Requirements to be a police officer

Requirements to be a police officer

This is a discussion on Requirements to be a police officer within the Law Enforcement, Military & Homeland Security Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; When it comes to the requirements to be a police officer, this might sound obvious but I would think it would depend on exactly what ...

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    Senior Member Array PhotonGuy's Avatar
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    Requirements to be a police officer

    When it comes to the requirements to be a police officer, this might sound obvious but I would think it would depend on exactly what kind of police officer you want to be as there are many different types of police officers. For instance, a regular patrol officer does not have the same kind of requirements as, say, a homicide detective or a vice officer.

    Being a detective in my opinion is one of the more fun and fascinating jobs in law enforcement although I would conclude that its more demanding than being a standard patrol officer. To be a detective you've got to be really smart so I would say it would be best to be a graduate from an ivy league college if you want to do that. At least from what I see in the movies and television detectives do carry sidearms concealed but they do not have a whole entire tool belt of weapons that includes not only a sidearm but also pepper spray, billy clubs, tasers, and so forth.

    Also, while Im quite sure a detective gets a higher salary than a standard patrol officer, I would still want to be independently wealthy if I am going to take on such a job.

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    During my law enforcement career I served on a foot beat, motorcycle patrol, automobile patrol, vice & narcotics officer, juvenile detective, property crimes detective, supervisory investigator, forgery & fraud investigator, and police chief.

    Looking back over the years I enjoyed walking a beat more than anything else, and working a patrol district (automobile patrol) as second best assignment. Assignment as a detective was just that, an assignment rather than a rank, and the pay was the same (based upon civil service rank, not assignment). Detectives are selected from the pool of experienced police officers with an emphasis on sound judgement, abilities in dealing with people effectively, and the ability to work with minimal supervision. In my experience it was unusual for anyone to be assigned as a detective until that officer had quite a few years on the job (by "quite a few" I mean 6-7 as a minimum, and more frequently 10 or more years).

    I was a Patrolman First Class when assigned to the detective bureau. If I were to be promoted above Patrolman First Class (to Sergeant) that would make me the junior sergeant, most likely to be reassigned to patrol or traffic division, and probably on the off shifts (nights). I saw several very good investigators turn down promotion just because it would be a difficult imposition on their family lives.

    My time as a juvenile detective had very little to do with shoplifting or other common juvenile problems. We caught all of the child neglect, child abuse, incest, and other such cases. Within 6 months I was an emotional basket case, begging to be sent back to patrol division.

    I later was appointed as an investigator in a state agency. I was responsible for about 1/3 of the land area of the state, on call 24/7. I became a supervisory investigator (overseeing several others), but that included assuming responsibility for the entire state area. I routinely travelled in-state 2 or 3 days per week, and out-of-state assignments were not uncommon, sometimes lasting several weeks at a time.

    In my years as a detective and investigator I usually had a caseload of 30 or more active cases at any given time. Never once did I have the luxury of working one case until it was finished before starting on something else. When answering phone calls or preparing for a follow-up interview I usually had to sit down and review a case file to re-familiarize myself with the incident before I could do anything productive. Reports and paperwork consumed at least half of my working time. I spent as much time sitting around courthouse hallways as I spent chasing bad guys or interviewing witnesses.

    I finished up as a small town chief. My guys always got their vacations, sick leave, etc, but usually with me filling their shifts while they were gone. In nearly 7 years I never had 2 days off in a row, and frequently worked one to four months without a day off.

    Every department is different. There is no standard rule for any agency. The experiences of others are likely to be far different from my own.

    Nothing, repeat NOTHING was ever as portrayed on television or in the movies.

    If I had it to do all over again I would remain a patrolman, preferably working nights and weekends when the bosses and politicians weren't around all the time.

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    VIP Member Array 5lima30ret's Avatar
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    I held most all of the positions you listed up to Watch Commander. I enjoyed most of the positions through Sgt. Everything past Sgt was quite a bit of aggravation and not near as enjoyable for me. BTW, most agencies Detective is a just a position with the same pay as patrol or in some cases less if you factor in overtime. I worked with one Detective who had (2) masters degrees from a very expensive university who wasn't worth a nickel as a detective. OTOH, I worked with another Detective who had been a Marine assigned to embassy duty who only had a H/S diploma and he one of the best Detectives I ever worked with. As far as pay goes we had patrol Sgt.'s that made more $$$$ than Deputy Chief's because they were hourly w/ lots of overtime. Most managerial positions in Police Departments and Sheriff's Offices are salary w/ no overtime. Just my .02 worth!
    Retired Police Lieutenant, Former UH-1N Huey & MH-53 Pave Low Gunner, Retired USAF Reserve, Glock Armorer, AL Retired LEO CPP, NRA Certified Pistol Instructor, LEOSA Qualified, Active FOP Executive Board Member

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    VIP Member Array OldVet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhotonGuy View Post
    To be a detective you've got to be really smart so I would say it would be best to be a graduate from an ivy league college if you want to do that.
    Perhaps you do not understand the difference between being "smart" and being "educated." I know several persons with a wall full of diplomas who are dumber than dirt when it comes to any level of common sense. A good detective needs to be smart. Having a head full of Ivy League philosophy is not the smarts that takes.
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    Senior Member Array KILTED COWBOY's Avatar
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    A good detective needs the experience of a beat cop.
    My father was a homicide detective after he learned his trade and proved his skills.
    My father did not graduate high school.
    Had to quit when his dad died.
    Fought in the pacific came back and worked as a cop.
    Got his GED in the late Ď70s because he just wanted to.
    I do not believe a detective needs an Ivy League education to be a good one.
    Street smarts and investigative skills are a must.
    You prove that by your time in uniform

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    VIP Member Array Bad Bob's Avatar
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    When it comes to the requirements to be a police officer, this might sound obvious but I would think it would depend on exactly what kind of police officer you want to be as there are many different types of police officers. For instance, a regular patrol officer does not have the same kind of requirements as, say, a homicide detective or a vice officer.
    How so? A regular patrol officer as you put it either initiates investigations to determine criminal activity based upon personal observation, citizen complaint or responds to calls for service. The call you roll up on usually has very little to do with the call your were dispatched on. I know you meant no disrespect, but most departments require a college degree. Detective slots usually require several years street experience and testing.

    Being a detective in my opinion is one of the more fun and fascinating jobs in law enforcement although I would conclude that its more demanding than being a standard patrol officer.
    Can be interesting but you also delve into the souls of the truly depraved., VS as a street cop you merely interact with people during the worst of times. I found them both to be interesting and stimulating, the difference was being in uniform you do all the real work.

    To be a detective you've got to be really smart so I would say it would be best to be a graduate from an ivy league college if you want to do that.
    To be a good cop you have to be really smart, and lucky, to survive. Ivy league school? surely you jest....Anyone with that kind of money ain't gonna be a cop.

    At least from what I see in the movies and television detectives do carry sidearms concealed but they do not have a whole entire tool belt of weapons that includes not only a sidearm but also pepper spray, billy clubs, tasers, and so forth.
    Please don't confuse movies with real life.

    Also, while Im quite sure a detective gets a higher salary than a standard patrol officer, I would still want to be independently wealthy if I am going to take on such a job.
    Most departments it is the same pay as a patrol corporal/detective. Feds, an ICE investigator makes the same as a Border Patrol Agent.
    A man has got to know his limitations.

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    Member Array Goldstar225's Avatar
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    I'm afraid that your perceptions of police work and investigations are horribly skewed by television and movies. That's OK, you're not alone. We had many apply who thought that they could hire in and go straight to investigations. That's simply not true. With extremely rare exceptions everyone starts out as a street officer. Some do eventually get selected to be investigators based upon an established track record of quality work and demonstrated ability some are picked for who they know and who is grooming them.

    I spent the majority of my career in patrol with a three year stint as a supervisor in investigations. I had my own case load as well, averaging 25 open cases at a time for about 250 cases a year. I made Lieutenant and was sent back to patrol as a shift commander.

    As far as investigations being more demanding, not necessarily

    Most investigations are nose to the grindstone putting pieces together. Some of the easiest cases to solve were homicides. I know and have worked with detectives who were superb and others who were adequate. I've also had the pleasure to work with officers in patrol who were brilliant who had no desire to leave the street, some of them who were better cops than I was who I respect and admire to this day. My preferred position was on the street.

    The guy on the street has to have ability. Not to speak poorly of investigators but a street officer often has to sort things out and solve problems in minutes or a couple of hours while the investigator has days, weeks or months to work his case. A quality patrol officer can do much to make an investigators job easier by his or her actions on the initial call. In short, you need capable people in both roles.

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    Senior Member Array KILTED COWBOY's Avatar
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    A detectiveís job fun and fascinating.
    My dad said most of the time the job was mind numbing boring.
    Stake outs going through past files,especially before computers
    Nothing like the cop shows on TV and the movies.
    Dad used to say
    200 hours of boredom ending in 2 minutes of excitement
    rocky, Bad Bob, airslot and 9 others like this.

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    VIP Member Array OldChap's Avatar
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    Some great answers here from some experienced brothers. My experience was in some ways unique and different, and in a lot of ways exactly the same. Just a few notes from my chair:

    Being a police officer is one of the most difficult professions on earth. To be sure there are times of great joy and satisfaction, but there are also times that no human should ever have to experience. There are moments of terrifying fear, and mind-numbing hours of sheer boredom. There are sights that make you proud, and there are sights that are so revolting that many years later they are relived in dreams.

    There is a camaraderie that is only matched by soldiers in combat, but there is a separation and loneliness from non-police friends, and especially your family. Police officers and firefighters experience more marital difficulties than any other profession. It is hard for a wife and children to watch daddy/mommy leave for the shift knowing they might never see him/her again. It is heartbreaking being on the other side of that equation too. It is one of the few jobs where the standard answer to the simple question asked of the officer coming in after a long day, "Hi honey, how was your day" is almost always answered, "Fine"...which is a usually a lie. You simply dare not tell those not involved in police work what you saw today.

    The job generates a tenderness of heart most people never experience, and yet at the same time it creates a hardness and callousness that slowly eats away at the goodness inside you. That terrible combination made my task infinitely more difficult. I needed a lot of help from the One who watched over all of us every day. Sometimes I won, sometimes I didn't.

    In all this, the greatest lie on the planet is the notion that anyone can adequately describe police work on TV or in a movie. Being a good police officer comes neither with high education, tough training, or vast experience. In my experience it comes from a sense of calling. What is the expression? "It's not a job...it's an adventure." One of the few that brings such great rewards.
    Last edited by OldChap; November 10th, 2019 at 09:12 PM.
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    Senior Member Array KILTED COWBOY's Avatar
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    My dad was always good at separating the job from family life.
    If you didnít know what he did for a living, you never would have guessed homicide detective.
    It wasnít until I was in my 20ís that my dad started telling me about his experience in the Navy and on the police department.
    Before that he was just DAD.

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    Senior Member Array DownInTheDark's Avatar
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    Out here you get to do it all. The PD I work for has 3.5 people.

    If something major happens the state can send resources.

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    Senior Member Array PhotonGuy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldVet View Post
    Perhaps you do not understand the difference between being "smart" and being "educated." I know several persons with a wall full of diplomas who are dumber than dirt when it comes to any level of common sense. A good detective needs to be smart. Having a head full of Ivy League philosophy is not the smarts that takes.
    You might be talking about the difference between book smarts and world smarts. Somebody with a wall full of diplomas is very book smart. Somebody with good judgement and good common sense as you point out has good world smarts. Yes it is possible to be very book smart and not have much world smarts. I would think a good detective would have to have good world smarts and to some extent good book smarts too.
    M1911A1 likes this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhotonGuy View Post
    You might be talking about the difference between book smarts and world smarts. Somebody with a wall full of diplomas is very book smart. Somebody with good judgement and good common sense as you point out has good world smarts. Yes it is possible to be very book smart and not have much world smarts. I would think a good detective would have to have good world smarts and to some extent good book smarts too.
    Interesting. The OP starts a thread with a premise, followed by multiple responses that generally chew that premise to little pieces of nonsense, then the OP chooses to respond in a bit of a lecturing manner.

    Keep watching TV dramas and cop movies. Don't trouble yourself with a career in a field that you already know more about than those who have been there and done that.

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    Senior Member Array SFury's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhotonGuy View Post
    You might be talking about the difference between book smarts and world smarts. Somebody with a wall full of diplomas is very book smart. Somebody with good judgement and good common sense as you point out has good world smarts. Yes it is possible to be very book smart and not have much world smarts. I would think a good detective would have to have good world smarts and to some extent good book smarts too.
    Book smarts are of limited value outside of the very specific material they pertain to.

    Common sense is something that people have, or don't have. Having basic common sense goes a long ways towards having good problem solving skills. You also need basic people skills. Understanding people, and seeing the world for what it is, allows you to problem solve. Overloading yourself with book smarts means you might be pushing out important basic skills.

    I work in the educational system. In this environment, most of the top admin are very book smart. Very stupid people oftentimes outside of those specific skills. There are some exceptions, but not enough to make me want any Ivy league educated person as a boss. The opposite is quite true.

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    Senior Member Array PhotonGuy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SFury View Post
    Book smarts are of limited value outside of the very specific material they pertain to.

    Common sense is something that people have, or don't have. Having basic common sense goes a long ways towards having good problem solving skills. You also need basic people skills. Understanding people, and seeing the world for what it is, allows you to problem solve. Overloading yourself with book smarts means you might be pushing out important basic skills.

    I work in the educational system. In this environment, most of the top admin are very book smart. Very stupid people oftentimes outside of those specific skills. There are some exceptions, but not enough to make me want any Ivy league educated person as a boss. The opposite is quite true.
    Good point, and good response.

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