News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

January 26, 2014

Put to the test

Sheriff’s deputy candidates vie for 4 recruit spots

TERRE HAUTE — Five young men stood in front of a white mark on a track in preparation for a run. And when they heard the words, “On your mark, get set, go!” they were off on a 300-meter run that needed to be completed in 71 seconds or less.

But this exercise was not for recreation. It was for a job.

The five men were among more than 150 people — both men and women — aspiring to become a Vigo County deputy sheriff.

About 120 of the applicants ran, jumped and got on the floor for push-ups and sit-ups inside the the Sports and Recreation Center at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology on Sunday as they participated in the physical agility screening conducted by the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department, one of the stages in the application process.

The department has four openings for deputy sheriff that officials hope to fill by May. About 40 applicants were screened last week.

The test, overseen by just fewer than 30 staff members from the department, applied the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy Exit Standards. Applicants had to complete a vertical jump with a minimum jump of 16 inches; perform a minimum of 25 push ups with no time limit; do a minimum of 29 sit-ups in one minute; and finish a 300-meter run in 71 seconds or less.

Camaraderie was certainly present as applicants cheered each other on through the tests.

These activities were conducted at the same time, and those who failed in any one of them were immediately eliminated from competition.

Vigo County Chief Deputy Clark Cottom said the applicants came from all over the nation.

“We have applicants as far away as Rhode Island, New York state, Missouri, two from Georgia and one from Arizona,” Cottom said.

But why do they want to be a deputy sheriff in Vigo County, Indiana?

“Most of them have some sort of tie to the Wabash Valley,” and they want to come back home, Cottom said.

Within one year of being hired, deputies are required to successfully pass the standards set by the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. The Vigo County Sheriff’s Office has included the physical agility testing in its application process to ensure that the people they hire will be able to pass the academy’s testing.

Law enforcement officers, Cottom said, run into all kinds of people, and some are willing to challenge law enforcement if their freedom depends on their escape.

It is important to make sure “our officers are prepared for that physical challenge,” Cottom said.

One female applicant looked well on her way to meeting the physical challenge.

Jamie Renehan, 35, of Terre Haute was observed successfully completing push-ups and sit-ups as if with ease. She finished the sit-up test 15 seconds before the time limit.

Renehan said she has “always worked out sporadically.”

“I’m a little worried about this next phase,” the 300-meter run, Renehan said.

“Wish me luck,” she said as she walked toward her next challenge.

Applicants who passed the 300-meter run, vertical jump, push-ups and sit-ups then had to complete the 1.5-mile run in 16 minutes, 28 seconds or less.

That was the part that applicant Aaron Edwards thought was his biggest challenge. The 24-year-old said even though he plays football, he is not used to running miles. But he has a strong upper body, Edwards said.

Edwards just graduated from Indiana State University with a degree in criminal justice.

“I’m looking to start my criminal justice career,” Edwards said after passing the vertical jump test.

Through a college internship, Edwards saw first-hand what a deputy sheriff does.

“I did ride-alongs with a deputy. I liked it and got interested in it,” he said.

And the Terre Haute native wants to be a part of law enforcement because he wants to serve his county and admires the integrity and honesty often associated with the position, he said.

Another applicant also wants the job to serve.

Hannah Fisher, of New Palestine, said she has always wanted to go into law enforcement.

“I love the fact that it’s different everyday … and the adventure,” she said. “I love … that I can stick up for people who cannot defend themselves,” and catch the bad guys, the psychology major at ISU said.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dianne.powell@tribstar.com.

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