By George Gaines
Becoming a Police Officer
This is the first article in my Police Officer series.
I will be writing from my experiences as a police officer. There may be instances when I include information that I receive from others experiences since, I still have long standing relationships with other active duty and retired law enforcement officers.
I hope you find these writings engaging and informative.
So you want to become a police officer? Do you have what it takes? The first thing I need to tell you is that this lifestyle is not for everyone. You noticed I called it a lifestyle, not a job or career...
The reason I call it a lifestyle is because being a police officer affects every facet of your life. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Let's start from the beginning...
- Police Officer
- Patrol/Squad Sergeant
- Field Training Supervisor
- Pressure Point (Uniformed Narcotics) Supervisor
- Narcotics Unit Supervisor
- Narcotics Enforcement Unit Supervisor
- Specially Deputized U.S. Marshall
- Detective Squad Commander
- Commanding Officer Community Relations Unit.
- Retired Sergeant
I think this qualifies me to write about this subject with authority.
You are going to find that some police jobs are better than others. For instance, in New York City, you become a police officer by passing a competitive written test. This means that based on your score and possibly a few other considerations, you will be placed on a list. Just because you are on the list does not mean you will get called. Getting on the list is just step one. If you scored high enough on the list, you will be put through the evaluation process. This means a character investigation, including criminal history, physical and medical tests, including psychological testing.
The investigators may go as far as visiting your neighbors to ask questions about you.
This process can take a year or more or depending on the needs of the service, it could go a bit more quickly.
If you pass these hurdles, you will be hired and sworn in as a police officer on day one. Then the training process begins.
In other places such as Orange County, Florida, where I live now, you would need to put yourself through the police training process at your own expense prior to applying for a job with a local police department. Then you would be put through the investigation and testing part of the process. Then you would receive additional training from the department you join as to policies and procedures.
This is a vast difference in terms of time and compensations. In NYC, you are paid from day one. In other places you may have to put out a lot of expense just to get a shot at applying. Also, in NYC, you are eligible for retirement at half pay after 20 years of service. In other places, you may have to work to age 55 with a certain amount of time in service to get retirement compensation.
I can guarantee you that you do not want to be a patrol cop at age 50.
Additionally, different jurisdictions offer vastly different pay scales including how sick time is offered. In NYC you get unlimited sick leave with the approval of the Medical Unit. Yes you get paid full pay when out sick. I once caught the chicken pox from my daughter. I was out for more than a month. It was totally non job related but because I still have a single lesion on my torso, they kept me out and paid me full pay. The only drawback to this is that you cannot leave your home or place of confinement without permission from the department. Yes they will come to your house to check on you.
The other thing you may want to consider are the policies of the governmental authority that you will be working for.
For instance, if a cop in New York City gets into a situation where he did everything right but got sued by someone, he would likely be provided with legal representation by the city and if found liable and hit with a civil payment to make, the city would make the payment for him or her. This is not the case in every jurisdiction.
Oh and by the way, your chances of getting sued are very high if you are doing your job.
Hopefully, you have enough information now to start looking at various police departments throughout the country and making a list of those that you would consider working for.
Next installment will be training: What to expect.