How To Become A Police Officer


Authored by K. Thor Jensen in Careers and Employment
Published on 07-19-2009

Here in the city, we call them New York’s Finest – the brave men and women of the NYPD. Being a police officer is one of the most thankless tasks you can do for your community, but without the brave men and women that stand against the rising tide of anarchy, our whole society would be dashed beneath the waves. If you’ve ever considered pursuing a career in law enforcement, there are some things you need to know beforehand. In this article, I will use information gathered from my many law enforcement friends and relatives to get you as prepared as possible for the difficult process of becoming a police officer.

The first priority in becoming an officer of the law is education. Every police department in American requires officers to have at the very least a high school diploma or GED. If you have followed that up with higher education, especially in the criminology or criminal justice fields, you already have a leg up on the competition. The skills you gain in those classes will serve you not just at the Police Academy, but also in the field. In addition to your mind, you should also train your body, as upholding the law is a grueling occupation. In addition to cardiovascular and weight training, many cops recommend participating in an intramural team sport – developing a sense of awareness as to where allies and enemies are at all times is an essential police skill, and sports are a great way to do so.

In addition, be aware that police departments administer rigorous background checks to new applicants. While the standards vary from state to state, you should work on living clean if you haven’t been already. If you do have a black mark on your record from youthful indiscretions, it may be worthwhile to consult with a lawyer to file to have your record expunged.

Once you think you’re ready to take the plunge, the next step is taking the civil service examination. This test measures the applicant’s knowledge of the laws of the land and their responsibilities as a citizen. Although the contents of the test are, for the most part, common knowledge, there are study guides and tutoring programs available, and it won’t hurt to investigate them if you are concerned about your prospects. Many police departments not only administer the test when they are hiring, but also at regular intervals year-round to build up a pool of eligible recruits.

After you pass the test, you will be given a physical examination as well. With that taken care of, a series of interviews will be given to ensure that you are a worthwhile candidate for police academy. Unlike the slapstick 80s movies, today’s police training is a rigorous, intensive period of skill development that can take anywhere from three months to a year. Given satisfactory performance in the academy, you can expect to transition to a full-fledged police officer shortly thereafter. However, don’t think that you’re done learning just because you got your badge. If you want to advance up the ranks and be more than just a beat cop, a program of continuing education will prove your best friend. Keeping up on scientific, technical and procedural innovations will let you prove your skills when the time comes.


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