The paper is aimed to explore the process of becoming a police officer. In particular, it is focused on two stages of the development which are recruitment and training programs. Recruitment is further divided into six types of examination which are written exam, interview, psychological and medical examination, investigation of a background and record check, polygraph exam, and assessment center. The paper also provides information about training programs which are essential for becoming a police officer. In general, it stresses that the process of joining a police agency is difficult and time-consuming activity.
It is commonly known fact that many people believe a career in policing to be a romantic adventurous activity. Indeed, people associate officers with justice fighters and protectors. These individuals are regarded as representatives of high moral standards. Hence, this career path seems alluring for a vast majority of people. However, while deciding to join the police, recruiters seldom realize how difficult it will be to pass successfully all the exams and go through all phases of training process and stages of career development. In general, the candidate passes through two stages of the development – recruitment and training prior to moving to the work.
The process of becoming a police officer is usually time-consuming and requires an applicant to spend at least six months, proving his/her appropriateness for this position. Recruitment comprises seven obligatory stages which are written and physical agility exams, oral interview, psychological and medical exams, investigation of a background and record check, polygraph examination, and estimation in the assessment center (Haar, 2005, p.166). Written exam is intended to determine whether an applicant meets minimum requirements in comprehension of reading and vocabulary as well as problem-solving and analytical skills which are also essential for this activity. Although the aim of a written exam remains unchanged, its content may vary in regard to a community that defines which of the skills are significant for a policeman (Haar, 2005, p.168). The second stage that is physical agility examination is an important constituent which helps to measure the physical strength of an applicant and decide whether he/she corresponds to the requirements of a community. Physical strength is generally measured with the help of the activities such as sit-ups, pushups, and long-distance running. The results achieved allows for measuring the level of cardiovascular strength. The third stage requires candidates to participate in oral interview which is carried out with the help of a panel of professionals, including not only a police agency but also representatives of civil service, citizens of a community, personal from human resource department, and police executives. The purpose of this phase is to define why a candidate wants to obtain the position in policing in general and this agency in particular and decide whether he/she corresponds to the requirements of this position or not. Moreover, an applicant may be asked to give a response to a hypothetical situations and questions about criminal code. Medical and psychological test is the fourth phase of the recruitment process. These tests allow agencies to get information about health condition of a candidate (Haar, 2005, p.169). In general, such examination includes audiograms, test of pulmonary function, chest x-ray, cardiopulmonary stress examination, vision test, and electrocardiogram. These tests are additional to regular annual examination of overall condition of a police officer`s health condition. During the fifth stage, the credit, driving, and criminal records of an applicant are carefully examined. In addition, the representatives of the agencies conduct a background check which presupposes telephone communication with former employers, teachers, neighbors, relatives, and personal references. Polygraph examination, the sixth component of recruitment process, checks the information given with the help of polygraph. However, due to the fact that this operation is expensive, many police agencies have abandoned it. Finally, the candidates that have successfully passed through six previous stages move on to the last stage which is evaluation in assessment centers (Haar, 2005, p.170). During the final stage, the applicants are asked to participate in situation exercise, imagining that they have become police officers. Such activities are necessary to evaluate the applicants` communication skills, an ability to work in team, and a capacity to communicate effectively with public.
If the recruitment phase has been passed by a candidate, he/she will join training session which, in turn, consists of three stages such as PTA Program (Police Training Academy), FTO Program (Filed Training Officer)/ PTO (Police Training Officer), and eventually in-service training program. The first program, PTA, is intended to make the cadets understand the purpose of their service, what the society expect from them as police workers, and how their work should be conducted. On the average, the first training program last 19 weeks and implies both practical (training) and theoretical (classroom) components. During theoretical course, the cadets get knowledge about criminal and constitutional laws, cultural diversity, mediation and conflict management, community policing tendencies, report writing skills, and ethics. Physical training, in turn, includes such areas as firearm and self-defense skills, fitness and health training, patrol, investigation, first aid skills, and emergency vehicle activities (Haar, 2005, p.172). The PTO/FTO programs are developed to allow the cadets to implement in real-life situation all the skills and knowledge and they have gained during the previous course. FTO program also helps to define who will be capable of functioning effectively as officer. FTO includes four main phases which are introductory course during which cadets study policy and procedure of the exact agency; training and assessment phases during which recruits are given more complex tasks; the final phase which requires the recruit to perform independently (Haar, 2005, p.173). PTO program, on the other hand, is intended to help cadets to develop problem-solving capacity, critical thinking, and teamwork skills.
Finally, in-service training takes place after the police officers have successfully accomplished the goals of academy, FTO, and PTO training programs. During in-service stage, they are focused on a particular field which may be computers, problem-solving skills, equipment, domestic violence, investigation of crime scenes, etc (Haar, 2005, p.175). On the average, the final program lasts 36 hours, but this duration may vary according to the unique requirements of the agency.
In closing, it is necessary to say that to become a police officer is an extremely time-consuming activity which requires its applicants to use every effort to accomplish this goal. However, after six months of uncertainty, those candidates who have waded through, will join the police agency and proudly serve as sentinels of justice.
- Haar, R. (2005). Factors affecting the decision of police recruits to “drop out” of police work. Police Quarterly, 8 (4), 165-177.