The police force has always been one of the most respected jobs in America. It’s no wonder that in exchange for academy training, officers are paid well and receive health insurance and pension benefits.
As a police officer, you can positively impact your community, help people in their time of need and travel to new places. On top of that, you get to do this while working alongside an incredible team who will help you develop and grow your skills.
If you’re considering joining the police force, you’ll want to be well informed of all the pros and cons of such a career path. This information will help you decide whether or not the job is right for you without any regrets down the road.
This article will cover what to expect if you become an officer and what it will take to rise through the ranks. Read on to learn more.
Understanding a police force
A police force is a group of people sworn to uphold the law, protect property and maintain order. The government or other organization typically employs them, and their duties may vary depending on their jurisdiction.
Their roles include:
- Patrolling streets
- Interviewing witnesses
- Protecting officers at crime scenes
Depending on where they work, they might also be involved in training recruits and protecting them during natural disasters.
The most important thing to remember is that their job is not just about arresting criminals but also building relationships with the community.
What does a police officer do?
The duties of a police officer vary by country, state and city. Generally, they are in charge of law enforcement, public safety, traffic control and criminal investigations.
However, some of the most common responsibilities include:
- Making arrests – When someone commits a crime, such as speeding or violating curfew, an officer has the authority to arrest them.
- Responding to calls for service – Often, officers respond to calls from people who need help with things like broken car locks or stolen property.
- Investigating crimes – After an incident, it’s up to the police officer to find out what happened and who did it.
- Keeping order – When someone breaks the law by protesting in public without a permit or causes noise pollution, it’s often up to the police officer to intervene.
- Responding to emergencies – Officers might get involved in helping civilians fleeing war zones abroad or dealing with natural disasters.
Police officer salary
A police officer’s salary varies based on experience, certifications, education and location. The average starting salary for a police officer is more than $50,000 per year. A police officer with five years of experience can expect to make $55,000 annually.
An experienced police officer with 10 or more years on the job can earn up to $70,000 annually.
Requirements to join the police force
If you’ve fantasized about fighting crime and protecting citizens, the police force may be your career path. But do you know what it takes to be on the police force?
Are you physically fit enough to handle the rigorous training? Do you know what information you’ll need to give at your interview? Here are the essential requirements for joining the police force.
1. Age & gender
The age requirement varies from state to state, but a person must be at least 21 years old. Individuals who are not yet 21 can pursue a cadet program where they get basic training and experience while they wait for their 21st birthday. There is no gender requirement as long as you meet the age requirements.
To become a police officer, you need a high school diploma or General Education Diploma (GED). However, many agencies require at least some college coursework, and some agencies require a bachelor’s degree.
The degree should be related to law enforcement, such as criminal justice, criminology, forensic science or sociology. You may also enroll in police foundations online if you are looking to advance your career into a leadership position.
These programs prepare you for new challenges with leadership development and courses that address topics such as transforming policing. However, it is essential to research each agency’s requirements before applying so that you don’t waste time applying for an organization that doesn’t accept your level of education.
Before becoming a police officer, you must complete a training program at a police academy. You’ll learn about state and federal laws, crime scene investigation and emergency response.
Additionally, you will also acquire specialized skills training such as the use of firearms and self-defense techniques. After you’ve completed the required training, you can take a written exam to become eligible for employment with your chosen agency.
Once accepted into an agency, you can work in law enforcement roles ranging from patrol officer to detective or specialist positions in forensics or homeland security.
Police officers complete specific training programs that show they possess the knowledge and experience necessary to perform their jobs successfully. They acquire some of these certifications at the academy, such as getting the license to carry a firearm.
You can also acquire several certifications after completion of your academy training. The following list outlines the different certifications commonly given to police officers, along with a brief overview of what each entails.
· Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certification
One of the most important certifications for police officers is the Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certification because they are often the first responders to medical emergencies.
Properly administering CPR can mean the difference between life and death for a victim. The course usually takes a few hours to complete and includes classroom instruction and hands-on practice.
Candidates must demonstrate proficiency in CPR, including airway management, rescue breathing, chest compressions and ventilation devices.
· Peace officer certification
A peace officer certification is required to work in law enforcement in most states. The requirements for this certification vary from state to state, but they typically include completing a training program and passing a written exam.
The length of the program varies from state to state, but it typically lasts between six and 12 weeks.
It includes extensive training on local laws, emergency response procedures, physical self-defense techniques, firearms safety and basic first aid skills. Officers must complete mandatory recertification programs every two years to maintain their certification.
· First aid certification
Every police officer is required to have a first aid certification. This certification is essential because it allows officers to provide medical assistance to citizens in need. A first aid certification covers various topics, including CPR, emergency medications and wound care.
The basic certification lasts for one year. Officers can also take advanced certifications that offer more extensive training on specific topics such as diabetic or cardiac arrest emergencies.
· Driver’s license
A driver’s license is a must for any police officer. Every state has different requirements, but most will require you to have a clean driving record and pass a written exam.
Some states also require you to take a driving test. In addition to a regular driver’s license, some states require you to have a special permit, such as a CDL, to drive a police car.
The top 7 common skills for police officers
Police officers work in many different environments, including private and public sectors, local, state and federal agencies, and even internationally. Offices will also have additional skills to help them on the job and personality traits that make them great leaders and problem solvers.
The following list of skills will help you prepare to become a police officer so that you can start your career on the right foot from day one.
Leadership is the most crucial skill a police officer can have. Without leadership, a department will crumble, and crime rates will rise.
To be an effective leader, a police officer must be able to enforce rules, delegate tasks and set goals that help their team reach success. They also need to be able to maintain their composure in difficult situations and deescalate tensions in order to calm people down.
For example, let’s say there’s a group of rowdy protesters who are blocking traffic on a highway. A good leader will find out what they want, why they are protesting and how they could peacefully end the protest without escalating into violence. A good leader will take control of a challenging situation and get everyone on the same page so that everyone can get where they need to go.
2. Physical stamina
The job of a police officer is very demanding, both mentally and physically. Officers must be able to handle long hours on their feet in case they need to respond to emergencies.
Officers must also be able to deal with the stress of the job, which can take a toll on their personal lives. For these reasons, law enforcement agencies generally prefer applicants who are in good physical shape.
Although there are exceptions, most departments won’t accept someone with a history of weight problems or chronic illness. The police force will also evaluate applicants’ fitness levels during the application.
Empathy refers to a person’s ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It is a crucial component in psychology, as it allows psychologists to understand what their patients are going through.
It is also one of the essential attributes in professions that require people-centered work, such as teaching or social work. Police officers require empathy because they need to be able to enter into someone else’s world and experience something from their perspective.
One example would be if an officer responded to a domestic violence call. Once at the scene, an officer needs to think about what the victim might have experienced, how scared they might be and how much help they might need.
Police officers receive training on how to deal with various situations, from mentally unstable individuals to armed criminals.
4. Safety orientation
Safety is the priority in any job, but this is especially true for police officers. They need to be able to assess and manage risk to protect both themselves and the public, as it’s not just about stopping crime but also about keeping everyone safe.
In addition, police officers may need to know how to operate emergency vehicles safely. They can acquire these and other skills through formal training programs or with on-the-job experience.
5. Problem-solving skills
When you’re a police officer, the job will constantly present you with new problems that you have to solve. For instance, when responding to the scene of an accident, the police officer must decide what steps to take and how best to respond.
They also need problem-solving skills when investigating a crime or interviewing witnesses. A good police officer can keep cool, stay calm under pressure and make sound decisions quickly in challenging situations.
6. Community awareness
Understanding the community in which you will work is essential to being a successful police officer. It includes knowing the demographics, the local businesses and the crimes that are most common in the area.
With this knowledge, you can better serve and protect the community. You will also know where to best allocate resources and time when needed.
7. Interpersonal communication
When you’re a police officer, you constantly interact with the public. You must communicate effectively, whether giving orders, mediating a dispute or talking to someone who’s upset.
For example, when police officers pull over drivers, they may need to deal with being yelled at or insulted, as no one wants to be stopped on the side of the road. It’s important for officers to remain calm in these situations and to clearly communicate the reason why the individual was pulled over.
There are many things to consider before joining the police force. A lot of work goes into this position, so you’ll need to properly prepare for it. Many people find that after they enter the workforce, they quickly decide that it is not what they want to do with their lives.
For this reason, you should research all of your options before deciding if this is something you want to pursue. Becoming a police officer should not be taken lightly, so make sure to learn all that you can about this line of work before deciding that it’s the career path for you.