Police officers are charged with protecting the lives of citizens. This task includes apprehending individuals who commit crimes, investigating property crimes, enforcing traffic laws and writing up reports on vehicular accidents.
Law Enforcement Requirements/Certification
Individual desiring a career as a police officer should be a United States citizen. In addition, they should be 21 years of age and be able to meet the physical requirements for the position. Most police departments will issue a series of tests to new recruits. These tests are administered as written tests, verbal tests and physical tests.
Police officers are required to undergo an in depth background check. This background check may consist of interviews of family members and former employers. A criminal background through the National Crime Information Center will verify that the individual has not been convicted of a felony. There are also a few misdemeanor crimes that could exclude an individual from a career in law enforcement. Some domestic crime convictions as well as driving under the influence convictions may disqualify a police officer candidate.
Police officers are held to a higher standard than the average citizen. Candidates for becoming a police officer must adhere to the tenets of honesty and integrity. Police officers must be able to enforce laws without bias or prejudice. Law enforcement officers deal with the general public on a near constant basis. Candidates for becoming a police officer should enjoy meeting new people and have excellent people skills.
Recruits who pass all the testing and training courses will need to be certified as a law enforcement officer. This includes taking the oath of office vowing to uphold the law. In addition, many police officers receive additional certifications including first aid.
Police Officer Training
Candidates for a career in law enforcement must attend the police academy. Some departments will send their recruits away to a specific law enforcement school. Others will do their police academy training in house.
Police training consists of a three to four month school that will teach the recruit about the job aspects of law enforcement. This training will include subjects such as civil rights, constitutional law, accident investigation, state regulation and local ordinances. This training will include physical defense tactics, motor vehicle safety and driving.
Police officers must be trained in the use of firearms and will require at a minimum a yearly firearms qualification to meet requirements to carry a weapon. These recruits will be taught how to care for their firearm; scenarios in which they will need to draw their gun and how to use the weapon itself.
Law Enforcement Courses and Schools
Candidates for the police academy can come from various backgrounds. The requirements for hiring at a police department can vary by the department. Some entry level police officer careers require only a high school diploma.
Police officers who wish to advance beyond a patrol officer will need some form of college degree. Criminal justice degrees are common degrees for police officers. Individuals who wish to specialize in a particular field of law enforcement will need to have a special degree. These degrees can include accounting, information technology and public administration.
In addition, police officers who are fluent in a foreign language will be eligible for positions and pay bonuses that the average police officer will not.
Law Enforcement Jobs
Law enforcement jobs will vary by the type of law enforcement department. Local police departments will have patrol officers, school resource officers, K9 officers, crime detectives and crime scene investigators. Fire departments may have specialized fire investigators who will investigator arson fires. These agencies may also have individuals who are bomb technicians.
Law enforcement agencies at the state level typically will have highway patrol officers. These officers enforce the traffic laws on the state highways. In addition, they may participate in a statewide bomb unit. The state may have agents assigned to their state parks.
Federal law enforcement officers can find work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the US Marshal’s Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Department of Homeland Security. These agencies are tasked with enforcing customs and immigration law, explosives law, drug enforcement, organized crime, financial crime, bank robberies, terrorism, and drug trafficking.
Police officers are generally assigned to shift work. This is because police work is 24 hours a day. They will work outdoors in patrol cars, bicycles, and motorcycles. They work in dangerous environments, are exposed to biohazards, and respond to situations involving deceased individuals.
Law Enforcement Salary
Wages for police officers will vary by department, position and length of employment. Entry level police officers can expect to make approximately $32,670 a year. The average wage for a police officer is $56,130.
Police officers will receive higher pay grades as they are promoted or accept different assignments. Police officers may also have a large amount of overtime paid to them. Police officers will also receive additional benefits such as vacation, sick, and personal leave days. They will receive medical insurance and life insurance.