HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- For the first time this year, people applying to join the Huntington Police Department don't have to live in city limits to be considered. That means more than 300 people applied during the latest recruitment drive, the highest for the department since 1998.
About 200 people showed up for a physical agility test at Huntington High School on Saturday morning. That's the first hurdle in a competitive process, followed by a written exam in two weeks. In the end, about six new officers being hired this summer.
"We're really pleased with the turnout. We did a big recruitment campaign this year," Captain Hank Dial said. "We've been in the 150 range for the last several years."
The challenge for participants: 18 pushups and 27 situps -- each in one minute -- followed by a 1.5-mile run in 15 minutes, 20 seconds.
"About one-third of the people either don't show up for the physical agility test or fail it," Dial said.
Many of the people participating on Saturday said they felt prepared for the physical challenge.
"I feel really prepared," Jessica Thompson, who has previously done ROTC, said. "I work out often, so this physical fitness test will kind of just hopefully be a really good workout."
Matthew Keesee, another hopeful, said he has been working out and running every other day.
"I feel a little nervous, but I feel prepared," Keesee said. "I feel like I'm able to do what they need, to get it done."
Among the reasons recruits gave for their interest in law enforcement, several said they like helping people and being part of a brotherhood.
"I like the brotherhood, just being one big family," Anthony Wells said. "I like to help the younger generation. I've got two younger brothers that are still in school, high school and grade school. It's nice to help that generation. They're the ones that are going to be taking care of us."
Wells lives in Wetzel County. He said the decision to drop the Huntington residency requirement, which meant all officers had to live in city limits, has been a factor in his decision.
"My girlfriend actually goes to Marshall, so I'll be down here," Wells said. "We're planning on living in Barboursville, so it does help."
Speaking to the crowd of recruits, Chief Skip Holbrook offered some encouragement while being straightforward.
"This could be the very first day of a distinguished career for many of you guys," Holbrook said.
He added, "Not everybody is the caliber it takes to be a Huntington police officer."
The competition is stiff. Dial said that, while they'll only hire six officers, they'll keep this hiring list for about three years.
"I anticipate we'll probably hire ten to fifteen people off this list," Dial said.
As Thompson prepared for the initial challenge, pushups, she said she felt prepared.
"I'm just trying to do my best," Thompson said.