Are you considering becoming a police officer? There are some basic requirements: you must be at least 21 years old and a high school graduate with no criminal history. Depending on the area of law enforcement you choose, like the Highway Patrol, there is a cut-off age. Local police departments may not have a cut-off age. There is no longer a height requirement at most local police departments. Your weight must be proportionate to your height. Overweight candidates and officers may be instructed to lose weight or may be offered assistance with weight loss through the department. The department of your choice will not only perform a variety of comprehensive background checks; they will also send a training officer or sergeant to speak to your neighbors, former employers and even people at your high school in order to determine your temperament. They will ask questions about any incidents in your past where you were a party to any kind of discrimination. Expect your life to be an open book after you apply for a job at the police department.
After applying for a job at the police department, you can expect to wait months before you hear if your application was accepted. As part of the application process, you’ll be sent for a complete physical with a doctor who works with the police department. You’ll also be sent to a psychologist for in-depth psychological testing. This testing may take several hours to an entire day. You’ll be required to answer hundreds of questions to thoroughly determine whether you are suited for a position on the police force.
You must have a valid driver’s license and your driver’s history will be investigated. Something as simple as a speeding ticket doesn’t render you ineligible but serious driving infractions like driving under the influence or careless and reckless driving will disqualify you from working for the police department.
Your personal life will also be under intensive scrutiny after you apply for a job in law enforcement. The stability of your person life and relationships reflects on your potential stability as a law enforcement officer.
When your application is accepted, you are sent to BLET: Basic Law Enforcement Training. Each state has a preferred BLET location or facility for new recruits. Most new recruits stay at the facility during the week. Some local community colleges also have BLET where recruits can go daily instead of staying over at a facility.
BLET classes are about more than learning to drive a police car and shoot. Math is heavily involved in BLET due to situations like investigating traffic accidents. You must be able to estimate speeds and collect evidence by measuring speed marks. You’ll also study psychology in order to understand different types of people. You must be able to talk to people in all levels of society as a necessity for solving simple situations and investigating crimes. This applies to everyone who works for the police department, from the dispatcher to the officer on the street.
Driving courses and obstacle courses are an important part of BLET. You’ll learn the basics of criminal law, constitutional law and criminal investigation. You must pass intensive physical training during BLET, including miles of running, rope-climbing and climbing obstacles. You’ll spar with officers and other candidates and learn to take a punch, learn self-defense techniques and how to take down an uncooperative suspect. You’ll learn how to spot suspicious behavior in a crowd or on the street and assess dangerous or potentially dangerous situations in a matter of seconds.
If you pass BLET and are hired by a police department, you’ll ride with a training officer until you have enough practical experience in the field to be partnered with another officer. You may start your law enforcement career as a parking enforcement officer, issuing traffic tickets. You’ll have to get used to going to court and testifying against the people you arrest. Court will be a part of your job routine. As long as you’re a patrol officer you’ll have to work rotating shifts. If you decide to apply for a position like dispatcher, you’ll still have to work rotating shifts. Working in the police department records office usually means more regular hours.
After you’ve been a police officer for at least five years and have demonstrated exemplary investigative skills, you may decide to try out for a higher position. While you are always responsible for looking out for your fellow officers, sergeants, lieutenants and detectives are responsible for the lives of officers on the street. You won’t always be in an office. High-ranking officers are among the first called to a complicated crime scene.
Becoming a police officer involves exhaustive physical and mental training. You’ll appreciate all that training when it helps you save a life or solve a crime.