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The five remaining candidates vying to become Lafayette’s next police chief will have their knowledge of the role tested Thursday as they take a required state exam.

Micky Broussard, chairman of the Lafayette Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board, said testing will begin at 9 a.m. in the Lafayette Police Department’s third-floor training room.

Five of nine applicants for the position — former State Trooper Brian Ardoin; Lafayette police Sgt. Dorian Brabham; retired FBI special agent Charles DeLaughter; Lafayette police Cmdr. Judith Estorge; and Lafayette police Maj. Dewitt Sheridan — were approved by the board to take the test in July.

Tests such as the chief exam have been part of the fire and police civil service hiring and promotional process since the 1950s, State Examiner Adrienne Bordelon said. The chief exam helps ensure the person hired has the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to execute the job on day one.

“The purpose behind it is to make sure that the person who is being selected for the position is capable of doing the job…So that the appointing authority can have assurances that, at least as it appears as an initial gatekeeper, that this person has the ability to learn,” she said.

The test is broken into two parts: a multiple choice, standardized test-style portion and a public speaking portion.

Like the ACT or SAT, the written test has an administrator who will give directions and guide the candidates through filling out key information on their scantrons. The multiple choice test typically has between 100 and 120 questions and candidates have between 1.5 to 2.5 hours allotted to complete it, depending on the number of questions, the state examiner said.

Topics include police administration, personnel management, employee relations, written communications, public relations, crime prevention, community relations, supervision and law enforcement management.

The test content is tailored for Lafayette.

The Office of State Examiner administers a questionnaire, completed either by the sitting police chief or the mayor, every seven years. The form assesses the city’s law enforcement needs and what knowledge areas are most important to the chief job. When it’s time to hire a new police chief, the test writers use those answers to decide things like how many questions to include in each section, Bordelon said.

“What Baton Rouge may need could be different than Lafayette. Or even let’s use Abbeville. Abbeville, while in the same region as Lafayette, is a different size municipality and has different needs. Abbeville’s exam plan is going to be different than Lafayette’s,” she said.

The candidates will move into the public speaking portion in the afternoon.

They’ll be given a packet with a prompt, background information and details they’ll need to include in their speech. The prompts can be almost anything: a serial killer is terrorizing Lafayette and the chief has to give a media briefing, or the chief needs to sell the city council on new funding proposals, Bordelon said.

Each candidate will have about two hours to review the materials and draft their speech. They’ll then deliver their speeches one-by-one in private, filmed by two Office of State Examiner employees who will give time cues. Once their five minutes is up, the candidate will be asked a question to test their ability to respond on-the-fly.

“In a large municipality it’s not unusual for a police chief to have to speak to the public,” Bordelon said.

State law requires candidates to score a 75 or higher to receive a passing score. The scantron portion counts for 70% of the grade and the public speaking portion is 30%.

The video portion is scored by a panel of three Office of State Examiner employees who grade the candidates against a preset matrix, with categories like public speaking skill and how well the main points were conveyed. The panel’s scores are averaged to determine the applicant’s public speaking score, Bordelon said.

Candidates can prepare for the test and a study guide is available. Candidates are provided a list of books and manuals that the Office of State Examiner used to create the questions on the test, but candidates have to take initiative to track them down and study, she said.

The study guide also only lists about 75% of the resources used to leave some surprises in the mix at test time, the state examiner said.

“Whereas the entry level test we have a very detailed study guide on our website, at the chief level we have an expectation that if they want to study, that they need to do their part,” Bordelon said.


Email Katie Gagliano at kgagliano@theadvocate.com