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How to Become a Police Officer – A Complete Guide

Do you want to learn what it takes to become a successful police officer? If YES, here is a complete step by step guide plus requirements you need to become a police officer.

What is a Police Officer?

A police officer is an employee of the police force that has specific authorization from the state to carry out its duties in enforcing the law, limiting civil disorder and protecting lives and properties. It is for this reason that people can easily relate with calling in the cops whenever there is a problem.

In becoming a police officer, there has to be an interest in becoming part of those that work to ensure that there is no breakdown of laws in the society, an interest in the legal system since police officers have to work hand in hand with members of the criminal justice system; an interest in other areas as well such as local businesses, schools, health workers, town planners etc.

Duties of a POLICE OFFICER and their Job Description

  • Crime Prevention-: Crime prevention includes any action that would ensure that a crime is not carried out. Crime prevention duties include patrolling, vehicle checking, frisking of passengers, laying ambush, surveillance, gathering of intelligence against criminals, keeping an eye on bad characters.
  • Crime Detection-: Crime detection involves an action that would ensure that criminals who are already in existence are taken down or arrested. It is the act of ridding already existing crime from the community. Such duties include; gathering intelligence about notorious criminals and keeping a profile on them, obtaining useful information about criminals and their activities via planted informants amongst the criminals themselves or from amongst members of the society.
  • Investigation-: This is the act of ascertaining facts through a careful examination of details. This duty usually include witness and suspect interrogation, arresting of suspects and criminals, visiting crime scenes, careful handling of evidences and exhibits, house and area search, carrying out raids.
  • Enforcement-: Legislations have to be enforced and the enforcements fall under the duties of a police officer. This is the reason why a police officer has to be knowledgeable about the law and legislations. There are important major social legislations like the Civil Rights Act and others; there are also local, special and minor legislations.
  • Emergency duties-: Even though the police generally ensure that the society remains peaceful, there are certain situations and circumstances either man made or natural that are regarded as emergencies and would also require the expertise of a police officer. The duties of a police officer in such a time would include evacuation, providing shelter, saving life and property and stemming riots. Such emergencies are flood, fires, riots, epidemic etc.
  • Warrants and Court Cases-: A police officer is required to obtain warrants that can be used in arresting suspects and also prepare cases and be ready to testify in court.
  • Miscellaneous duties-: These duties that cannot be easily categorized include ceremonial duties, writing out reports, traffic management, protecting vital installations during emergencies, securing and ensuring the safety of Important Personnel.

List of Equipment and Tools Which POLICE OFFICERS use daily

  • Police Batons-: The baton is one of the oldest equipment used by a police officer daily. Batons are used to disperse and or control non-compliant crowd especially during a festival or celebration and or suspects. The batons can also be used as a defense by the police officers against unarmed suspects or individuals. It can also be used to break windows or doors to gain entrance into a building to help out victims.
  • Police Stun Gun/Taser-: A police stun gun is equipment that can neutralize victims by providing bursts of electricity at a distance of 15-25 feet and penetrate through a heavy clothing layer whilst inflicting 50,000 volts that can incapacitate the victim till the officer makes an arrest.
  • Firearms-: This is a dangerous piece of equipment but police officers more often than not have the potential of facing dangerous situations and criminals that might require the use of extreme force.
  • Handcuffs-: This piece of equipment is the most commonly used by police officers in subduing dangerous criminals or uncooperative suspects. The handcuffs are usually made of steel and apart from subduing criminals; it also helps against providing injury to bystanders, the officers themselves and even the criminals. Police officers generally carry more than one especially when they might encounter two or more criminals that need to be apprehended.
  • Police Duty Belt-: The belt carries most of the equipment needed by the police and provide for easy reach while leaving the hands free. The equipment carried by the belt include handcuffs, stun guns, extra magazine rounds, police mace/pepper spray, batons, flashlights, keys, disposable gloves, knife and basic first aid items.
  • Police Mace-: Police mace is referred to as a control spray. The aim is to neutralize the opponent by making it difficult for the opponent to see, breathe or even feel.
  • Flashlights-: Police officers can choose the kind of flashlights they want to carry. While some might like the large and heavy models that can also be used in self-defense, others might prefer small flashlights that have a powerful beam. Whatever flashlight carried must shine well at night and in dark places.
  • Bullet Proof Vests-: These vests are worn by the police officer to guard against attacks from weapons such as knives, pistols, small explosions, arrows and such other weapons like that.
  • Police Radio-: The radio which can easily be removed is usually attached to a loop in the police duty belt. The radios usually have a button that is pushed before it can be talked into. The radio allows dispatch know the location of the officers, help run background check and license plates and is also used to know what the officers are and if they need help or back up.

How to Become a Police Officer – A Complete Guide

The Facts, Figures and Labour Market Situation for POLICE OFFICERS

  • In The United States

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs will increase between 7% and 12% between 2012 and 2022. As at 2014, California had the highest employment level for police officers, while New Jersey paid their police officers the highest.

As at 2012, the median pay for police officers per hour was $27.40 and $56,980 per year. The entry level education required was a high school diploma or its equivalent with candidates being citizens of the United States and be at least 21 years. The number of jobs as at 2012 was at 780,000 and by 2022, only an additional 41,400 jobs will have been added. This is at a slow 5% on the average. The entry age is 21.

  • There are more than 900,000 law enforcement officers now serving in the United States with females being about 12%
  • Between 2012 and 2013, there has been a 4.4% reduction in crime
  • Over 20,000 law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty. There’s been an average of one death every 60 hours. 117 law enforcement officers died in the year 2014 alone.
  • While New York City records 701 officers who have died in the line of duty, Texas is the state with the highest number of law enforcements officers killed in the line of duty – 1,695 officers – while Vermont has the least – 22 officers.
  • During the past 10 years, Thursdays have recorded the highest felony fatalities while Tuesdays have recorded the lowest.
  • September 11, 2001 is the deadliest day in law enforcement history as 72 officers died while responding to terrorist attacks.

In The U.K

According to UK’s National Statistics, as at March 2015, there are 126,818 Police Officers, a 0.9% decrease from 2014. Decrement didn’t start from 2014 but from 2010. As at March 2015, the Metropolitan Police had the most officers and account for 25.1% of all officers.

There was a 0.2% increase regarding the number of female officers from 2014 and from 2006 – 2015; the increment has been from 22.3% – 28.2%. There were 6,979 Minority Ethnic Police Officers, an increment of 3.9% percent from 2014. Metropolitan Police had the largest proportion of Minority Ethnic officers at 11%. A Police Officer in the U.K earns a median of £30,810 per year.

  • One can apply to be a police officer from the age of 18
  • There are different types of British police, The Territorial Police (are in charge of a specific area), British Transport Police (in charge of railways), Metropolitan Police (London’s biggest employer with over 33,000 police officers), and The Civil Nuclear Constabulary (in charge of nuclear facilities).
  • The vehicle driven by the police is specified to the duties of the officer.
  • The Panda car is one of the oldest police cars in the UK and is uses mostly for patrols and community policing work. It also has first aid kits, teddy bears (for consoling children), brooms, blankets, speed spikes etc.
  • There are two main police forces that patrol London, they both wear similar uniforms – dark navy blue – the only difference is the badges on their helmets.
  • Policemen in British are called ‘Bobbies’ and ‘Peelers’ as nicknames.

In Australia

Australia has two distinct levels of Police officers; the State Police and the Australian Federal Police. As at 2015, there are 6,776 Australian federal Police with females taking a 35% slot. The entry age is from 18 years. The average annual income as at 2015 is $58,000 across locations for a full time officer.

As at 2006, the composition for Australia’s State Police was 46,986 with New South Wales having the highest officers of 14,634 while Australian Capital Territory had the lowest at 622. Overall, the females had a 23% slot. The average annual salary for a state police officer is $67,510 depending on location.

  • Application to work with the police is from the age of 18.
  • Australia differentiates between Personal (robbery, assault) and Household crime (break-in or attempted break-in)
  • In Canada

The Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey states that from 2010 – 2012; there was an average of 1,500 Commissioned Police Officers. The annual growth is expected at 0.3% for 2013 – 2017. The female ratio is at 20.8%. The average annual income is $93,400.

While the average as at 2014, for police officers (except commissioned) stands at 18,300. The annual growth is expected at 0.3% for 2013 – 2017. The female ratio is at 25.1%. The average annual income is $76,000 and entry age is for Canadian citizens of 18 years and above.

  • One can apply to be a police officer from the age of 18 but cannot start any police work till they are 19.
  • Provinces take care of law enforcements while the police jurisdiction falls under the Canadian Mounted police and the federal agencies.
  • Severe crime rate is down by 30% while hate crimes have dropped by 17%
  • There are three types of firearms licenses for individuals, the Possession and Acquisition License (PAL); Possession Only License (POL) and Minor’s License.

Is the Demand for the POLICE Officer Profession Growing or Dying, Over Saturated or Under Saturated?

The demand for police officers is slowly but steadily growing as from a 0.3% to a 5%. The reasons for the slow growth stem from commitment from the state and from the individuals themselves. A state that is committed at maintain law and order, as well as protecting law officers by providing standardized equipment, less stringent entry rules and favorable policies will have more interested individuals willing to join the profession.

The demand therefore cannot be said to either be over or under saturated but neither is it dying. It is just growing at a slow pace.

Impact of the internet Technology on the POLICE OFFICER Career

The positives include:

  • Intelligence gathering can also be done online. Some perpetrators often brag about their acts online which can serve as evidence for the law enforcement officer.
  • Social media has also helped to enlist the support of the sympathetic public
  • The search for missing persons is more effective as it can be quickly shared across forums and social platforms, thereby achieving far more than a limited police officer would have.
  • Informing citizens of the crime committed in their neighborhood or getting informed by the citizens themselves

The negatives include:

  • Abuse of power: Some law enforcement officers tap into the phones of citizens and listen to their conversations without going through the proper route i.e. by obtaining a warrant.
  • Lack of boundaries from the public: Gone are the days when chasing a criminal or getting involved in a shoot-out was a thing that could be seen by only by-stander or witnesses. With the advent of the internet, these activities can either be uploaded on line or shared wirelessly via phones.
  • Lack of privacy: Most officers no longer have private lives as a single video on YouTube of a wrong statement or a single tweet can make an officer infamous or famous.
  • Increase in crime: Just as the internet has helped reduced crime, it has helped increased others as well. It is hard to monitor activities such as child pornography since this could be shared amongst members of a network giving the law enforcement no clue.

Career ideas / Sub-sectors That Exist Within the POLICE OFFICER Profession/Niche

a. Detectives-: This is a member of law enforcement- same as the police officer but is called an investigator. A detective is anyone – licensed or unlicensed – who solves crimes in order to get the facts about the crime or get the criminal who committed the crime. Most detectives become one by writing a test after completing the requirements of being a police officer. A police officer can decide to pick up a career as a detective.

b. SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) Officer-: This is a specialized officer within the law enforcement that handles high risks criminal situations. This officer is responsible for events that are beyond the scope of regular law, hostage situations and riots. SWAT officers need to possess experience as police Officers.

c. Crime Scene Investigator-: A crime scene investigator is responsible for physical evidence identification, collection and documentation.

d. Community Liaison Officer-: This is an officer that works for organizations where there is a significant level of interaction with the public. Such an officer must possess a high school level diploma, good communications and organizational skills.

e. Narcotics Officer-: A narcotics officer is a kind of police officer who specializes in ensuring that illegal drug use and distribution aren’t successful.

Professional Bodies and Associations for POLICE OFFICERs

In the United States

  • NAPO-: The National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) is a coalition of police units and associations spread across the United States. Its purpose is to advance the interests of law enforcement officers in America through political action, legislative advocacy and education.
  • LEIU-: Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Units is an association where members gather to record and exchange confidential information concerning organized crime and terrorism.
  • IACA-: International Association of Crime Analysts helps crime analysts improve their skills.
  • COPS-: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services helps in advancing community policing across the country.

In the U.K

  • APCC-: The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners provides information on national policy issues.
  • IPA-: International Police Association is a body with serving and retired officers that organize seminars as well as fun trips for its members.

In Australia

  • AIPIO-: Australian Institute of Professional Intelligence Officers is an association that seeks to grow practitioners through advocacy and thought leadership.

In Canada

  • CPA-: Canadian Police Association is an association that lobbies governments on police-related issues.

Benefits of Becoming a POLICE OFFICER

  • Helping people-: Apart from offering help to people every day like helping victims out of a bad spot or breaking up a fight. The other instances include helping people make positive decisions towards their life or lifestyles like drug addicts, prostitutes, victims of domestic violence.
  • Dynamic workplace-: There is the fun of having different days and tasks for each day. For example, while patrolling, you could immediately give chase to a perpetrator once you happen upon a crime.
  • Serving the community-: The satisfaction that comes in knowing that you are playing your part to help ensure peace in the community is immeasurable.

The tangible benefits include:

  • Salary-: Law enforcement officers might not make fantastic pays but they make fair salaries with new officers making between $30,000 and $45,000 per year in addition to overtime allowances, additional training or expertise bonuses.
  • Working for the Government-: The government might not pay the best salaries comparatively with the private sector but they offer security and health benefits that cannot be gotten in the private sector especially for the officers and their families. Also the law enforcement officers make bigger benefits when they retire. They retire earlier than their counterparts working with the government and incur higher benefits with the option of retiring early due to stress accumulated from the job.
  • Continuous Learning-: Learning on the job never stops for law enforcement officers especially as they work in different and dynamic environment that might require them to learn new techniques and tactics.
  • They are also encouraged to learn other subjects like languages, advanced defensive tactics mostly at no cost to the officer.
  • Opportunities for quick advancement-: Due to the way the chain of command is structured, it allows for advancement through the ranks.

Factors or Challenges Discouraging People from Becoming a POLICE OFFICER

  • Physical Fitness-: One of the requirements of being a police officer is that one is physically fit and has to pass the Physical Qualification Test (PQT). Not all that want to become police officers meet this criteria especially as training while in the academy includes scaling walls, doing the 75 yard pursuit run, push-ups, 1.5 mile run and such.
  • Prior Convictions-: Through no fault of their or during their exuberant youthful stage, some people might have incurred convictions and since one of the criteria is a clean slate, this serves as a factor that discourages people.
  • Education-: The minimum requirement is a high school degree or its equivalent before joining the force but this singular requirement does not include the non-graduates or those who do not like the idea of school but would like to join the police force.
  • Being a citizen-: This is another requirement that could serve as a discouragement especially for non-citizens who desire to serve the community via working for the police force.
  • Other requirements-: Other minute requirements could serve as a discouragement for those hoping to join the police force; it could range from a serious health defect to anger problems.

How Much Do POLICE OFFICER Earn in the United States, Australia, Canada and U.K.

  • In the U.S, a Police Officer earns an average of $48,337 per year.
  • The average annual income is $58,000 across locations for a full time Australian Federal Police. While a state Police earns $67,510 depending on the location.
  • The average annual income for Commissioned Police Officers in Canada is $93,400. While the average annual income is $76,000 for police officers (except commissioned)
  • A Police Officer in the U.K earns a median of £30,810 per year.

How Long Does It Take to Become a POLICE OFFICER?

  • The average time it takes for one to become a Police Officer in the U.S is 19 weeks according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics
  • In the U.K, the whole process of recruitment could take 9 – 12 months from when one applied till when one starts.
  • In Australia, the process takes 33 weeks. Those who pass the first 12 weeks are sworn in as Constable of Police and finally upon graduation, graduates are issued a Diploma of Public Safety and they are confirmed as Constables.
  • In Canada, recruitment is a lengthy process and could take from 4 months to a year.

Educational Requirements Needed to Become a POLICE OFFICER

  • In USA

The entry educational requirement to be a police officer in the U.S according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a high school diploma or its equivalent education and after that a training (physical and theory course) in the Police Academy before they can become police officers.

  • In UK

There is no formal educational entry requirement for police officers in the U.K. Graduates and non-graduates can apply to become police officers as long as they are Citizens of Britain and the commonwealth or are foreigners who have no restrictions on their leave to remain in the U.K.

  • In Australia

Australia’s educational entry requirement is a year 12 education or a year 10 with a trade certificate before they can become police officers.

  • In Canada

Even though Canada has two kinds of law enforcement; the Canadian law enforcement or the Provincial Police force; the educational entry requirements is basic and cuts across both agencies. One must possess a high school diploma or its equivalent and must show proof of education with transcripts.

This therefore means that one must either go through grade 12 of school or pass 5 of the General Education Development (GED) tests.

Is Professional Certification Needed to Become a Police Officer?

  • In USA

Not necessarily. It is not expressly stated in the requirements of the U.S the need for a professional certification other than getting a high school diploma or a college degree but there are courses one might take that would help them in their careers as police officers.

First is a basic criminal justice degree which lasts from six months to a year certification. Second is getting a bachelor or master’s degree in law enforcement by focusing on programs like criminal and traffic codes, juvenile justice etc. You can also get a degree in business administration. You could also learn a foreign language

  • In the UK

Although there is no educational entry to being a police officer in the UK as both graduates and non-graduates are accepted, some certifications might be required to boost one’s chances of being recruited. One needs a Certificate in Knowledge of Policing for those that want to have external accreditation.

  • In Australia

Yes, you would need to have a senior first aid certificate. A confirmation of ability to swim 100 meters freestyle and unaided

  • In Canada

Yes, you would need a professional certification in CPR and first aid before you can become a Police Officer in Canada. This is so that you should be able to handle emergencies when they occur. Such classes are readily available at the Canadian Red Cross or the Heart and Stroke Foundation. You can also get a certification or diploma in criminal justice.

How Much Will It Cost You to Obtain a Certification or Degree or the Equivalent Police Training
  • In the U.S, it will cost an average of $5,500 to get a police foundation program.
  • In Australia, it will cost an average of $7,560 to get through the police academy training
  • In Canada, it will cost an average of $5,000 to get through the police academy training

Can You Become a POLICE OFFICER by Taking an Online Course?

Yes, you can. First, you must select an appropriate online degree. Then you must look for an accredited online school especially as not all online schools are accredited. A bachelor or Master’s degree in criminal justice is an appropriate choice. Once the course work is completed, the graduate can then apply to the police academy.

There are also post graduate certificates available for graduates with unrelated degrees who want to become a law enforcement officer. The course schedules are flexible especially for workers and courses are taught via email, live chats and video presentations.

As a POLICE OFFICER, What Industries Can You Work in?

  • Private Investigator-: A private investigator is one who can be hired either by an individual or group to undertake in investigatory law services. Private investigators can also work for attorneys.
  • Fraud Investigator-: Fraud investigators investigate insurance and credit card fraud. They interview postal officers if the fraud came in through the mail and also interview those that were affected by the fraud.
  • Security Analyst-: A security analyst maintains the security and integrity of data. The analyst is to have knowledge of all aspects of information security within a company.
  • Security Operations Manager-: A security operations manager has the task of protecting the company’s physical assets against theft and or damage

Skills and Personal Traits You Need to Become a Successful POLICE OFFICER

  • Effective Communications skills-: This is a key skill that is interpersonal in nature. Communication is also said to be effective even when non-verbal words are used. This skill is important for a police officer because you would communicate with victims, criminals, children, the elderly etc. At all times, instructions given to these people must be clearly understood with a corresponding response.
  • Physical Fitness-: Another criteria for a police officer is fitness because police officers have to be in a good state of health and well-being. Physical fitness for a police officer includes being able to run, jump, drive fast without notice.
  • Problem Solving and Analytic Skills-: Solving and analyzing a problem quickly and objectively is so that a police officer can get to the root cause which usually results in either arresting a criminal or freeing a victim.
  • Professionalism-: A police officer must exhibit the highest form of professionalism which simply means one who has knowledge of something but isn’t cocky with the knowledge but instead try to educate and explain to lay people.
  • Sound judgment-: A police officer must be able to take sound judgment regardless of whatever stress or circumstance he is under.
  • Strong Leadership Skills-: Most times the victims look for leadership from the police officer which is why a police officer must possess strong leadership skills.
  • Computer Skills-: Police Officers are required to write out their reports, record investigation, check up on criminals amongst other things especially in this age of the internet.
  • Diplomacy and Tact-: This is another skill that is required from a police officer. He must know how to extricate himself and others from difficult situations.
  • Confidence and calm demeanor-: Since most victims look up to police officers as knowledgeable, the police officers must therefore keep a confident and calm demeanor which will in turn project calm on the victims too.
  • Team Working Skills-: No police officer can work or solve crimes in isolation; it is usually through the effort of team work. So, a police officer must be a good team player either as a leader of the team or a follower.

Tips and Advice to Help Advance Your career Towards Becoming a Police Officer

  • Have a deep knowledge on the legal system-: Having a deep knowledge and law projects more confidence to a police officer plus he isn’t a danger to himself, his fellow officers and others while on the line of duty. Knowing the law also helps the officer know what acts they can carry out that are under the law and those that are aren’t according to the department’s policies.
  • Also being up to date on court’s decisions will help any police officer since they might probably affect him on the line of duty.
  • Constant Training and Practice-: A police officer gets trained at the Police Academy but to become the best, a police officer would have to keep practicing and looking for ways to improve on the training he got; from becoming a better shot with firearms to running longer and faster.
  • Motivation-: Motivating yourself daily is one of the best ways to keep yourself positive while on the job. Motivation is not only limited to intangible ways, you can also motivate yourself and others by always looking sharp. Positivity helps in ensuring that you do not get depressed about events or incidents that might occur while on the job
  • Focus-: The best keep a focus on their jobs while the rest might be easily distracted. The reason you became a police officer wasn’t so you’d get to drive and break traffic rules or break into people’s houses; it is to help maintain law and order and help serve the community. That should be your focus. A focused person knowing that crime could occur any minute, will always be on the alert and would learn to control himself while in public.

In conclusion, in wanting to become a police officer; you must first check the requirements of the area, zone, province, state or country where you reside. The requirements include being of the prescribed age:

  • Owning a valid driver’s license, have at least a high school diploma, be physically fit, possess the required interpersonal skills, take writing seriously since you’ll be writing a lot of reports, keep your background as clean as possible.
  • Other positives are-: Learn a foreign language, get extra degrees, and learn advanced defence techniques. In the end, there also has to be that desire to serve the community, save lives and help maintain law and order.
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