Recruiting new officers is one of the greatest challenges that all branches of law enforcement face. If you are ready to rise to the challenge of law enforcement, learning how to become a police officer is your first step.
Becoming a police officer is a long commitment to service and duty. If you think you have what it takes or want to learn the requirements to become a police officer, read on.
How to Become a Police Officer
Before learning the official requirements to becoming an officer, you first need to self-examine your personality and constitution to see if it is appropriate for police work.
You need to be able to keep a cool head as a police officer. Your personality should be one of conflict resolution and mediation, not aggression or anger.
If you have anger management issues or psychological disorders such as PTSD, you may want to consider a different career. Being a police officer means being able to think with logic and not letting your emotions take control.
The best police officers are not egotistical and don’t hide behind their badges as a symbol of power or authority. They can deal with each citizen in a neutral demeanor.
This means that they don’t harbor biases based on religion, race, or creed. Police officers should also be brave and selfless.
Chances are, you will experience some horrifying experiences during your time on the force. Without courage and determination, you may freeze up in the line of duty or react the wrong way to a critical situation.
This means you should have the ability to maintain composure under fire and harbor strong nerves capable of dealing with chaotic, even deadly, situations.
The Application Process
Depending on the type of police officer you want to become, your application process can vary. The first step in applying to become a police officer is to find a job announcement.
For Federal Law Enforcement positions, you can use a website such as USAjobs.com or the official website of whatever agency you want to apply to.
Local municipal departments, state police, and county sheriffs have other outreach methods to list job announcements. Try contacting these entities or checking out their website to hunt down job leads.
After sending a resume and cover letter to your chosen job application, you can expect to receive an application packet in the mail a few days later if you are selected.
This will include any relevant forms and documents for your background check and other essential hiring paperwork. Once you have completed your application packet, you can begin preparing for your written test.
Every department has its own written exam. In general, most are multiple-choice, but there may also be some open-ended writing questions to determine an applicant’s writing abilities.
Most tests are pass/fail and focus on math, spelling, vocabulary, punctuation, reading comprehension, and the ability to summarize information. If you have basic reading, writing, and math skills, you should do fine.
If you pass the written exam, you will move onto the interview process. This is a series of questions asked by a minimum of 3 inner-department and intra-department members of the community.
The diverse panel of multiple people will judge your fitness for duty based on your answers. If you pass, you will move onto the physical part of the application process.
Recruits should be in prime physical condition. This means that they are in shape and don’t have substance abuse problems or critical health disorders that can impair their performance in the line of duty.
It also means that they can pass a PAT or Physical Agility Test. The specific components of this test vary from department to department. Overall it is usually broken into two categories.
The first is the job simulation method. During this portion of the test, applicants are asked to complete certain job-based activities. Their aptitude and completion times are recorded.
These activities can include cutting yourself out of your seatbelt in a patrol car, dragging weighted dummies, sprinting, or jumping over walls. All the activities are simulations of real-world situations you may face.
The job simulation method may also include a portion based on marksmanship and the use of non-lethal weapons as well. It may also include unpleasantries such as mace exposure.
In addition to the job simulation method, many departments have set physical standards regarding the number of push-ups or sit-ups you can do, how fast you can run, or other physical strength exercises.
Individual departments have their own standards. They may use the job simulation method in conjunction with physical standard requirements or use one methodology.
If you ace your interview, the written test, and the PAT, you still are not out of the woods yet. You will still need to do a polygraph test, a psychological exam, a background check, and a medical examination.
Needless to say, you can’t have a criminal record, be clinically insane, be a compulsive liar, or be terminally ill if you want to be a law enforcement officer. All of these traits will disqualify you from the hiring process.
If you complete each of these aspects of the interview process, you may receive a job offer. At this point, you may need to find out how many hours of training to become a police officer your specific department requires.
Some departments may have waiting lists or additional requirements, but these are the most basic requirements to become a police officer.
Upon giving you a job, your department may issue you the first of many police challenge coins as a token of your feat. You may get others as you move up the ranks and get new qualifications such as SWAT or bomb disposal.
Do You Have What It Takes?
You have now learned all the basics of how to become a police officer. If you think you have what it takes to join the law enforcement community, try researching some open positions today.
You never will know if you have what it takes if you don’t try applying. If working as a police officer is your dream job, apply today. For all your other news and information, make sure to check out the rest of our page!