Education (4 years)
Aspiring police officers need to be of at least 18-21 years of age to apply for the post of a police officer. They also need to have a minimum of 2 years of college education. Thus, a diploma or an associate’s degree is mandatory. Jobs at a federal level will need you to have a bachelor’s degree. Since after graduating from high school, you have about another 2 years or so of waiting before you can apply, we suggest you get a Bachelor’s degree, since this may come in handy if you ever want to change jobs or go to the federal level. The education requirements are waived off for an ex-army officer who was honorably discharged.
Application (3 to 4 months)
After getting your degree, you will need to apply for the post of a police officer. This is the beginning of the hiring process. There are a lot of applications that the academy gets every year, thus it takes quite some time to process your application. Different police departments take different amount of time. But it usually takes about 3 to 4 months. During this time, we recommend that you get started on your physical training.
While filling up the application, put in all your details correctly and completely. They will perform thorough background checks and crosscheck this information. If they find any anomalies, that might result in an immediate disqualification. If not, they will use it to grill you in the later stages.
Hiring Process (3 to 4 months)
The hiring process also depends on the police department. If they accept your application, you must undergo a series of steps to get selected into the police academy. The hiring process consists of written, physical, psychological and medical tests. It also consists of an oral board where they might use the anomalies found in your background check and application to grill you to see how you react under pressure. There is also a polygraph test that verifies other information.
After all of this, you have an interview with a high-ranking officer in the department. It is then up to them whether to pass you. The whole process is quite competitive and people might get rejected at any step. Having an undergraduate’s degree gives you an edge over your competitors and hence we had earlier suggested that you complete your education.
Police Academy (About 6 months)
After the grueling hiring process, there are yet a couple more steps to go. If you do get selected into the Police academy, you can still be rejected due to bad performance. Here you will undergo a lot of physical training. They will build your physique and endurance, teach you how to use guns, how to treat suspects and a whole lot more. You will also have to cram in all the laws and various procedures. You will be taught defensive tactics, evading tactics while driving, first aid and many other skills required by a police officer.
The time spent in the police academy varies from one department to the other. The average is around 13-19 weeks. In San Diego, it can last up to 6 months.
Probation (6 months to a year)
Graduating from the Police Academy, you are almost a complete police officer. However, you have to undergo a certain amount of time under probations. This means that you are going to receive some ‘on the job’ training while you are partnered with a senior officer. He or she will teach you the ropes of the job and monitor your progress every month.
Depending on your performance, your probation period is decided. If you are performing well, it might be around 3 to 4 months. But if you are performing badly, it can take easily up to a year or two if necessary. The average time spent in probation is about 6 months. You must remember to be cautious during probation. If you take a wrong decision under a stressful situation, your application is rejected. This is the main reason anyone is ever failed in this period.
If you do manage to get through the probation period, then congratulations! You are now officially a police officer. You are assigned to a particular unit in the department and off you go! You can choose to have a partner if you like and go out protecting the city’s citizens. Since it is always safer with a partner, some officers prefer to keep it that way.
To revise, it takes about 5 to 6 years to become a full-fledged police officer. The duration depends mostly on which city you are applying and then how well you perform during the academy and your probation period. One last piece of advice we would like to give you, is to take your training seriously, especially the one on the job. There might be someday where you might face a situation where a life hangs in the balance. This is the day your training will help you.