The selection and training of a police officer is a long and arduous process. As law enforcement officers, it is imperative that only the best and brightest of the available candidates (those who can do the job right) are allowed the authority and responsibility that being a police officer entails. The skills that such a qualified candidate would learn through their subsequent training and career development would see them through to a long life in law enforcement and beyond. In this paper, we will elaborate more on the training process, selection process, and career development programs involved in becoming a police officer.
The qualifications for entry into the police officer training program are many; according to the Department of Justice, a police recruit must be a legal citizen of the United States, have at least a high school education, be of adequate physical and mental health, have no criminal record and a valid driver’s license, among other requirements. When an application is made to the police department, there are many tests that must be taken in order to be proven mentally and physically sound for the program (Louisville, 2011).
First, a physical agility test is administered in order to see how strong and agile the candidate is. Next, an oral examination and written exam follows, which is meant to assess the candidate’s reaction to a given police situation. Once they are made eligible from these preliminary steps, they are interviewed by the Chief of Police in order to determine suitability. A credit report and background check is run to ensure no red flags are on the candidate, and a polygraph examination follows. In this, their community service, job experience, education and other factors are investigated and subject to review. After a medical and psychological evaluation, they are free to be selected for training (Louisville, 2011).
When a police recruit is selected, they begin the training process, where they attend a police academy and takes classes on law enforcement basics and intermediate knowledge, equipping them for the police information and tactics used in the field. This includes firearms training, physical fitness, first aid, patrol operations and the like. Once they pass the academy, they move on to field training. This involves a small degree of field work in order to determine whether or not they are suitable candidates for officer status in a real and tangible sense (Louisville, 2011).
In this probationary field period, an officer candidate will be trained by a number of different officers, who they ride with on patrol for up to 24 weeks. A variety of work shifts and duties will be assigned to them to determine their true strengths. These Police Training Officers will then judge them during this trial period on the basics of being a police officer, including the administrative and physical work required. After that, if the PTOs so desire, it is possible to give the probationary officer a solo ride shift for 28 weeks. This leads to 52 total weeks of field training; after that point, it is decided whether or not to keep the officer on in a more permanent way (Louisville, 2011).
The career development of a police officer is extremely important – their individual personal growth and development is dependent on what they specialize in, and whether or not a career in law enforcement can address their individual needs. As a result, career development provides a means to focus personal goals through the lens of their career, allowing officers to do what they want to do with the job. This results in making an organization more effective and its officers more equipped to handle the challenges of their specific career focus (Merchant, 1999).
Besides becoming a regular police officer, there are quite a few specializations that can be emphasized in order to focus one’s career more steadily in a law enforcement context. Learning where and how to develop one’s career in law enforcement is a unique challenge that every prospective officer faces. Many of these officers start out on patrol – running a car through a community and dealing with emergency situations. This field experience would allow them to branch out into several different areas, including K-9 units, SWAT teams and other mobile response units. Other specializations include hostage negotiation, narcotics, juvenile officers, and operations. If an officer works for a state police department, they have a wider array of specializations to choose from, including helicopter piloting to ballistics and forensics.
There are many different ways to specialize.
Often, detective work will be a specialization that an officer will go into. There are departments that permit officers to conduct investigations on their own, dealing with evidence and solve crimes. On the other side of the coin, their career can develop into a more administrative position, wherein the logistics and human resources components of the police force are addressed, such as booking, evidence, and public relations. They may even move up into supervisory positions, where they manage the entire department or division and oversee the general operation of their jurisdiction. Career development programs are meant to provide officers with the tools that they need in order to lead their units in the field. Programs such as the Law Enforcement Supervisor Leadership Training Program (LESLTP) give potential squad leaders and other supervisors experience and education in leadership skills in a supervisory position (“LESLTP”, 2011).
Eventually, their career development path will lead them to retirement, wherein they can leverage their existing police experience into jobs in other fields; they retire with a generous pension that provides workable income for the retired officer and their family. Jobs in the public security and private investigation industries are not uncommon for retired police officers; they gained the skills to perform these jobs through what they experienced as a member of law enforcement.
The training of a police officer is extremely important, and leaves the officer with a skill set that can carry them through their career and all throughout their life. The selection process involves ensuring that only the best and most prepared individuals even begin the steps toward becoming a police officer. The training process hones those skills, and permits these individuals to learn what they need to know in order to be effective law enforcement officers. Beyond that basic training, they can expand their canon of knowledge into specializations, achieve promotions, and eventually retire with skills they can use in other jobs after that, if they so desire.
Law Enforcement Supervisor Leadership Training Program (LESLTP). (2011). Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. Retrieved August 31, 2011, from http://www.fletc.gov/training/programs/law-enforcement-leadership-institute/law-enforcement-supervisor-leadership-training-program-lesltp
Louisville Metro Police. (2011). Police recruit application and selection process – Louisville Metro Police merit board. City of Louisville, 1, 1-5.
Merchant, R. (1999). The role of career development in improving organizational effectiveness and employee development. Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 1, 1-12.