Student joins Pullman police

DAN DOUCET, Evergreen opinion editor

The Pullman Police Department’s most recent hire, one of just three women on a force of more than 20 officers, graduated from the police academy in March and is now several weeks into field training.

Teayana Dillon, 21, was a WSU student double majoring in criminal justice and psychology before she decided to take time off to apply to the Pullman Police Department. She said she unenrolled from WSU because the academy, which lasted five months from fall to spring semester, took up too much of her time during the school year.

“I’ll finish,” she said. “I only have 30 credits left of just kind of random classes that I have to take.”

Dillon said being the same age as many of the college students in Pullman whom she serves feels strange at times, but also can be helpful.

“People look at me when I’m walking down the street like, ‘Oh she’s wearing a cute little costume,’ kind of like I’m almost one of them,” Dillon said. “But it also helps in a sense. We had a call the other day where a girl was just having a rough time and I was able to connect with her really easily because I was her age. So its got its advantages and disadvantages.”

It is also entertaining to work with students, she said.

“There’s always some interesting stories,” Dillon said. “Just some of the people, you know, intoxicated students that are just super funny to talk to. They’ll come up and shake your hand and be like, ‘Hi officer, how’s it going?’”

Dillon said a career as a first responder has always interested her, so when she started taking criminal justice courses at WSU, a career in law enforcement opened up.

“I got a job at Wal-Mart working loss prevention,” she said, “and that’s when I met all of the Pullman officers and just kind of realized that this is what I wanted to do.”

Dillon said she fell in love with living in Pullman. A year after she moved to the Palouse, her parents joined her from Republic, Washington, and because she did not want to leave the area, she searched for jobs locally. The Pullman Police Department was one of the best law enforcement agencies in the area, Dillon said, so she decided to apply.

“When I heard they were hiring I just applied and didn’t really think I was going to get it,” she said. “But if I didn’t get it I was just going to keep going to school and then try at some other agencies, but I was lucky enough to get the job.”

Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins said Dillon competed against 14 other candidates while going through the interview and testing process. Pullman Police officer candidates must go through an initial testing process, including a written test, an assessment of their judgement and a physical abilities test.

After passing the assessments, the candidates faced an interview panel, which consisted of a police officer, a police sergeant, ASWSU Vice President Kyle Strachila, the executive director of operations for the Pullman School District, the police advisory committee chair and a code enforcement officer.

Jenkins said community members are included on the committee because they are the people that the police serve and they should have input on new hires.

He said he thought Dillon stood out, especially during the interview process, and that she met many of the criteria Jenkins looks for in new officers.

“I’m looking for someone that can establish trust with other people, someone who can earn respect, someone that can work well with others, someone with good communication skills,” Jenkins said. “And so, looking at all of those things, she displayed a lot of those during that interview.”

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A thorough background investigation is done on all potential officers. The exam covers credit history, interviews with relatives, employers and roommates, and criminal history.

“We are not looking for someone with a spotless record,” Jenkins said. “We are just looking for someone that shows increasing responsibility in their life over the years and someone that we think can earn the trust and the respect of the community.”

After the interview process and a few more tests, Jenkins said he offered Dillon the job.

“It’s not a trivial thing to make it through that whole process,” he said. “It’s something that takes someone who has some character and the values that we’re looking for, and Teayana had all of those.”

In November the Pullman Police Department paid for Dillon to go to the academy, where she learned defensive tactics, how to shoot and how to work effectively on the street, she said.

For the next several months, Dillon is assigned to a field training officer (FTO) who rides with her during shifts to show her how to take care of calls and do her job in the field. After her time with the FTO, she will work a six-month period on her own, but will still be closely observed. Dillon said that if a candidate makes a serious mistake during this time, they can be swiftly fired, whereas a normal officer would first go through an investigation process.

“We’ll put her with different field training officers throughout that process and essentially get her acclimated to actually working in the street, applying the things that she learned at the police academy,” Jenkins said.

Dillon said she plans on staying in Pullman and making a career as an officer. She said she enjoys the rhythm of the job in the city because there is not an overwhelming number of calls, but not too few either.

Jenkins said that as the chief, he is in charge of performance evaluations and has a hand in promoting officers. As Dillon gains experience in the department, she will have the opportunity to take on specialty assignments, such as the school resource officer, detective or the College Hill beat.

Dillon said students who want a career in law enforcement should be well-rounded and search for internships or jobs in the law enforcement field, such as her job at Wal-Mart in loss-prevention.

“So you just have to be proactive,” Dillon said, “and make good decisions. Don’t do something you wouldn’t do if you were a cop, basically. Like if you were a cop right now, would you make those certain decisions?”