How to become a Police Officer
One of the most popular questions I get from people that don't know many people in law enforcement is "How do I become a police officer?" Well, where do I start? There's really so much to this position, and so many factors come into play that its something you should really look at before you decide to pursue this career.
So for this article, I've decided to give some basic information as an "outline" for what it takes to become a police officer, the requirements, and what main things you should consider for the position of police officer. So in the a nutshell, becoming a police officer comes down to some basics: your past, your credit, your education, your abilities and your attitude.
Let's start with your past. One of the things that police departments and police recruiters will look at when considering your application as a police officer is your past criminal record, past traffic tickets, etc. and more importantly, how you dealt with them. This is probably the #1 question I get on how to become a police officer; usually a hypothetical like "Can I become a police officer with a drunk driving on my record," or "Can I get hired as a police officer with an assault on my record." Well here's the deal: Yes, technically in most states, you can be legally hired with these on your record. The requirement (by most states) is that you are not convicted of a felony. Its ok if you were charged with a felony, but you cannot be convicted of it (i.e. if you were charged with a felony, but it was reduced to a misdemeanor, you can legally be hired as an officer still). The kicker is though, even though you're technically still hirable, you will have problems getting past these obstacles especially when there's a thousand other guys competing for your job "without" these on their records. So the answer to this general question is yes and no.
Second, your credit. Just one part of the puzzle, but its something you need to take seriously. Having conducted background checks on recruits, I've found that it tells a lot about a person and how responsible they are. If they're not responsible with their finances, how can we expect them to be responsible as a police officer?
Your education comes down to this: How much college do you have? Most department require a minimum of a 2-year college degree now, and the elite departments require no less then a bachelors degree. And if you have that, then we'll take a look at your scores. Get the idea? But again, can you technically become a police officer with only a diploma or GED? Well, yes, technically.
Your abilities are tested when you take the pre-test for police employment screening. Most consist of a physical and reading and writing test, usually pretty basic, but difficult. You must obviously be able to perform physical tasks, not be handicapped, have correctable 20/20 vision, non-color blind, etc. These are the basics. As far as reading and writing, you must pass with a set score, usually 70% or higher.
Your attitude. Well, this is a biggie assuming you get past all the other things I've mentioned. I've seen perfectly qualified applicants blow it in their interviews because of their attitude. Some attitudes are not willing to relocate, not willing to take less money at first, not willing to compromise, etc. To make it simple, let's say you were the employer interviewing 2 people. You ask one person (even if you didn't plan on doing it) the following questions: Would you be willing to move across the state if we had an opening next month? Would you be willing to work for free for one month to learn the job? Would you be willing to work in the jail until we could find you a road position? If one person said yes to all of these questions, and one person said no, or wasn't sure on them, which one would you give more consideration to hiring? Which one seems like they want it more? And that's my point; your attitude.
Anyway, I'll leave this article at that. The point of it was to just touch base on some of the basic requirements of becoming a police officer in the real world, not what's on a piece of paper. I would also recommend you reading the following articles that are also informative: Police Oral Boards, Criminal Justice Degree Information. You can also post questions in our Ask-A-Cop forum as well.
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Police Oral Boards - Scoring high on Police Exams is absolutely critical since there aren't many second chances.
Background Checks - A background check, especially if you're considering law enforcement as a career is essential prior to applying to a police department. Don't find out what's on your record "after" applying.
Become A Police Officer - To become a police officer and get hired into law enforcement is now a question of preparation. The bottom line is, you need to know what to study.
Getting Hired and Staying Committed - With so much competition, staying focused and dedicating yourself to getting hired is very important when trying to get hired as a police officer.