December 01, 2010

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What is the police recruiting process?

The police recruiting process is dependent on the individual police force you’re joining. Each one has its own requirements, but there are some general rules that apply to all of them.

The education requirement is that you have a high school degree or an equivalent GED. Most police recruiting requires that you’re at least 21 years of age. If you’ve completed a police cadet program, which is a mentorship program for young men and women of the ages 16 through 20, you can then apply directly to become a police officer and will probably be bumped up on the list for placement above most other applicants. If you haven’t completed cadet training you’ll need to apply through the chosen law enforcement department with which you’re seeking employment.

Obviously, law enforcement agencies want the most qualified people to become members of their police force. If you have a degree in any of the law enforcement disciplines you’ll get bonus points in the police recruiting process.

First of all, determine if the police department with which you’re seeking employment is taking applications for officers. Most police departments have websites that list all of the job openings currently open.

If they are doing recruiting for police jobs, the next step is to fill out an application. The following steps in police recruiting vary with different law enforcement agencies, but generally speaking, this is how it works:

Once you’ve filled out an application and are deemed a qualified applicant, you’ll have an interview in which you’ll answer questions about your background, skills and goals. If after your interview the recruiter thinks you’re a good candidate to become a police officer, the next step in police recruitment is to complete a written test of your cognitive skills. This test gauges your ability to carry out the intellectual tasks necessary for being a law enforcement officer.

If you pass that test, the next step in the police recruiting process is to undergo a physical police fitness exam. This test gauges whether you have the physical stamina, strength and coordination to perform police functions like running, driving, overpowering unruly suspects and operating a firearm.

If you score well on the cognitive and fitness tests, you’ll then undergo a background investigation to see if you have any arrests, convictions or other infractions that would prevent you from being an officer. Some departments require that you take a polygraph test to see if you’ve been answering questions truthfully. The next step in police recruiting is to undergo a mental health evaluation to see if you have any psychological issues that would interfere with your police duties.

Generally, an applicant review committee in charge of police recruiting goes over your application and all of your test results to determine if they want you to continue to the next phase of the police recruitment process. If you’re chosen to continue, you’ll then take a civil service exam to gain entry into the police academy. If you pass the civil service exam, you’ll undergo a physical exam to gauge your overall health.

If you pass all of the above police recruiting procedures, you’ll be admitted to the police academy to begin training as a law enforcement officer. Your instruction will consist of a combination of classroom education and on the job training with a senior officer.

About the author

"Become a Cop" articles are intended to educate individuals interested in law enforcement careers about what it takes to join the force. These articles are written by PoliceOne staff members and PoliceOne contributors, and cover a wide range of topics from the basics on the different types of law enforcement careers to how to prepare for the police recruitment interview. If there's a topic you'd like to see covered, or are interested in writing for Become a Cop, email

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