Becoming a Police Office is a Wonderful Way to Serve Your Community

If you are interested in serving your community, and protecting others from being the victims of crime, you may want to become a police officer. This is an exciting and interesting career, with an excellent salary and benefits. In addition, many officers truly enjoy the respect and appreciation that they receive from the citizens they serve.

Police Officer (32537)

There are opportunities to begin a career in law enforcement in virtually every part of the United States … as well as in other countries. It does not matter whether you are looking for jobs in Michigan or in Iowa, you are likely to find job opportunities in the community where you want to live.

Police Officer Duties

Police Officers protect the lives and property of the people who live in the communities they serve. They are trained to maintain order and catch lawbreakers. They work in crime prevention. They can be called upon to control traffic. They investigate crimes, and some police officers may work as detectives and solve crimes. They are frequently called upon to testify at trials and hearings.

Frequently, police officers may patrol the community streets either on foot or in police vehicles. Some police officers may work in storefront offices. Others may work as liaison officers at schools. Law enforcement personnel may also specialize in other ways, such as the police who work primarily with juveniles or abused women. As you can see, the duties of these officers can be quite diverse.

General Requirements to become a Police Officer

In order to become a police officer, you must be 21 years old, you must have a high school diploma or G.E.D., and you usually need to have completed at least two years of college. You must be a U.S. citizen or legal non-citizen. Although it is not an absolute requirement, it is highly recommended that your college studies be in Criminal Justice. These classes are the best preparation for working in law enforcement.

For people who are serious about pursuing a career in law enforcement, you may wish to use this direct link to the Amazon book:  "How to Become a Police Officer: A 21st Century Guide to Getting Hired in Law Enforcement."  It is a highly regarded book with a great deal of useful information that will help you make sure you are taking all the proper steps.

Steps to Becoming a Police Officer

According to the website for the Los Angeles Police Department, there are several steps required to become a police officer. Although these steps may be slightly different in order to work in other cities, the general process will be the same no matter where you apply. To get the process started, applicants must be prepared to submit to a preliminary background check and complete a job preview application. This application will help determine if you will be suited to working in law enforcement. This is followed by taking an essay test which will help determine your decision making ability and flexibility.

Once you have passed the preliminary written requirements, you will be asked to pass a physical abilities test that will measure your strength, agility, aerobic capacity and endurance.

When it appears that you are mentally and physically capable of becoming a police officer, you will need to complete a personal history form, be fingerprinted, and submit to an interview with a background investigator. The investigator will check your past employment, police records, financial records, school records, and military records. The investigator will also interview your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Following the investigation, applicants must take a polygraph test.

Once you have satisfied the department that your character is compatible with law enforcement standards, you will be interviewed by a panel. After they complete their assessment, you will have a thorough medical evaluation and psychological evaluation.

Finally, you will be certified and become eligible to attend the police academy. This will be the beginning of your official training. How long it takes before you actually start the academy depends on the next available class date.

Attending the Police Academy

At the police academy, you will begin your training in formal classrooms. The new recruits are taught the law, human relations, how to use their firearms, and how to write reports. They will learn how to arrest and book suspects, do a preliminary investigation at a crime scene, use their radio and other communications equipment, investigate a traffic incident, and how to enforce traffic and other laws. Recruits are also given a driving class which will teach them emergency vehicle operations, defensive driving, pursuit policy, and safe vehicle handling.

The human relations classes are designed to help law enforcement officers develop cultural sensitivity, and learn how to handle special situations such as the media, suspects who may be disabled, hate crimes, missing persons, and domestic violence.

The law classes that new officers need to take will emphasize how to handle search and seizure situations, how to correctly handle evidence, how to legally arrest someone, and an overview of the many other laws police officers will be required to enforce.

Police recruits will also be taught self-defense and will continue with their physical training. The physical training alone is usually quite rigorous and exhausting. This is one of the reasons for the physical testing that the applicants are subjected to prior to being admitted to the academy.

The good news is that the training at the police academy is free. In addition, you will be paid the full starting salary of a police officer while you go through the police academy. Completing the academy is not the end of your training. For the first few months after graduation from the academy, new recruits will get additional on-the-job training with experienced officers.

Special Training Opportunities

Once they have begun working, law enforcement officers are encouraged, and often required, to take continuing education classes in criminal justice. These classes will also increase their chances of advancing and getting promotions.

Not all police officers work solely as patrol officers for their entire career. Some of them will receive additional training is special areas, such as K-9 operations, air support, bomb squad, community policing, sexual harassment, civil liabilities, mobile field force tactics, and more.

Job Forecast 

The United States Department of Labor predicts that the demand for police officers will grow about 10% between 2008 and 2018. Even when police officers have lost their jobs in some communities because of budget cuts, most of them have had very little difficulty finding jobs with other nearby law enforcement departments.

Police Officer Pay

Law enforcement officers earn an average of about $45,000 to $50,000 a year. This can be higher or lower depending on experience and the area in which you live. The top 10% of police officers earn over $80,000 a year. There are other benefits to becoming a police officer, too. They get regular raises, and have many opportunities for promotions and advancement. In most police departments, officers also have generous paid vacation benefits and excellent pensions upon retirement.

If you are exploring your career options, you may also want to read these articles:

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You Can Have a Career as a Freelance Writer

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You Can Have a Career as a School Paraeducator or Teacher's Aid

Preparing for Job Interviews

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An Excellent Guide to Law Enforcement Careers

How to Become a Police Officer: A 21st Century Guide to Getting Hired In Law Enforcement
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