Getting hired as a Police Officer
Obtaining a job as a police officer is quite competitive. Cities, states, and counties normally open up hiring once a year, or every couple of years. An applicant can expect to be competing with hundreds of other people to be on the list of potential officers the department will hire. Some people apply to multiple departments in order to increase their chances. The application process normally consists of a detailed application, a physical test and exam, a written test, an interview before a board, a psychological test, and an in-depth background check.
There are some general guidelines that should be followed throughout the process. The application needs to be filled out completely and neatly. The applicant should at all times be respectful. Officers should be addressed by their rank and last name or by sir /ma'am as appropriate. When participating in the physical portion, the normal dress requirement is a white tee shirt and blue or black shorts with proper running shoes and white athletic socks. For all other contact with the hiring officers, the applicant should be dressed professionally in a suit, including a tie for the men. The applicant must be on time for every appointment.
Each department will have its own physical requirements that it expects applicants to meet. These normally include requirements for height and weight depending on age. The applicant will need to undergo a physical exam from a doctor as well as a drug test. There are certain exercises that applicants are required to do. These are usually segregated by age. Exercises may include being able to do a certain number of sit-ups and push-ups, being able to bench press a certain amount, having a certain degree of flexibility and being able to run a set distance within a given amount of time. While being able to meet the minimums is enough to continue in the hiring process, exceeding the minimums is a great way to get noticed by potential future superiors.
The written exam is normally standardized and may be used in many departments. The local bookstore will have study guides and sample tests an applicant can use to prepare for the test. The test may include a memory portion, a math portion, an English and grammar portion, and a portion of "what would you do" type questions. The test usually consists of multiple choice questions.
The board interview can be a stressful part of the process. The applicant is normally interviewed by a selection of experienced officers who want to make sure they will have the best people working with them. The interview will cover questions about the applicants' past, additional details about the original job application, "what if" questions, and questions designed to see how the applicant reacts under pressure. The interview may be videotaped for later review.
The psychological exam is actually usually a series of tests. These may include IQ tests and personality tests. These tests are standardized and normally used by many different departments. The applicant needs to be sure to answer honestly from the perspective of being an officer. Dishonest answers are easily spotted by the psychologists hired by the department to review the results. If the results of the tests show a reason for concern, a detailed interview with a psychologist may be required.
The background check may include a check of the applicant's credit report, a check of the applicant's family, an unannounced visit at the applicant's residence and regular meetings with the officers doing the check. The applicant should try to have a clean credit report prior to applying as an officer. The officers are very thorough with a background check so the applicant should be forthcoming about any potential issues the officers may find. It does not look good if the applicant appears to be hiding anything.
Once the applicant has passed all of the portions of the process, the applicant will usually be placed on a list in order of rank. The rank may be determined by past experience, education, any military history, and performance on the written exam. The department will then hire from this list over a pre-determined period of time. When the applicant has reached the top of the list, the applicant may be expected to attend police academy either right away or within a certain amount of time after being hired. The process is rigorous but helps to ensure that only those that are capable of doing the job the way it should be are chosen.
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