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8 Steps To Becoming A Police Officer

STAFF REPORT

While entering the police force is a childhood dream of many, it is a challenging job where your responsibilities will vary daily. From apprehending criminals, enforcing traffic laws, being present during emergencies, investigation community issues, and much more, no two days will be the same. Working in law enforcement requires mental and physical agility, but it is always worth it if this is where your interests lie. After all, you have a chance to make a difference in the world, starting with safeguarding your local community. If this career path is one you want to pursue, below are the key things to bear in mind when you’re seeking to become a police officer. 

Understand what policing is like: pros and cons 

It’s important to distinguish between Hollywood’s portrayal of officers and what the role truly entails, as it won’t be as high paced and dramatic as what you see on television. To understand the reality, take the time speak to someone who is working as a police officer, and ask if you can shadow them at work for a day or two. The role of an officer can be tiring and stressful, making it a career path that is not suitable for everyone. 

  1. Pros of policing include:
  2. Stability of working for the government 
  3. You have an opportunity to save lives and shape your community
  4. You can work from anywhere, and in a respectable job 
  • Cons of policing include:
  • Police officers face the risk of injury on the job
  • A profession that comes under scrutiny (for example, negative Hollywood depictions)
  • Dealing with traumatic events and situations is part of your job 

Personality traits and soft skills 

Once you put on the police uniform, people are looking up to you. Aside from practical training and knowledge, there are several personality traits and soft skills that you should hone if you want to pursue this career path. Instead of acting rashly, practice sound judgment before making decisions. Your goal should be to establish peace, not add fuel to the fire in a chaotic situation. 

These soft skills include:

  • Good verbal and non-verbal communication skills
  • Empathy
  • Good teamwork
  • Good listener
  • Respect for the community
  • Compassion
  • Critical thinking 
  • Conflict management 

Maintain a clean record

Are there any red flags on your record that would make your employer question whether they should hire you? The law enforcement agency you are applying for will conduct a background check on you to ensure you are a trustworthy individual. Employers will check your credit report, criminal records, driving record and even perform a drug test on you. Employers believe these issues reflect your character, so if if you wish to work in law enforcement, your record must be clean. 

Attend school and graduate 

Higher education is essential to get hired as a police officer. The police academy will train you academically and physically, but a bachelor’s degree in a related criminal justice field could be needed to obtain a leadership role and increase your salary in your area. A college education will endow you with critical thinking and analytical skills, as well as teach you how to be a leader. Some academic institutions even offer you the possibility to complete an online police program, where upon graduation, you have a professional degree in your desired line of work. The best part is that you can complete it while simultaneously gaining work experience.

Physical training and assessment

Officers are required to be physically fit if they will be patrolling the streets and maintaining peace. Police academies will provide fitness training that mimics the demands of the job. You will need to work on your muscular endurance, core, upper body strength and work on your aerobic skills. Weekly cardio exercises you should do include push-ups, mile runs, sit-ups, and side crunches. You should be spending an hour or two a day optimizing your endurance. Part of the assessment even includes doing a 75-yard pursuit run, preparing you to sprint after culprits on foot, should it be needed. 

Diet is the second essential component of fitness training, and you should eat meals filled with minerals, vitamins, and nutrients that improve your stamina and mental clarity. The idea is to build muscle and cut fat, so you should avoid processed junk food and instead opt for vegetables, fruit, eggs, nuts, and meat. Eating chips and chocolate while drinking soda will make your body and mind crash. 

Field training

Field training occurs after you graduated from the academy, and you will be spending your initial weeks with a field training officer, learning the expectations and goals of the police department, what patrolling the streets are like, and applying everything you learned in school. You will be evaluated by your senior officer, in writing, to ensure that you understand the patrol protocol and procedures. This is your chance to ask questions about the job. Once you complete this trial period, you will officially be hired as part of the police department. 

Choosing a state to work in

Good salaries and benefits can accompany law enforcement careers, but this will vary depending on the state that you are living in. The general rule of thumb is that officers in northern states receive higher paycheques. Some of the higher paying states with an annual median salary of over $60,00 include Oregon, Connecticut, New York, Illinois, Nevada, Washington, Alaska, New Jersey, and California. Keep in mind that while states such as California offer an average salary of $93,550, other low paying states, such as Mississippi, will have salaries of $33,350. Do your research and find out what the opportunities are like in the state you are living in, and ask yourself whether or not you are willing to relocate in order to find a better paying job. 

Getting hired

In order to apply for the position of a police officer, you must hold the minimum age requirement, have your driver’s license, have committed no felonies and have the appropriate educational requirements. After this, you should apply to law enforcement agencies, and prep for the interview by having reflective and personal answers to any questions they may ask. Employers want to know about your expertise and fit. You will receive the question, ‘why do you want to work as a police officer in this department’? Do you have a thought-out answer? 

A career path in law enforcement and becoming a police officer is worth the effort when it is your dream. It is a satisfying career that can make you proud and will allow you to give back to the community. The road to becoming an officer may seem lengthy, but no job worth pursuing has an easy way in.You might as well spend your time on something that you enjoy and gives you a sense of purpose. 

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