Becoming a Police Officer: The Hiring Process
If you are truly serious about becoming a police officer, the hiring process starts years before you apply for the job. Much of your suitability will depend on your background investigation. If you have a record of arrests, have been in numerous motor vehicle accidents, have a record of domestic violence, have been fired frequently for cause, have a less than honorable discharge from the armed services, have used drugs regularly or frequently, or if you have a bad credit record, it is likely that you have disqualified yourself for employment even before you begin. Any one of these things may not be an automatic rejection from every agency, but if you nodded yes to more than a few of them, you should consider whether a career in law enforcement is possible for you.
If nothing—or very little on the list—pertains to you, you are ready to consider the formal applicant hiring process. Many departments claim, although no one has actually verified the claims, that they go through more than 100 applicants for each new officer they hire. Remember that these odds do not include those who read the minimum qualifications and never began the hiring process. But it is also important that despite the number of applicants who do not make it into a police department, many departments today are eager for applicants and many around the nation are actually having trouble filling existing vacancies.
This means that if you are serious about a law enforcement career, are able to meet eligibility requirements, and pass the steps in the selection process, you have an excellent chance of becoming a member of a law enforcement agency. Your chances will be greatly enhanced if you are flexible. If you can consider a wide range of agencies and are able to move around your region or even to another section of the United States you will have a greater number of opportunities for employment. If you are committed to staying close to home and your local police department is not currently hiring, you should seriously consider any special jurisdiction agencies in your area. You may be pleased to learn that these agencies are hiring and may offer salaries and benefits comparable to those offered by your local police department.
Your opportunities for employment are also enhanced by learning as much as you can, which is one reason you are reading this book. And your chances are even greater if you start early, follow instructions carefully, ask for an explanation of anything you do not understand, and answer all questions truthfully.
Because of the different types of law enforcement agencies and the large number of agencies within each category, it is difficult in law enforcement to use the words "always" or "never." Although there are some variations in the hiring process, there are enough common elements to provide you with a preview of what to expect when you apply for a law enforcement position. Since the largest number of job openings are in local policing, this discussion adheres most closely to those requirements but points out the major differences for other types of law enforcement agencies.
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