The formal procedures required to become a police officer will be different in each jurisdiction, however, a good place to begin is on the website of the police department or other law enforcement agency that you are interested in joining. This will ensure that you are aware of all you need to do before applying, including whether or not you are required to have a degree from an institution of higher education. The following are some actions to be taken:
- Complete the application; depending on the situation, you may be able to do this either in person or online.
- Participate in a written examination. This examination covers fundamental reading comprehension, writing abilities, and mathematical ability. It’s possible that some assessments will also cover your map skills.
- Do a physical abilities test to determine whether or not you have the necessary level of physical fitness for the position.
- Participate in a thorough investigation of your past. It’s possible that this will need passing a test with a lie detector.
- Participate in an oral interview — It is quite likely that a hiring board comprised of police officers will conduct an interview with you in person.
- Participate in a psychological examination and assessment, which can involve meeting with a psychologist and doing some tests.
- If you have made it this far in the application process, the next step is to submit to a medical physical as well as a drug test.
Nevertheless, before you decide to become a police officer, you need to give careful consideration to everything, possibilities and problems. It’s possible that some of these problems include, in no particular order:
- Why are you thinking about having a career as a member of the police force? The standard response is always to help people, but how exactly do you envision yourself being able to do that in your role as a police officer?
- Do you believe you would be able to employ deadly force if it were necessary? In spite of the fact that only a small fraction of police officers would ever have to face this predicament, it is nevertheless a possibility that cannot be discounted in this area.
- Are you willing to uphold the law, even if doing so results in a slight inconvenience for the violator or life-altering repercussions for society as a whole? When laws are enforced, the result is often the offender having to pay a fine or perhaps being sent to jail for a number of years.
- Are you open to having conversations with others who have different perspectives than your own? Can you just talk to individuals and attempt to empathize with what they are going through instead than watching films of police officers chasing and tackling suspects? Even though the majority of police-citizen encounters don’t wind up being noteworthy for inclusion in COPS reports, those encounters nonetheless hold significance for the citizens involved.
- Regarding what other people are going through, are you able to cope with the fact that you nearly always have to see other people at their worst? You’re going to experience some terrible and irritating things. You are going to learn that there are people in our world who take pleasure in exploiting the vulnerabilities of others. You will learn that some children do not have pleasant childhoods, and you will also learn that some children do not live to become adults.
- Do you have the ability to keep your emotions under check? Those who struggle to control their impulses should not consider a career in law enforcement. You will be confronted with temptations, and you will need to have the ability to regulate how you react to them. Badge bunnies are people who only want to have sex with someone in uniform. Some police officers like the company of badge bunnies, but they provide a risky temptation. Those temptations that are easy to justify are the ones that are far more dangerous than the smaller ones. So, you may give a couple of extra thumps, but what does it matter? He is a predator who preys on children, yet completely unimportant to everyone! That extra thump or two (or 10) could come up on the video recorded by somebody’s cell phone, and then you would be the one who would be in the news. And what about that sexual offender against children for whom nobody cares? He will get off easy on the charges, but he will have a field day with the six-figure compensation that your department will offer him for being the victim of excessive force.
- Do you believe in yourself sufficiently to be a representation of the worst possible outcomes for the general public? Let’s be honest: the public has a negative view of law enforcement. Be a firefighter if you want to win people’s respect. There are a lot of reasons for this, and some of them are fair, but the fact of the matter is that being a cop is bad news to the majority of the people you will meet during the course of your career. Nobody dials 911 to confirm having a gun. Nobody dials to share with you the beautiful day, or to invite you to the scene and offer some cookies. You’ll have to deal with folks who are having a bad day, most likely as a direct result of you catching them in the act of doing something wrong. It may be a traffic stop for going past a stop intersection at 5 miles per hour, or it could be someone’s murder. Either way, it could happen. In any case, the person you’re going to see won’t be pleased to see you.
- Are you able to deal with the discrimination that you may experience? It is irrelevant to anyone whether you are a decent person, how much money you give as tithe to your church, or how many Little League teams you coach. This ties in with the previous statement. You are the uniform, and you will be judged and condemned based on the deeds of someone who occurred many years ago, thousands of miles away, and in the distant past. People will accuse you, even though there are hundreds of thousands of honest, caring, and honorable police officers just in the United States, of being a racist, bigoted, jack-booted thug because a cop somewhere else made a controversial decision (and maybe even did something wrong). Not only that, but those individuals will make their decisions on 10-second video bites and will refuse to admit that there is more to the story than what is portrayed on TV screens or in the social media. That is discrimination, and you will be required to find a way to address it.
- Are you able to convince yourself – and your family – that working late hours, weekends, holidays, or in poor weather is acceptable? Before gaining a coveted spot on the day shift, the majority of officers are forced to work the less desirable evening or midnight hours for at least a few years – and occasionally for a decade or more. It’s possible that this will need you to miss some of your kid’s soccer games or music recital as a result. It’s not fun when it occurs, but life is full of surprises. Because you will be a member of the important services, there will be moments when you will need to prioritize The Job over spending time with your family. You are also expected to execute when you are needed, regardless of the weather or other external conditions. When you are called to a motor vehicle collision involving injured parties, you cannot say, you’re going to wait a few minutes to see if the rain lets up, since this would be inappropriate.
- Do you have a strong commitment to your work? In most cases, supervisors are not there to monitor the activities of police officers or encourage them to exert greater effort on a daily basis. It is essential to have more capabilities than merely being able to respond to requests for service. You’ll need initiative if you want to do more than the bare minimum that’s acceptable for your organization’s standards.
- In a similar vein, are you capable of working independently? The vast majority of cops are employed by smaller agencies that contain only a handful of other officers, which means that there is not always someone available to talk to. If you really must have company wherever you go and engage in conversation, you will need to be selective in the jobs for which you apply.
- How well are you able to communicate? Are you able to verbally and in writing to create a picture of a certain circumstance or event? You will spend a great deal more time drafting your report on a foot pursuit than you will ever spend actually participating in the foot chase itself. It is also essential to be able to articulate your position clearly to the members of the jury or the judge. I’ve seen some otherwise fine police officers get ripped to shreds on the witness stand simply because they were unable to articulate what they were feeling while they were in the middle of a situation.
- Can you make it on wages that fall into the middle class? Being a law enforcement officer on its own won’t make you wealthy.
Hence… there are a few things that you should give some thought to. The reality of becoming a police officer is significantly different from what you see on television, yet the job is nonetheless highly fulfilling. You are in a position where you can really make a difference in the world. I have been fortunate with the experience of having folks approach me years later and introduce themselves while expressing their full gratitude toward my assistance years ago. During my career, I am certain that I have been responsible for saving at least one life, and I also have the hope that I was at the very least a loving and sympathetic presence for the few persons who passed away while I was around.