GREENFIELD — Inside the Greenfield-Central High School cafeteria, 23 men sat anxiously at tables waiting for their turn to test their athletic abilities during the physical section of tryouts to become Greenfield Police Department (GPD) officers.

For those who passed the athletic portion of the test Saturday morning, which included testing agility and running skills, they were asked back Saturday afternoon to take a multi-hour aptitude test surrounding police work.

The drills and testing are important because at least once a year officials with the GPD try to find the best-qualified men and woman to fill open positions in the department to help them maintain a full workforce to cover the city 24/7.

“Everyone is struggling in law enforcement to find good candidates, but the one thing we can promise, we will not just pick bodies to fill those positions,” Chief Brian Hartman said. “When this is over, hopefully we’ll have three well-qualified candidates to fill our positions and get us to full staff.”

Currently the GPD has 47 official police positions with three administrative positions leaving 44 spots for road officers.

“I feel like our police department has a good standing in the community, and we really try to give back and we want to hire people who want to do that,” Hartman said.

The tryouts started at 8 a.m. with the physical work for the candidates. Officials had the men doing sit-ups, push-ups, a standing high jump, a 300-meter sprint and a mile-and-a-half run.

“They’ve got to finish the run in 16 minutes and 28 seconds,” GPD Deputy Chief, Chuck McMichael said. “These physical tryout are pass/fail.”

McMichael noted they’re looking for candidates who have a sense of community and want to serve others.

“We’re looking for those people who aren’t so much interested in what we can do for them, but what they can do for us and our community,” McMichael said.

One of the applicants, Tyrell Robertson, 34, has lived in the Greenfield area for the past two years and brought a lot of experience into the tryouts. He spent 12 years in the United States Army and has nearly a full year’s worth of law enforcement experience working as a correctional officer at the Pendleton Reformatory.

“It’s going outstanding so far,” Robertson said after finishing a standing high jump test. “I feel great being here.”

Robertson noted the reason he wanted to get on board with being an officer with the GPD is because he loves doing things for others and the fact police work often requires teamwork.

“I’m a selfless, service kind of person,” Robertson said. “I did 12 years in the Army and I appreciate the commentary that comes with that kind of service.”

Robertson has traveled all around the world and said that getting a chance to be a police officer in a smaller city he now calls home would be a great opportunity for him.

“I grew up in an impoverished society and I overcame that, and having lived around the world makes me a well-rounded individual,” Robertson said. “I’ve done it all and seen it all, but mostly I’m a fair person, and I think that’s important in law enforcement.”

While officials in nearby Marion County posted a billboard that stated they were down 350 officers, Hartman said it’s nice to see so many people apply to work in a city like Greenfield.

“When you live in a place where you don’t have enough officers, like a Marion County, that’s when law enforcement has to stop writing tickets, stop going to crashes and doing all the little things that keep a community safe,” Hartman said.

The chief admitted while they like to hold tryouts like the one held Saturday once a year, they’re looking for quality officers year-round.

“The process is always open constantly because we don’t know that we’ll fill the positions that we have open here today,” Hartman said. “We’re not just going to hire anybody.”

All the applicants who passed the aptitude test will be brought in for interviews in mid-May with the hopes of being selected for one of the three open positions. McMichael noted should department officials end up hiring candidates with lateral experience, from another police department, the official hiring could go a little faster.

“Theoretically, if we hire someone with lateral experience, the hiring process goes a lot faster, but realistically we’re looking at getting people on-board by August,” McMichael said.

Hartman says he likes hiring a mix of officers, from new, bright-eyed officers to veteran officers with experience.

“You have to keep a balance because you do want those new people coming into law enforcement due to their thought process which can create new ideas … Oftentimes when you get a bunch of experienced officers in a room, we all think like cops, so it’s good to have fresh eyes on board.”