Eagan PD Citizen's Academy: Hiring Officers, Information on K-9 Unit

This week Citizen Academy members got the inside scoop on the intense hiring process for officers, and got to see two K-9 dogs practicing their tricks.

Editor's Note: In this weekly column, I am going to write about what I've learned each week at the academy. Some of the topics that will be covered in this column and at the Citizen's Academy is identity theft, homicide investigation, self defense, and there will also be ridealongs with officers, a Taser demo and an opportunity to participate in a service weapons shoot. The Citizen's Academy is held every Thursday at the Eagan Police Department from 6:30-9:30 p.m.

Eagan Police Lt. Duane Pike spent half the class going over the details for interviewing and hiring officers. He handed out a 35-page applicant background packet so students would be able to see firsthand what kind of information the police department is looking for from possible applicants. 

Among the various items in the packet, some of the most interesting were that applicants must include an address for every place they have lived in their entire life (not just the past five years, for example) and they must include a description and location of all of the tattoos on their body.

Pike said they recently added this to the application. Eagan Police officers have an "image to uphold" and would like to be aware of any possible inappropriate tattoos.

In 2010, the Eagan Police Department had 300 applicants for three positions, of those applicants 20-30 were rejected and 40 were intereviewed. Four individuals were given a background check (all passed) and went on to interview with Police Chief Jim McDonald. Three were finalists for the positions and all three finished as full-time officers.

Once the individuals are offered the position (and they accept), they must undergo a series of tests including a physical, psychological and fitness test.

What does the first 4 1/2 months of a newly hired Eagan Police officer's job look like?

  • Receive their equipment (all leather gear, uniforms and vests), which costs upward of $3,000 
  • Spend 3 1/2 weeks at the department's in-house academy
  • Field training for four months
  • Perform solo patrol
  • Other training

Other interesting tidbits:

  • Wisconsin and FBI officers must undergo a polygraph test each year. (There may be other states that do this, but Minnesota is not one of them.)
  • During the interview process, an applicant may have to show their Facebook page to the officer conducting the interview. 
  • It takes nine months to complete the hiring/training of a new officer-from the day the position is first advertised to the end of training.
  • The average age an officer retires at is 55.
  • Most EPD officers start at $26.50 an hour.
  • The Eagan Police Department is more of a high-service department (you may notice they do more than other departments do...such as showing up to a medical call, for example).

Eagan Police Department K-9 Unit Information:

Contrary to many people's beliefs, dogs trained for police departments' canine units are not attack dogs.

"We do lots of socialization," Eagan Police K-9 Officer Andy Helgerson said.

The EPD's K-9 Unit is made up of an operations lieutenant, K-9 sergeant and two K-9 officers (which are Helgerson and Rob Waller). Helgerson and Waller both have a German Shepherd Dog (GSD). Helgerson's is named Maverick, is 8 years old and weighs 67 pounds. Waller's is named Zebo, is 3 years old and weighs 65 pounds.

Both Zebo and Maverick live with their handlers (Waller and Helgerson). The city provides the dogs with a large kennel, dog house, food and all medical expenses.

Interesting tidbits about K-9 dogs:

  • K-9 dogs are typially purchased from a broker and usually from Europe.
  • They are about a year old before they begin training to become part of a department's K-9 unit, and some may have training already.
  • Although officers hold their K-9 dogs to the highest regard, the dogs are not considered police officers.
  • Officers cannot use deadly force if someone has a gun pointed at one of the K-9 unit dogs. 
  • The dogs are trained to be right arm specific when attacking a suspect.
  • Dogs retire at 7-10 years old.
  • Dogs must complete a 12-week basic canine handler course at the Saint Paul Police Department
  • Dogs must also annually meet standards set by the U.S. Police Canine Association
  • Canines and handlers train approximately 16-20 hours a month, but Helgerson said it is more like 30-40 hours a month once the weather is nice





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