Police Officer

Police Officer

A police officer is a person responsible for enforcing laws, protecting citizens, and maintaining public order within a municipality. Police officers can be found in nearly every city and town across the country. They may be employed by state or local governments, private agencies, or a combination thereof. The duties of a police officer are varied. They include patrolling assigned areas on foot or in a vehicle; responding to calls for service; writing reports; investigating traffic accidents; making arrests; conducting community outreach programs; testifying in court proceedings; providing emergency assistance to citizens in need; and apprehending criminals.

In addition to the urgent response required for emergencies and public safety incidents, police officers are also responsible for taking proactive steps to prevent criminal activity from occurring in their jurisdictions. This may involve proactively identifying potential criminal elements and their activities as well as increasing physical visibility through foot patrols and bike patrols. Police officers often collaborate with other law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, to develop intelligence-based strategies that can prevent crime before it occurs. Police officers are expected to maintain strong working relationships with members of their communities, which requires excellent communication skills and strong interpersonal abilities. They must stay abreast of current laws and regulations governing their jurisdictions — including those related to civil rights issues — and uphold them when necessary. Furthermore, they must remain alert at all times while on duty and not hesitate to take action if an incident develops quickly or unexpectedly.

A Role with Many Responsibilities

Police officers must have an understanding of law enforcement principles such as criminal justice procedures, evidence handling protocols, search-and-seizure rules, firearms safety regulations, applicable state laws, first aid techniques, defensive tactics training, interviewing methods for suspects/witnesses/victims/etc., crime scene investigation techniques (e.g., fingerprinting), etc. In addition to these technical skillsets (which vary depending on the particular jurisdiction), police officers must also possess certain character traits associated with the role such as honesty, integrity, sound judgment under pressure, dedication to public service values (such as impartiality), service-oriented mentality towards citizens’ needs/concerns/questions/etc., respect for others’ rights even during difficult situations (such as arrests), etc.

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Basic Requirements

In order to serve as a Peace Officer, there are specific requirements that are often established by the Police Officer Standards & Training Council for each state.

Online Application and Initial Screening

The hiring process begins with candidates submitting an online application, which typically includes their personal information, education, and work experience. The agency will then go through an initial screening process to ensure that the applicants meet the minimum qualifications for the position, such as age, education, and citizenship status requirements.

Written Examination

Candidates who pass the initial screening will then be invited to take a written examination to assess various skills and aptitudes, such as critical thinking, decision-making, memory recall, and report writing. This will help ensure that the candidates have the foundational knowledge necessary for success in a law enforcement career.

Physical Fitness Test

To ensure that candidates have the requisite physical abilities to perform their duties, they will have to successfully complete a physical fitness test. This test may include events such as running, push-ups, sit-ups, and other exercises that assess stamina, strength, and agility.

Oral Board Interview

After successfully completing the previous steps, candidates will be invited for an oral interview with agency representatives. This is a critical opportunity for both the agency and the candidate to assess their compatibility and for the candidate to demonstrate their interpersonal skills, problem-solving abilities, and commitment to law enforcement. In many cases, if an applicant successfully passes the oral board, they may be issued a conditional offer at this stage.

Background Investigation

Law enforcement agencies conduct thorough background investigations on candidates to ensure that they possess the moral character and integrity needed for the job. The investigation may include interviews with family, friends, neighbors, employers, and others who can provide insight into the candidate's character. Additionally, candidates may be subjected to credit checks, driving record reviews, and criminal history checks.

Psychological Evaluation

To assess a candidate's emotional and mental stability, they may undergo a psychological evaluation. This process may include interviews with a Psychologist or Psychiatrist, as well as written tests that assess personality traits and mental stability. In most cases, the Psychologist or Psychiatrist will have access to the details of the background investigation.

Polygraph Examination

Many agencies require a polygraph examination to verify the truthfulness of the information provided by candidates during the application process. This step aims to detect any omission or falsification of information, which could disqualify an applicant from the law enforcement profession.

Medical Examination

Candidates must pass a comprehensive medical examination to ensure that they are in good health and physically capable of performing the demanding tasks associated with law enforcement work. The examination includes vision and hearing tests, as well as a thorough assessment of their overall medical condition.

Academy Training

Upon a final offer of employment, having successfully satisfied the requirements of the hiring process, successful candidates will attend an agency-sponsored training academy. Some agencies require their officers to participate in a field training program prior to the academy. Other agencies require the candidates complete the academy before starting their field training program. This structured program provides extensive academic, physical, and practical training on the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for a career in law enforcement.

Probationary Period & Field Training Program

After graduating from the academy, new officers will enter a probationary period, working under the supervision of experienced colleagues. This phase allows officers to practically apply their training on the job and provides the agency with an opportunity to evaluate their performance and readiness for independent duty. This timeframe can vary between 12 months all the way to 24 months.


Not all police departments will have specialized units, and the availability of these assignments may vary depending on the size, needs, and resources of the specific law enforcement agency. The steps in the hiring process vary and range from different agencies. For the most accurate information, please contact the agency directly and obtain the information from the agency regarding the exact steps in the hiring process.

Explore Opportunities in Law Enforcement

Police Officer Opportunities

Police departments have specialized units and capabilities available to them.
  • K9: Handling police dogs for tracking, drug detection, search, and apprehension.
  • SWAT: Deployed for high-risk situations, including hostage rescue and armed confrontations.
  • Detective: Investigating serious crimes and complex cases.
  • Narcotics: Investigating drug-related offenses and combating drug trafficking.