Becoming a Police Officer: Qualifications and Opportunities for Police Officers
If you've set your sights on a police career, you need to know the requirements for becoming a police officer. You also need to know the typical procedure for applying for the job.
Specific requirements for being accepted to a law enforcement training academy vary from department to department. The general requirements are that the applicant:
- Is a U.S. citizen
- Is at least 21 years of age
- Has at least 20/20 vision uncorrected; (or 20/20 corrected by glasses)
- Is able to distinguish colors
- Is physically and mentally healthy
Applicants who have served in the military must have been honorably discharged. Applicants may not have been convicted of driving while intoxicated and must hold a valid drivers license for at least three years prior to application and have a good driving record. Applicants should have no criminal convictions, although some misdemeanor crimes may not bar applicants from a law enforcement position. All applicants are expected to be free from drug use, be of good moral character, and have personal integrity. No applicant should have any history of criminal or improper conduct, have a poor employment record, or have an irresponsible financial history. Generally, applicants should at least have a GED equivalency or a high school diploma; however, some departments, such as that in Dallas, Texas, are requiring 60 or more hours of completed college coursework.
Notice for Examinations
Generally, police departments will announce the dates of pre-employment examinations and require that an applicant complete an application to take the examination. Announcements are often published in the local newspaper, on the local cable network, on the Internet, and in announcement bulletins posted in the police department. Information may also be available through the city's human resources department or the applicable state's employment office. Other common sites for finding information about law enforcement agencies that are preparing to hire a new recruit class are bulletin boards in local colleges and municipal and state office buildings.
When a candidate receives an appointment to the police department, the candidate must then successfully complete recruit training, which can last from several months to more than a year, depending on the training requirements of the police department. Once the recruit has successfully completed the training academy, the recruit then usually receives field training under the supervision of seasoned officers. Upon the successful completion of the field training, the officer is considered eligible to be on their own.
Police recruits are on probation during the entire period of training and usually are on probation for a period of time after they have completed their training. The length of time that a recruit serves on probation varies from department to department. The purpose of the probationary period is discussed in the previous chapter, but it should be noted that officers will not generally be eligible for a promotion until the probationary period is successfully completed.
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