Garden Grove PD holds physical agility tryouts for possible recruits

By Daniel Langhorne

Markus Handlon, 22, flew out from Colorado to participate in the Garden Grove Police Department’s physical agility test on Saturday at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Regional Training Academy.

While growing up in Rochester, Minnesota, Handlon was a part of the Rochester Police Explorers. He remembers a ridealong when officers engaged in a standoff that lasted for four hours in the cold and snow.

An applicant runs through the obstacle course, which includes an open window.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“I think that installed a little bug in me,” Handlon said.

Garden Grove officers on Sept. 9 reviewed the fitness of 75 candidates in a three-part assessment that is one of the first steps to qualifying for the police academy.

Candidates who passed the physical agility test and a written exam will move onto interviews later this month. Those who fail will get another opportunity to test in October.

Potential recruits receive a demonstration by GGPD personnel of each obstacle before the start of a physical agility test at the OCSD Regional Training Academy in Tustin.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

At a time when fewer young people are interested in law enforcement careers, the department has hired 44 new officers from 2014 to 2016, and expects to hire another 23 in 2017, said Lt. Carl Whitney of the Professional Standards Division.

Sgt. Mike Viscomi said it’s increasingly difficult to find academy slots as police agencies in the region ramp up hiring. He attributes the hiring spree to agencies restoring funding to positions that were cut during the last recession.

Garden Grove Police Officer Thi Huynh, left, pushes Devon Ha of Santa Ana on the sprint portion of the obstacle course.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Viscomi said recruits have a 1 percent success rate of becoming a Garden Grove police officer. Candidates lined up for their turn for their timed run of an obstacle course that includes scaling five-foot walls, monkey bars, a balance beam, and jumping through a window.

At the end of the obstacle course, candidates had to touch a plaque with the outline of a hand and the inscription “Stay in the Fight” before sprinting back to the starting point.

Jonathan Avalos, of Rowland Heights, lifts a 165-pound dummy as he drags it across the dirt during a Garden Grove PD physical agility test.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

After the obstacle course, candidates had to drag a 165-pound dummy about 20 feet and run a lap around the academy’s parking lot.

Kevin Ramirez, 22, of Bellflower, described the sandy obstacle course as slippery but he still passed. He also characterized the course at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Regional Training Academy as the gold standard.

“You come out here, you’re on point,” Ramirez said.

An applicant goes through the obstacle course.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Whitney cautions those considering a law enforcement career to be aware of the job’s physical demands.

“I saw some guys who weren’t prepared,” Whitney said. “This is not something to enter into lightly.”

Out of the two session held Saturday, six applicants from each did not pass, said Cpl. Chuck Starnes, recruitment coordinator and background investigator for the GGPD’s Professional Standards Division.

An applicant runs through the obstacle course.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The recruits who did pass — 63, out of a total of 75 who showed up Sept. 9 — will be scheduled for the next step, a written test to be held this week.

The GGPD will have another opening for a police recruit on Oct. 2.

Anyone interested in a job as a police officer at the GGPD is asked to contact Cpl. Chuck Starnes at charless@ci.garden-grove.ca.us or 714-741-5922.

An applicant makes his way over a wall as he runs through the obstacle course at the OCSD Regional Training Academy.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Potential recruits line up as they arrive at the OCSD Regional Training Academy in Tustin to take their physical agility test for the Garden Grove PD.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Potential recruits line up as they arrive at the OCSD Regional Training Academy on Sept. 9.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Garden Grove PD Cpl. Charles Starnes talks to applicants who arrived to take the physical agility test.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Garden Grove PD Cpl. Nick Jensen, back left, and Cpl. Charles Starnes talk to potential recruits about the obstacle course.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Lawrence Tran of Garden Grove drags the 165-pound dummy.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC