If you want to save lives and help people in need, become a police officer. Police officers have taken an oath to uphold law and make the society a safer place to live in. From catching bad guys to responding to emergency situations, the career can be challenging, yet rewarding.
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In 2013, there were approximately 8,160 police officers in the state of Washington, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). There are a number of police departments in all major cities of the state. If you wish to become a police officer in WA, you must meet the minimum educational and training requirements set by your local police recruitment agency/department. Before you apply for the position, it is essential you understand the career and find out how to become a police officer in WA. You should also know whether you have the desire or passion to serve your community. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- Why do you want to become a police officer?
- Are you ready to protect others?
- Are you ready to use force to protect others and yourself?
- Can you handle the emotional and physical stress that comes with job?
- Are you ready to tackle dangerous situations that may possibly be life threatening?
According to another set of data published by O*NET OnLine in 2015, police officers in Washington earned a median annual income of $74,950. The job growth in this field in Washington is expected to take place at the rate of 11% from 2014 to 2024.
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Requirements To Be a Police Officer in Washington State
The minimum requirements to become a police officer may vary a little from place to place. All applicants must meet these requirements before they can receive formal training at an academy. Some of the general requirements have been listed here:
- Age – Applicants must be at least 20.5 years old at the time of application.
- Education – Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED certification.
- Military Record (If applicable) – Applicants who have served in the military must provide proof of an honorable discharge.
- Driver’s License – Applicants must have a valid driver’s license issued by the Washington state.
How to Become a Police Officer in Washington State – Hiring Process
- Pass a Written Exam
The written exam is designed to test an applicant’s general knowledge. The exam typically comprises of multiple choice questions. Other areas tested in the exam include: grammar, reading comprehension, and spelling.
- Pass a Physical Ability Test
The physical ability test will comprise of a number of physical activities that applicants must complete. The test will measure an applicant’s:
- Upper body strength
- Muscular endurance
- Leg power
- Cardio-respiratory endurance
- Anaerobic power
All applicants must complete a 300 meter run, maximum number of push-ups in a limited time period, sit-ups, and a 1.5 mile run.
- Fill Out a Personal History Form/Application
All credit and information history forms must be notarized.
- Pass an Oral Examination
In this exam, candidates will be asked to answer a series of questions. In most cases, sworn police officers and authorized community members conduct the oral examination.
- Pass a Background Check
Background investigators are assigned to candidates who perform a background check. Background investigations are an important part of the screening process.
Additional Tests Once you are Selected
Once applicants clear all the above mentioned tests, they will receive a conditional offer for employment. Another series of exams are scheduled before the academy training begins. These tests typically include:
- Polygraph Test
This is also known as a lie-detector test and is used in many other law enforcement agencies as well. The test will detect abnormal variations in blood pressure, body motion, heart rate, etc. These variations can depict the level of truth and honesty.
- Psychological Exam
A psychological exam is conducted to asses a candidate’s mental and emotional stability, neurological functioning, reasoning skills, and personality traits.
- Pass a Medical Exam
Medical exams are a necessary part of the hiring process. Applicants will be tested for various medical conditions and disorders. Any applicant that suffers from a medical disorder that can affect his or her performance on the job will be disqualified.
The last phase of hiring process includes formal training at a police academy. Training can last anywhere from 4-5 months, depending upon the city. All applicants will undergo field training where they will take part in different activities. Applicants will learn how to:
- Use defensive techniques
- Use firearms
- Follow protocols
- Maneuver police vehicles
Alongside field training, applicants will also participate in classroom lectures where they will cover important topics relevant to law and order, criminal justice systems, administration, etc.
Once training is complete, applicants will be sworn in as police officers and will typically be on a one-year probationary period. They may be assigned supervised patrol shifts. The typical job duties of a police officer include:
- Arresting suspects and criminals
- Responding to emergency calls
- Patrolling assigned areas
- Testifying in court
- Preparing written reports
- Interviewing suspects
- Obtaining arrest warrants
The need for police officers will always remain in a society. With a steady demand and growth rate, becoming a police officer can be a suitable choice. According to BLS, police officers in Washington made a mean annual wage of $70,640 in 2013.
Many individuals pursue career in this field due to the many opportunities for promotion. Police officers can move up the ladder and apply for detective positions after acquiring sufficient work experience. Health insurance, employment pension, and other benefits may also come with the job.
Police Education and Training
Becoming a police officer is genuinely challenging as it requires putting yourself in dangerous situations, dealing with criminals every day, and clocking in plenty of hours. To start a career in police force, a simple high school diploma is sufficient but the trend is now changing as more and more candidates opt for professional degree to enhance their career. Education requirements to become a police officer in Washington, WA preferably include an associate or bachelor’s degree in criminal law or criminal justice. During this program, students learn about courtroom proceedings, surveillance, security, anti-terrorism, and crime scene investigation. Obtaining an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in criminal law increases your chances of career advancement and prospects of earning specialized assignments.
Police Officer Training in Washington
In Washington, Basic Law Enforcement Academy (BLEA) is a mandatory training academy for all entry-level peace officers in the state. Ensuring a centralized training model, candidates are required to complete 720 academy hours in approximately six months. Candidates are provided exceptional training during which they are taught courses in criminal law, criminal procedure, patrol tactics, traffic, crisis, control and defensive tactics, firearms, and cognitive command. The academy is committed to honing the skills and knowledge of the rookies, ensuring that they learn to effectively protect and save lives and properties.
Training Institutions for Police Officers
Washington has maintained set standards for police officers training in the state. All of these training institutions operate under Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. They are mandated to provide entry-level, in-service, and career development training to improve skills and enhance public safety. Below are some of the best academies in the state of Washington, WA that provide basic training to the police officers.
- Criminal Justice Training Center
School in Burien, Washington, it is open for recruits who are hired by a recognized Washington State law enforcement agency. A 41 hours training course, it introduces the candidates to staff, culture of law enforcement, and key concepts revolving around criminal psychology.
- Spokane Police Academy
Located in Spokane, WA, the Spokane Police Department offers proper training to the candidates. The recruits are required to complete a minimum of 40 hours of Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) along with additional training to deal with sensitive situations.
- Pasco Police Department Training Center
The training center is located in Pasco, Washington and includes coursework and practical training in filing incident report, accident investigation, state ordinances and local laws, and firearms.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Ans: Once a candidate has submitted their application form, the hiring process begins. This process is quite lengthy and can take a considerable amount of time. Candidates will be required to pass a written exam, successfully clear a physical fitness test, fill out a personal history form, pass an oral exam, and clear a background check. For more details about what these individual steps might entail, please refer to the police department’s website.
Ans: Formal training at a police academy is the last phase of the hiring process. This can take anywhere between 4 to 5 months depending on the city in which you have applied. During training at the police academy, candidates will be taught how to properly use firearms, maneuver police vehicles, follow law enforcement protocol, and use defensive techniques. This is followed by field work with a senior officer.