Law enforcement is a complex system that deals with the ordering of society according to the laws that govern it. Police officers are part of that system and are charged with the task of enforcing laws, protecting property, and maintaining civil order. As such, they carry out a wide range of activities and duties in the carrying out of their functions as public servants.

The road to becoming a police officer can however be grueling. The selection process is long and can be difficult. Even after you get selected by a police department, you have to undergo extensive training to develop essential skills. In order to become a police officer in Texas, you will need to meet at least the minimum requirements set out by the state.

Duties of a Police Officer

The life of a police officer is often demanding and can be difficult. However, it is a very purposeful and rewarding profession. Police officers carry out a wide variety of tasks. As law enforcement officials, they are responsible for maintaining peace in their communities and this duty has a number of different aspects.

Some of the tasks carried out by police officers include:

  • Hostage negotiations
  • Controlling traffic
  • Serve warrants
  • Surveillance
  • Preparing administrative reports on crimes and statistics
  • Appearing in court to testify
Is this Career right for me?
How to Become a Police Officer in Texas

Is this Career right for me?

Becoming a police officer is hard work. The career suits those who are dedicated and devoted to protecting and serving society. The job can be demanding however it also boasts significant benefits. Therefore it is important that the pros and cons of how do you become a police officer are weighed before applying for a position.

Pros Cons
  • Job security
  • Highly respected role in society
  • Can contribute in a significant way to the betterment of society
  • Comfortable salary
  • Many perks – Pensions, insurance plans, paid leaves and holidays, bonuses, uniform allowances, etc.
  • Many opportunities for career advancement
  • Long and unpredictable hours, sometimes including weekends
  • Physically and mentally demanding job
  • Can be exposed to dangerous situations or people
  • Life can be put at risk
  • High stress
  • Unfavorable working conditions include harsh weather, exposure to electrical and chemical hazards, armed and dangerous persons, communicable diseases, extreme temperatures, etc

Requirements to Become a Police Officer in Texas

The minimum enrollment requirements for training as a Texas Peace Officer, as set out by Commission Rule 215.15, are as follows. Candidates must be/have:

  • 21 years of age or older, or 18 years and older if the candidate has at least an associate’s degree or 60 hours worth of credits from an accredited university or college
  • A citizen of the United States
  • A clean criminal record
  • A valid Texas driver’s license of current Class “C” status
  • No trace of drug dependency
  • A high school diploma
  • Free from any medical or physical conditions that could get in the way of their duties as a police officer

Steps to Becoming a Police Officer

In Texas, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Certifications (TCLEOSE) is responsible for setting the standards and requirements to become a police officer. Even though standards are typically set by TCLEOSE, departments at the local level may have different eligibility requirements over and above TCLEOSE requirements. For instance, many departments may require a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, sociology or psychology, have higher minimum age requirements, or have different background restrictions.

Police officers in Texas are commonly known as Texas Peace Officers. If you satisfy the minimum requirements, here are the next steps in the process to becoming a police officer.

  1. Satisfy education requirements or military experience

In Texas, it is essential for the candidates to complete at least 90 credit hours of college/university level courses or have served in the military. These are in addition to having a high school diploma or GED (which is an essential requirement).

Military service is classified as having served active duty in the armed forced of the United States. Individuals who have served in the Reserves or the National Guard are also considered eligible to apply.

In addition, if you have served as a police officer in another state, you may apply for a position as a police officer in Texas if you have a valid license from the state of your residence.

  1. Submit application to a police department

In addition to your application papers, you should include the following with your application:

  • A copy of your birth certificate
  • A statement of your personal history
  • Your most recent credit report
  • College/university credentials, or
  • Proof of honorable discharge from the military
  • A waiver for trooper trainee – This must be notarized by a public notary or DPS employee
  1. Clear the selection examinations

Once your application has been cleared and deemed eligible for consideration, you have to pass a series of physical examinations. Candidates are required to prove their physical abilities to demonstrate an appropriate level of agility and endurance.  In order to be eligible for training, candidates must be cleared of the following tests by a licensed medical professional in Texas:

Physical Exam

Police officers are required to be physically fit. As such, a physical examination is carried out to determine how physically fit candidates are. Typical assessments involve endurance, stamina, strength testing, etc. Candidates may be evaluated on:

  • The number of correct push-ups done in 1 minute
  • The number of correct sit-ups done in 1 minute
  • The time it takes to finish a 1.5 mile run

Depending on your age and gender, you will be expected to have completed a certain number of push-ups, sit-ups and the 1.5 mile run  in a specific time range.

 

Drug Test

A blood and urine test is carried out to make sure candidates do not have any drug dependencies or traces of illegal drugs in their system.

Psychological Assessment

A police officer must be mentally tough.  For this reason, the mental wellbeing, personality traits, temperament and emotional control of candidates must be determined. This will help indicate how well the individual can cope with stress and perform the tasks of a police officer.

 

Clean Bill of Health

A physical exam will determine the overall health of candidates. Your basic organs such as heart and lungs must be in good condition. In addition, good eye sight and hearing is essential. Candidates cannot be colorblind nor have uncorrectable visual acuity of 20/20.

 

  1. Clear a background check

Candidates must submit to and clear a complete background check. Part of the check includes fingerprinting, the information of which will be cross referenced with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Any questionable activity will immediately result in your application being denied.

The following will disqualify you from seeking employment in the police force:

  • A conviction of a class B or higher misdemeanor or its equivalent
  • A conviction of any family violence offense
  • A state or federal prohibition from operating a motor vehicle
  • A state or federal prohibition from possessing firearms or ammunition
  1. Pass a written examination

If you successfully pass all the physical tests, you will need to take a written test. The written exam tests your reading, comprehension, and problem solving skills.

  1. Next steps

Once you pass both physical and written examinations, the following takes place:

  • Polygraph test – This is a way for police departments to determine how truthful potential candidates are. Furthermore, it’s a way to gauge any potentially undesirable personality traits in candidates.
  • Comprehensive background investigation – Candidates can be expected to be investigated thoroughly to verify if all the information that was provided is true and accurate.
  • Interview – An interview is conducted with the entire board. This allows the team to evaluate if you are a good fit for the department.
  • Job offer – If you fulfill all the requirements, you will receive a job offer and a formal invitation to attend training at a police academy.
  1. Police academy

Basic training is intensive and typically lasts for 6 months. It consists of both physical and academic elements. Upon the successful completion of all academy training and education requirements and exams, candidates will be sworn into the force.

Candidates can expect to learn the following at the academy:

Physical Components Academic Components
  • Self defense
  • Acceptable defensive tactics, which include apprehending criminals, learning to use handcuffs, pepper spray, batons, tasers, etc
  • Essentials of patrol activities
  • Emergency and non-emergency incident response
  • Firearms training
  • First aid
  • Ethics
  • Report writing
  • Introduction to important legal concepts and procedures
  • Elements of criminal investigations
  • Hostage negotiation
  • Criminal psychology
  • Civil rights

 

  1. Field training

After being sworn in, you’ll have the designation of a peace officer. As part of your ongoing training you will need to shadow an experienced police officer to get important on the job training.  Your senior officer will give you various tasks and responsibilities and evaluate how you handle them. Training typically entails becoming familiarized with patrol procedures, how to control and apprehend individuals, how to report crimes, etc. There are a number of department assigned tasks as well as duties assigned by your senior officer, which have to be carried out to a satisfactory standard.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth in this field is expected to take place at the rate of 5% between 2012 and 2022.

Data from O*NET OnLine shows that the median annual salary for peace officers in Texas in 2013 was:

  • Police and Sherriff’s Patrol Officers – $52,400
  • Detectives and criminal investigators – $84,200

As public servants, police officers are respected members of the much larger system of law enforcement; a system, responsible for maintaining civil order and peace in society. Police officers go through extensive training in order to become sworn members of a police force. Furthermore, the selection process can be quite intense. If you are interested in a career of protecting and serving society in Texas, then consider becoming a police officer.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Once I become a police officer, what are some of the tasks and duties that I will have to perform?

Ans: Police officers carry out a variety of tasks and duties in the course of their job. Some of the things that they do include patrolling traffic, surveillance, issuing warrants, testifying in court, as well as administrative duties. The exact duties and tasks that you are charged with will vary according to your experience and rank. For more information, refer to our page.

Q: If I want to become a police officer, why do I need to clear a physical exam?

Ans: Law enforcement is a physically demanding field to work in. For this reason, all prospective candidates must be deemed to be physically fit. Each candidate is tested according to their age and gender. A number of assessments need to be cleared including endurance, stamina, strength training, etc. For more information about the physical exam, get in touch with your local police department.