Police officers are important members of law enforcement who ensure that law and order are maintained in their communities. To ensure peace and stability in society, police officers must carry out a wide range of duties. These include everything from regulating traffic, patrolling streets, apprehending offenders, etc. The job of a police officer may at times be dangerous and demanding, but it is also worthwhile.

1.     Entry Requirements

The general entry requirements for individuals considering becoming a police officer are listed below. It is important to note that these requirements are not standard and may vary from state, or city.

Candidates must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age (some agencies require applicants to be 21)
  • Be a citizen of the United States
  • Have a clean record – no criminal offences, no misdemeanors, no DUI’s, etc.
  • Have good credit history
  • Be of sound moral character
  • Have at least a high school diploma or GED
  • Have a valid driver’s license of the state in which they live

During the application process, candidates can expect to have:

  • a physical fitness exam
  • a psychological evaluation
  • Drug test
  • Overall health evaluation
  • Background check
  • Pass a written exam
  • A polygraph test
  • An interview with the board
Important Skills and Qualities
Police Officer Job

2.     Important Skills and Qualities

The following skills and qualities are not only helpful to possess but some may be essential in the job of a police officer as well:

  • Good negotiation skills
  • Patience
  • Problem solving skills
  • Communication skills
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Teamwork
  • Assertiveness
  • Determination
  • Resilience
  • Sound knowledge of the law
  • The ability to deal with high stress and stressful situations
  • Level-headedness and calm in the face of danger

3.     Training

Candidates must go through an extensive amount of training.  Not only must applicants be in excellent shape at the time of their application, they must also go through extensive training at the police academy and on the job when they are finally hired.

Training at the police academy entails academic, physical, and hands on elements. It is intended to groom individuals for all that is to be expected in the course of their duty as police officers. Elements of basic academy training include:

  • Introduction to laws and important legal concepts of the US legal system
  • Firearms training and procedures
  • Search and arrest techniques
  • Hostage negotiations
  • Self-defense tactics and the permissible use of force
  • Criminal psychology
  • Basics of report writing

Upon graduation, candidates are sworn into the police force. For the first year or so, individuals can expect to be on probation.  A senior officer is assigned to each new cadet, who monitors the new cadet’s on the job performance.

The probationary period entails:

  • Becoming familiar with patrol procedures
  • Interacting with the public
  • Writing reports
  • Shadowing a senior officer

4.     What the Job Entails

Police officers have a number of tasks and responsibilities, which they are required to carry out throughout the course of duty. Furthermore, new tasks and responsibilities may arise if new circumstances present themselves. As such, police officers do not have a fixed set of duties that they are required to carry out.

Some common features of the job include:

  • Writing crime reports
  • Apprehending criminals
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Gathering evidence and statements for cases and investigations
  • Controlling traffic and large crowds
  • Carrying out search warrants
  • Acting as the first response to emergencies
  • Patrolling particular areas
  • Keeping the peace in communities or at public events

5.     Specializations

There are a number of specializations within the field as well. These may require an additional amount of training. Some of these include:

  • Chemical analysis
  • Firearms instruction
  • Canine unit
  • Microscopic analysis
  • Fingerprint identification

6.     Types of Units and Employers

Police officers are employed by local, state, and federal agencies. Job duties and responsibilities will differ accordingly.  For instance, at the local level, police officers work for departments, which oversee the protection of a particular county or city. Their jurisdiction is limited to that particular area. State troopers have a wider range of responsibilities and are commonly also responsible for highway patrol. State officers may be called upon by local departments for help with investigations or special tasks. At the federal level, there are a number of agencies that employ police officers. These agencies have the widest range of powers, and their jurisdiction extends to the whole country.

Examples of particular police units and agencies include:

  • Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT)
  • The Federal Protective Service (FPS)
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • Customs and Border Protection

7.     Job Outlook and Salary

According to data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment growth in the profession is expected to take place at a rate of about 5% from now till 2022.  Public safety is an important societal interest and as such, police officers are going to be needed. In order to make yourself more marketable and appealing to employers, it is helpful to have additional work experience or education qualifications to set you apart.

In 2013, the annual median salary made my police patrol officers within the United States was $56,130. The top 90% earned $90,700. Furthermore, larger states with bigger populations typically hire more police officers and may offer better salaries. For instance, police officers in California earned an average median wage that was substantially higher than the average of what was earned in the entire country.

Police officers have a large number of job responsibilities. As individuals tasked with protecting citizens and society and maintaining law and order, officers must go through a significant amount of training to be qualified to carry out these tasks. Their jobs may vary according to their employer and their particular specialization as well.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: What skills and qualities are beneficial to have for someone who wants to be a police officer?

Ans: If you’re interested in becoming a police officer, there are certain skills and qualities that may be beneficial to have. These include determination, patience, interpersonal skills, team-working capabilities, problem solving skills, assertiveness, resilience, good negotiation skills, quick thinking, and the ability to stay calm in the event of an emergency.

Q: What are candidates supposed to do during the probationary period?

Ans: The probationary period is the period immediately following graduation, when a candidate has been sworn into the police force. For a year or more, the candidate is put on probation and their job performance is monitored. During this period, candidates must shadow a senior officer, write reports, become familiar with patrol procedures, and interact with the public.