Becoming a Police Officer: Professional Associations
THE NUMBER of law enforcement professional associations is huge. Some are actually unions which bargain collectively for all the officers in a department; others are fraternal or sororal associations for officers of similar race, sex, ethnicity, or religious affiliation. Some associations concentrate on officers with similar types of assignments, such as canine officers, bomb technicians, or training officers. Still other associations are aimed at management ranks, but often permit lowerranking officers to belong as non-voting members and attend meetings and training conferences.
The list that follows describes some of the larger law enforcement associations. In addition to the groups listed, a more general Internet search using such phrases as "police organizations," "African-American police," "women police," and "sheriffs' associations" will yield hundreds of other groups whose websites can help a police candidate learn more about the profession.
Most law enforcement professional associations are open only to those already employed in the field. However, through these associations, you will find general information about the law enforcement profession, an indication of the range of groups that exist, and, in some cases, advice for applicants, sometimes including links to departments with vacant positions. Additionally, since many of these groups list individual chapters located around the United States, you may be able to establish a relationship with a group in your geographic area that will help you locate a job vacancy or even prepare you to meet the eligibility requirements.
Remember that a job search is not for the bashful. When you find an association listed that mirrors your interests or is based in your area, use the "Contact Us" or a similar link to ask if you are eligible to attend meetings and whether the group sponsors job fairs or offers scholarships for those interested in a policing career.
Airborne Law Enforcement Association (ALEA)
An association of civilian pilots and technicians, sworn officers, and aircraft and avionics manufacturers. It holds a national conference and provides training material for law enforcement agencies interested in developing airborne units. A police candidate with thoughts about becoming a pilot would be well-advised to visit the ALEA website.
American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
A national federation of civil service workers, AFSCME is a union, which as of 2006 represented about 1.4 million police officers in more than 100 affiliate associations that support police officers during contract negotiations.
ASIS International (formerly the American Society for Industrial Security) (ASIS-International)
Founded in 1955 to professionalize the security industry, ASIS International currently has over 36,000 members in more than 200 chapters throughout the world, most of whom are in management positions in private security companies, although many public law enforcement officers are also members. Generally chapters meet regularly to listen to a speaker discuss an area where private security and law enforcement overlap or where better cooperation is sought. The association publishes a monthly magazine, Security Management; many articles are written by security professionals and provide an overview of issues in the field. A number of chapters have college affiliates and offer scholarships to students studying security or planning to enter law enforcement.
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