Police Officer Training
General Requirements and Training
The specific qualifications for municipal or county patrol officers vary between states but most require that candidates be at least 20 years of age, hold a high school diploma, have a clean record and be in excellent mental and physical health. Examinations for police officer hopefuls includes intense physical fitness testing, mental health screening, vision and hearing tests, a lie detector test, background check, drug tests, and written exams.
In addition to the minimum requirements mentioned above, state law enforcement agents also must have a certain level of college education. Some states may require a BA, while others require a minimum of 60-semester credits or 90 quarter credits from an accredited college or university. In some cases, this educational requirement may be waived if the applicant has former military experience.
Once a candidate has met the basic requirements, formal training can begin. Police recruits usually attend a regional or state academy where they go through an intensive policing crash course usually lasting at least three months. Some larger city police departments have their very own training academy, like the renowned LAPD training academy (https://www.joinlapd.com/).
Training covers topics such as civil rights, state laws, and local laws, as well as hands-on training in self-defense, first aid, traffic control, firearms, and more.
Salary, Benefits, and Opportunities for Advancement
Uniformed police officers are well compensated for the difficult and dangerous work they perform. As of May 2018, municipal and county patrol officers earned $65,400 annually on average, with median annual earnings of $61,380 according to the US Government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). State government employees tend to earn more than those at the local level, thus state troopers can expect a higher salary.
These numbers do not include overtime pay, which usually adds a significant amount to police officer earnings. Benefits include health and dental plans, retirement savings, paid vacation time and sick leave. Paid job training is also a big plus in the law enforcement field and additional training can lead to promotions and increased pay.
There are fantastic opportunities for advancement for patrol officers. Promotions are usually determined by job performance, written examinations and the officer’s position on a promotions list. Advancement to more senior positions can include promotion to detective or investigator jobs, corporal, sergeant, lieutenant and captain.