda to be a dollar more, or $1.05. Together they are $1.10. This is another test of your reasoning skills.

On the first day of school, a championship trophy is stolen from the school's case during a brief period in which it was unlocked for cleaning. Which of the following suspects should you detain for more thorough questioning?

Of course the janitor comes to mind, and the cafeteria manager's alibi isn't great, either. However, the science teacher is the best candidate: How can she have been grading midterm exams on the first day of school? (OK, this sounds more like the board game "Clue" than an actual call a patrol officer would get -- but we include it as an example of a logic question).

In what situation might you be part of a "skirmish line"?

Recent years have given us plenty of opportunity to witness police skirmish lines. These are shoulder-to-shoulder lines of officers in protective gear, keeping protesters (or rioters) from gaining access to protected areas.

Which of these is NOT an exception to the need for a search warrant?

There are four exceptions to the need for a search warrant: emergency, plain view, consent and when the suspect has been arrested. The rank of the officer doesn't enter into the equation.

You and your partner are checking out a report of a break-in at a liquor store and find that the rear door was, in fact, pried open and the stockroom ransacked. While waiting for the store owner to arrive, your partner slips a six-pack of beer into your cruiser. What should you do?

Privately reporting it to a superior or sneaking the beer back into the stockroom might resolve the situation. but will cost you respect and/or trust from your partner. The best case here is to deal with the situation directly, and hope your partner grudgingly respects your refusal to to either collaborate in petty theft or be a tattletale to the brass.

You are eating at a restaurant when you notice several safety code violations, like blocked fire exits. However, the restaurant is owned by a senior city council member. What should you do?

As much as you might not want to stick your neck out, safety violations can cause injury or death. Talk to the owner, then recommend the fire department send someone to follow up and make sure the violations have been resolved.

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About This Quiz

 What, really, does it take to be a police officer? The days when any Barney Fife could be put in uniform and given the keys to the jail and a squad car are over. (Confused? Search "Barney Fife" on YouTube to see comedian Don Knotts's portrayal of the classic country-bumpkin deputy). Nowadays, many officers have at least a two-year degree from college. Community colleges often offer associate-degree programs in Criminal Justice or Public Safety. Other would-be police officers get four-year degrees before entering the Academy, in a variety of disciplines. Having studied one of the sciences, math or liberal arts isn't an obstacle to being a police officer. 

However, once you've committed to this line of work, there are certain things you'll be expected to know. To screen out the very unprepared, police academies use exams that test candidates not just on the basics of police procedure and ethics, but on simple math skills, logic, reading comprehension and spatial reasoning. Even grammar and spelling are included -- police officers write a lot of reports, and errors can make the department look bad in the eyes of lawyers, reporters and anyone else into whose hands these public reports might fall. 

Our quiz, then, strives to imitate a police academy entrance exam. We'll test you on math, logic, grammar and spelling. But we've also included a lot about police techniques, procedures and ethics, to keep things interesting. You're sure not to get bored. Good luck!

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