Police officers enforce criminal and traffic laws and protect citizens in their jurisdictions. Police officers may be employed at the local or state law enforcement level or work for the federal government as military police or as an agent with departments such as the FBI or DEA. Police work can be dangerous and requires the officer to face armed subjects and work long and irregular hours. Police officers must be at least 18 or 21 years old depending on the department. Many departments also have a maximum age limit. Specific qualifications vary and are determined by each department.
Police officers are expected to catch, restrain and arrest suspected criminals. Because of the physical aspect of this job, police officers are expected to have a high level of physical agility. All departments require applicants to pass a physical agility test prior to being hired on with the department. Common test elements include push-ups, sit-ups and a 1.5-mile run. Physical agility training is continued and enhanced during police training.
Education and basic knowledge
Police officers must possess at least a high school diploma or GED. College education may be required by some departments and the federal government. Police officers are required to pass a written civil service exam during the application process. This exam typically covers written comprehension, problem solving and questions about your work style and life experience. It is important that officers develop critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills in order to become a police officer.
Firearms and arrest techniques
Police officers are taught firearms skills and arrest and self-defence techniques during officer training. While officers are not required to have these skills before applying, prior training can be helpful and allow the officer to quickly pick up skills taught at the academy.
Driving techniques, including traffic stops and vehicle pursuits, are also skills taught in the academy during officer training. Officers are required to have basic driving skills and a valid state license prior to applying for a police officer position.
Law enforcement officers must possess a diverse group of personal skills and traits. Written and oral communication skills are vital for police officers to write clear reports, conduct interrogations and give witness and expert testimony in court. Police officers must also have strong problem solving and critical thinking skills as well as good judgment to evaluate situations and choose an appropriate course of action. Honesty and integrity are vital to law enforcement officers as their personal character is important in establishing them as credible witnesses in court.