The Pathway To Become A Police Officer
Law Enforcement is one of the most difficult and rewarding occupations available today. It provides safety and security to everyone within their communities. It provides employment to millions of people and it is a profession that demands respect. It demands respect because it is not easy. Law enforcement isn’t for everyone. It requires strength, endurance, loyalty, bravery, and passion. The rapper G-Eazy once said in his song “Eazy”, “if it was easy, everyone would do it.” Law Enforcement is the same way. It is hard for a reason. They want the best of the best.
One of the first steps to securing employment within an organization is getting some type of formal education through a college or a trade school. While many departments say they only require a high school diploma, it is advised that you have an Associate’s degree or Bachelor’s degree to not only set yourself apart, but to let your employer know that you are have taken the time to get a relevant degree in your desired field. The degree program that departments look for in new recruits is different for every department. However, the common trend tends to be an Associate’s degree or Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice or Law Enforcement. A formal college education is not always required though. People with military experience can sometimes bypass the college requirement depending on their military occupational specialty. If they were in some type of special military unit such as the NAVY Seals or the Marines, Law Enforcement agencies look very highly on these types of skillsets.
A college education whether it be an Associate’s degree, Bachelor’s degree, or even a Master’s degree, is that it provides you with the skills, knowledge, and experience that you need to go into your preferred field. You spend 2-6 years of your life after High School going to a higher education institution in order to prepare yourself for your first job. The purpose if your degree at the end is to prove to your employers that you are qualified. Someone can say anything they want on their resume about their individual skills, but it does not mean anything without proof. A diploma is proof that you know what you say you know. This is similar to when you take a test. A test is a way to prove what you know. Once you are hired and gain experience in your field, your diploma does not matter nearly as much and your main selling point during the another hiring process should be your prior job experience and skillsets.
After you have gone through to the very long and tedious hiring process that takes over six months, you will be sponsored by your police department to go to a police academy of their choice. Every state is different when it comes to how long the academy lasts and what they teach but in Illinois it lasts twelve weeks and that is where you learn everything you need to know to be the best officer you can be. The areas of study range from case law to firearms and vehicle training. The important of the police academy is to train new recruits to perform their jobs as enforcers of law as best as humanly possible. The things that recruits learn while in the police academy will follow them all the way through their careers. It is critical that new recruits learn everything they can and pass with flying colors to ensure that they will not be a liability while on the street working for their departments.
Once a recruit is hired, they are not given full authority to perform their duties on their own. They are required to perform their duties while in the presence of a more experienced officer. This is called a field training program. This more experienced officer is generally referred to as a field training officer. They accompany a newly hired officer to make sure they know what they are doing. Uncle Ben from Spider-Man had a very famous quote. “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Police officers have a lot a power due to their positions as extensions of the government. This kind of power must be wielded responsibly. A field training officer is there to make sure that the recruit can be trusted with this power. Once the field training officer is confident that his or her recruit is fit to patrol on his or her own, the recruit is free to do so. The field training program doesn’t have a set time span. It is decided on a case by case basis. Sometimes a field training program can last months while others can last years. It entirely depends on the new recruit’s performance in the field.
After a newly hired officer has gone through the field training program and successfully completed it, they can perform their duties on their own. However, the officer’s training doesn’t end there. In fact, the officer’s training never really ends, because they acquire new skills every single day. This is true in almost every field. Whether it be Information Technology, Law, Engineering, etc. Most people know more at the end of their careers than they did when they started simply due to gathering experience over time. Practice is everything. An officer will have a series of activities that he or she will perform daily. Traffic stops, radio communication, and interacting with the public to name a few. They will begin to get better and better to the point where they don’t even have to think about it anymore. For a brief period, I was a member of the Macomb Police Explorer Post and we were doing mock traffic stops. We had to use the radio to read the license plates and driver’s licenses using the phonetic alphabet. There was a very strict order that everything had to be performed in. I was having a very difficult time during this drill. My sergeant could do it without even thinking about it and I asked him how I could improve. He said, “practice is everything.” Law Enforcement is not for the faint of heart. It requires a strong will to stick with it and do what needs to be done. There are many steps to becoming a good officer. The process takes many years but at the end of the day it is worth it.
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