‘I only took the test for the air conditioning,’ Simone Bangphraxay, now a Los Angeles Police Department officer and UC Irvine alumna, remembers of her LAPD entrance exam. Clearly, Bangphraxay’s goals were not set in stone when she was a student at UCI. For some students, coming to school every day is merely a stepping stone on the path to their future.
Shawn Vincent, a third-year drama major, thinks about his future daily. ‘I think about the future all the time,’ Vincent said. ‘I focus on how what I’m doing now is going to affect my future and achieving my goals.’
For other students, college is a life experience. ‘I am at college for my future and I know that, but I like to try and focus on the actual college experience and not stress about
what’s going to happen,’ said Jenica Wallman, a second-year English major.
Simone Bangphraxay offers advice to both types of students as she shares the story of her college experience and life after UCI as an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. Bangphraxay loved UCI for its proximity to the beach, the park and the diversity of the student body. Shewas very involved on campus, which she says made the experience more worthwhile.
Bangphraxay never dreamt of this in college. Her whole family was in business, so she started out as an economics major. Eventually, she decidedto change to social science and go to law school.
‘Police work wasn’t even a thought,’ Bangphraxay said. ‘I had a friend who wanted to be an officer though, and she talked about it all the time.’
One day her friend took her to a recruitment seminar where an officer with the LAPD allowed them to take the entrance test.
‘My friend wanted to do it and it was hot outside,’ Bangphraxay said. ‘I didn’t want to wait two or three hours for her. The officer said there was air conditioning in the room so that was where I wanted to be.’
Bangphraxay passed the test, and though she still wanted to go to law school, she kept the LAPD as a possibility. ‘Always keep your options open. Try different things. You never know what can happen,’ Bangphraxay said.
After graduating in 1996, while she was working at a law firm and looking for a law school, the LAPD offered her a job. In June of 1997, she took it.
Working for the LAPD has been a challenging yet exciting experience for Bangphraxay. She went to training, worked on the streets and is now in recruitment, traveling around California giving students information about the LAPD. She will be continuing her work here on campus Oct. 18, at the UCI Career Fair, which will feature dozens of booths, including one for the LAPD.
‘The money,’ she said, ‘is very good.’ If you join straight out of high school, salary is about $51,114. Straight out of a four-year college, it goes up to $55,248 a year. ‘And it’s a fun experience,’ Bangphraxay added.
With women in the force consisting of about 18 to 19 percent and the top female being the assistant chief of police, the LAPD has the highest female concentration in the country. There are many opportunities with the LAPD for young women, especially those with college diplomas.
Joining the LAPD is a 12-step process beginning with a preliminary background application and a job preview questionnaire, followed by a multiple-choice test, which takes two to three hours and includes multiple choice where the applicant must select grammatically correct sentences and questions on reading comprehension.
Becoming an LAPD officer also requires a personal qualifications essay, a physical abilities test, a review of the candidate, a polygraph examination, a background investigation and a department interview.
The applicant must undergo both a medical and a psychological examination as well. Once certified, the applicant will be appointed to a position.
Bangphraxay is still thinking about going back to law school one day, but is satisfied with where she is now.
‘I love working for the LAPD,’ Bangphraxay said. ‘They work well with my schedule and are very flexible.’ In addition to being at the career fair, Bangphraxay will administer the LAPD multiple-choice test on Oct. 22 at UCI.