Police officers are an integral component of maintaining law and order in society. These law enforcement officials are responsible for protecting civilians by taking steps to reduce the incidences of crime and apprehending perpetrators. Their job duties are extensive and varied; it is therefore difficult to outline what a typical day in the life of a police officer really is. Job duties can include everything from carrying out patrols, interviewing witnesses to crimes, and filling out case reports. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

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Becoming a police officer is no walk in the park. It is a physically and mentally demanding job which requires a lot of dedication and sacrifice. In order to qualify to become a police officer, an individual must go through extensive physical and theoretical training. Having been established in 1837, the Chicago police force is one of the oldest in the world. In Chicago, police officers are always in high demand due to the city´s high crime rates. The police force in Chicago is the second largest in the country behind New York´s NYPD.

If you’re interested in becoming a police officer in Chicago, here’s what you need to know.

What are the requirements to become a police officer in Chicago?

Due to the extensive responsibilities a police officer is tasked with, there are numerous requirements which need to be satisfied before you’re sworn in as a member of the police force. All prospective candidates must first satisfy a list of prerequisites. If these requirements are satisfied, a candidate must then undergo training at a police academy.

An outline of the steps required to become a police officer in Chicago is as follows:

  • Meet the minimum requirements
  • Submit a written application
  • Prepare for the written examination
  • Appear for an interview with the police department
  • Clear a background check, polygraph and drug test
  • Pass a physical agility test
  • Submit to a psychological evaluation
  • Do the POWER test
  • Complete training at a police academy
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How Do You Become a Police Officer

The Minimum Requirements (prerequisites) to becoming a police officer

Before applying for a job at the Chicago Police Department, candidates must ensure that they meet the minimum requirements for employability.

The minimum requirements are as follows. Candidates must:

  • Be at least 21 years of age, but no more than 40 years of age
  • Hold a valid Illinois driver’s license
  • Have a minimum of 90 semester credits from an accredited college/university, preferably in criminal justice or related fields OR have served in the US Armed Forced for three consecutive years OR have at least 30 semester credits and have served in the Armed Forces for a minimum of one continuous year
  • Possess a valid Firearm Owners Identification Card
  • Be a resident of Chicago

If you meet the minimum requirements, you can complete an application form and prepare for the written examination.

Written Examination

The written examination tests a candidate’s ability to follow directions, make quick and sound decisions, and understand basic law enforcement policies.


Candidates are interviewed by members of the Chicago Police Department and are asked questions about the information in their application as well as their written examination.

Background Check, Polygraph test and drug test

Since police officers are public servants, they must be held up to high moral and ethical standards. These tests will determine whether anything in your past could tarnish your chances of becoming a police officer.

Physical Agility Test

Being a police officer is physically demanding and therefore you need to be physically fit. Although the precise test varies by age, applicants must generally be able to:

  • Run 1.5 miles in under 14 minutes
  • Do a minimum of 37 sit-ups in a row
  • Bench press within 98% of the average for their weight and height
  • Sit and reach 16 inches

Psychological Test

A psychologist will evaluate candidates to ensure their mental faculties are sound.

The POWER test

The Peace Officer Wellness Evaluation Report (POWER) Test is a series of academic and physical tests which are designed to ensure a candidate has the relevant skills to be a part of the Chicago Police Department.

Chicago Police Department Information

The Chicago Police Department, CPD, is the second largest police force in the country and has over 12,000 sworn officers. The mayor of the city appoints a Police Superintendent who is responsible for overseeing the functioning of the CPD.

There are four specialized units which make up the CPD: the Mounted Unit, Civil Rights Unit, Canine Unit, and Marine and Helicopter Unit.

There are also six distinct bureaus: the Bureau of Organizational Development (BOD), Bureau of Patrol (BOP), Bureau of Internal Affairs (BIA), Bureau of Administration (BOA), Bureau of Detectives, and Bureau of Organized Crime (BOC).

The CPD is divided into 23 police districts, each of which is led by a district commander.

Chicago Police Training Academy

Once all the other requirements have been fulfilled, an applicant must begin their police training at the CPD’s Education and Training Division. Training typically takes between 1-2 years to complete and involves 1000 hours of training. Training includes scenario based training, firearms instruction, control tactics, and physical endurance.

In addition to the physical training, recruits will also undergo academic training in order to pass the Illinois State Peace Officer’s Certification Exam.

Chicago Police Salary and Job Outlook

The job prospects for police officers in Chicago are promising considering the large size of the Chicago Police Department. According to data from O*NET OnLine, this profession is expected to see a 5%-8% growth between 2014-24.

According to the latest information available on the CPD’s official website, after 18 months on the job, police officers can earn $72,510 (yearly) plus benefits.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of police and sheriff’s patrol officers in Illinois in 2015 was as follows:

Employment Employment per thousand jobs Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage
31,710 5.42 $33.61 $69,910

Illinois also falls in the top five states with the highest employment levels for police officers.

Police Education and Training

Police officers investigate and prevent crime, ensuring that law and order is maintained in every community. A challenging job, to become a police officer in Chicago the applicants must have a minimum 60 semester hours from an accredited college. A degree in criminal justice or criminal law is quite comprehensive and prepares students for a career in police force. Through a broad and engaging curriculum, students learn about state laws, crime, criminal investigation, and criminal justice framework. Most people aspiring to become a police officer opt for bachelor’s degree in criminal justice field. To pursue career as police officer, students can choose from various degree programs that include associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and certification programs.

Police Officer Training in Chicago

Supporting the mission of Chicago Police Department, the Education and Training Division provides comprehensive training to the recruits. A progressive program is developed in which candidates acquire leadership abilities and develop policing skills. The program includes 900 hours of basic peace officer’s training in which the candidates are also prepared for Illinois State Peace Officer’s Certification Exam. As per mandated requirement, the CPD recruits are given extra training in drugs, gangs, law, report writing, ethics, control tactics, vehicle stops, law enforcement driving, firearms, and physical fitness. Additional training CPD recruits receive is terrorism awareness, building entry tactics, and technology awareness.

Training Institutions for Police Officers

The Chicago Police Department (CPD) operates Education and Training Division that has developed comprehensive and progressive training program. It trains the recruits for all law enforcement agencies located in Illinois. Below are some of the best academies in the state of Illinois that provide basic training to police officers.

  1. Chicago Police and Firefighter Training Academy (CPFTA)

A two-year training program, it prepares the students for a career in Chicago Police Department. CPFTA provides training in basic law enforcement that includes arrest, searching, evidence collection, and interrogation.

  1. Illinois State Police Academy (ISPA)

With the main purpose of preparing new officers in the field of law enforcement, ISPA offers 28 weeks training program. The basic recruit training is of 560 hours during which they are taught about firearms, surveillance, narcotics investigation, Control and Arrest Tactics (C.A.T.), and Traffic Crash Investigation.

  1. University of Illinois Police Training Institute

The basic law enforcement training program requires students to complete 560 hours of coursework that takes a minimum of 14 weeks. Through their hands-on instructional methods, young recruits are prepared to meet different challenges that come with the job.

  1. Tri-River Police Training

Providing continuous training to in-service officers, the Tri-River Police Training academy puts emphasis on policing values, service functions, and innovative communication techniques. Reinforcement courses include Crisis Intervention Team Training (CIT), IDNR Explosives safety, Recognition and Handling Course, as well as vehicle dynamics.

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