PHOENIX - There are less than 3,000 officers serving the Phoenix Police Department, which has a jurisdiction of more than 500 square miles.

The agency has been understaffed for years, and police officials confirmed it’s no secret there was a hiring freeze for more than half a decade.

But some say getting hired is close to impossible, so 12 News is verifying the application process.

"Historically, for decades, each step [of the hiring process] tends to lose 50 percent of the applicants,” said Sgt. Jonathan Howard.

If the department has a shortage, which is highlighted in a video by the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, what is the department doing to keep us safe in the meantime?

"Right now we have about 122 police assistants,” said Howard. “We're looking to expand that program into our patrol field. We're talking about lower priority calls such as theft that already occurred, a traffic collision."

Howard said it would take 25,000 non-prioirty calls so officers can respond to true emergencies.

Meantime, the department is aggressively recruiting for officers. PLEA wants to see more than 4,000 officers on the streets -- a number that may not be possible.

"You could never have a high enough ratio of police officers to citizens, just like you could never have a low enough ratio of students to teachers,” said Howard. “These are things we can dream about, but what we need to do is what's most effective."

Phoenix's target for this year: 3,125 officers.

Think you have what it takes?

You’ll start with a written test. Next is a physical fitness test. You will then be assigned a background investigator so can they do an extensive background on you. Following a background check is the lie detector test, during which they prioritize ethical behavior. Assuming you pass that portion, you'll see a psychologist, and you'll go for a medical examination to make sure you a medically fit for the physically demanding job.

Is it too hard for the average person to get hired?

The answer is yes. In fact, most people don’t make it through.

"We're going to weed it down and hope that the cream rises to the top,” said Howard.

You can learn all about the application and hiring process and requirements on the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board website.