February 20, 2005
They had their common sense tested, their psyches probed, their integrity and honor questioned and their bodies punished.
Some fell immediately, others made it further, but in the end, only two were left standing.
Chandler resident Jose Rangel, 23, and Mesa resident Blake Fairclough, 22, were chosen by Chandler Police Chief Sherry Kiyler this week to become the department’s two newest rookies.
If the men pass medical exams and drug tests, they’ll soon be heading off to the Arizona Law Enforcement Academy in Phoenix.
"We think they’ll both do well," said Scott Picquet, a detective with Chandler’s professional standards section.
Picquet and his partner, detective Brian Reed, began the search for new officers on Nov. 20. They started out with 145 candidates and hoped to send four to the academy.
By the time the polygraph and psychological tests were scheduled, the detectives were down to six candidates, all men.
One dropped out for family reasons, Picquet said. The other three failed to make it through the polygraph, psychological test or background investigation — although none of them will be prevented from applying again.
The Tribune has been following the recruits since the process began as part of an occasional series about what it’s like to be a new police officer — from the testing process to the rigors of the police academy to the reality of life on the streets.
Rangel, a former Army sergeant who spent a year in Iraq, works security at a Mervyn’s department store.
Fairclough is a security officer at Mesa Community College, where he obtained an associate’s degree in general studies.
The men, both unmarried, fervently hope the academy, which starts March 14, has enough space for them. If not, the Chandler department will put them to work in clerical positions until the next academy in April.
"The sooner the better for me," Rangel said. "I’m ready to get into it. If they said ‘Be ready to go in three days’, I’d be ready."
Rangel and Fairclough, who have met only briefly, have much in common. Both have wanted to be police officers since they were young, realizing they were passing up the chance at higher paying, safer jobs.
"I’m not very materialistic and I’d rather make less money and go to a job I enjoy every day than to make more money and go to a job I hate," Fairclough said.
Both men said they feel the need to help people.
"I don’t think people should feel scared to go outside and to leave their cars parked outside," Rangel said.
If Rangel makes it through the 16-week academy, he’ll be joining his uncle, Angel Chavez, on the force. Rangel watched Chavez graduate from the police academy and it was then he decided his future.
Fairclough can’t remember exactly when he made up his mind to go into law enforcement, but says his mother remembers him telling her of his plans as early as age 10. His twin brother, Richard, will be going through the March academy as a Glendale Police Department cadet.
The men said they have the full support of their families.
"My parents believe that if they can get through my being in Iraq, they can get through this," Rangel said.
Rangel considers himself extremely lucky. The Chandler Police Department was the first and only agency with which he tested.
Fairclough has tested with eight agencies over the last 18 months.
Both said they would have kept testing until they got hired.
"This is an exciting and challenging career," Fairclough said. "This is something I can see myself doing for 20, 25, 30 years and it’s something I can look back on and be proud of."
The men also share a competitive spirit and hope to help each other out at the academy. They love to run and lift weights and are more worried about the academic aspect of the academy than the physical.
"I was an average student. I had to study to pass and to get good grades," Rangel said. "At the academy, I really want to excel. I don’t want to be the guy who just barely passes. I want to bring back some awards."
Fairclough, himself an A and B student, is already thinking ahead to being on the streets of Chandler as an officer-in-training.
"I want the field training officer to say ‘Blake’s so good, I don’t need to be there,’ ‘’ he said. "I want to be the best."