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The Bare Minimums You Need to Know

Maybe you are just tossing around the idea of entering into law enforcement, and determining what you need to prepare for... well, here it is. The bare minimums you should know!

Welcome. I'm Lieutenant Skip. Today, in this episode with "Earn My Badge," we're going to be talking about the minimal requirements to become a police officer. Generally, these are going to be the same across departments throughout the nation; the states, the cities, and the counties. However, with that in mind, be cognizant of the department that you are looking at and what the requirements are. The first things that we're going to be talking about are the citizen, age, education, driver's license, and fitness aspects, and then we'll go into a couple of others.

For the citizenship requirement, keep in mind, there is one requirement and then a permanent residency. Generally, most departments are going to require their police officers to be U.S. citizens so you need to have that citizenship in hand when you apply. There will be some agencies out there that will accept you as a permanent resident. That is going to be department-specific and you'll need to take a look at each department to see what they will accept.

The next is the age requirement. Generally, most police departments will not allow you to be hired unless you are 21 years of age. There are some exceptions where you may be hired on as a cadet at 18 years old, or that you may submit your application when you are 20 but will be 21 by the time you enter an academy. That's just going to be one of those things that will be agency-specific. In general, most departments are looking at 21 years old. However, if you are at that 20-year-age mark, that 18, 19, 20-year timeframe, there are a lot of things that you can do from now to the time you submit your application to set yourself apart from the competition.

The next thing is the education requirement. Generally, you are going to need a high school diploma or a GED as a minimum. There'll be some departments that are going to require either an associate's degree or a four-year degree so that's something to keep in mind. Take a look at each one of the departments that you are applying to see what they require. There are different thoughts behind the process, but regardless of whether you have a Ph.D., a master's degree, a high school diploma, or just a GED, the characteristics that they're going to look at are: Can you communicate well? Can you engage with the public? Do you have that gift of gab? Are you approachable? Can you think? Can you process situations and articulate things? Those are the things that they're going to be looking at past the degree requirement.

The next thing will be the driver's license. You will need to have a driver's license that is valid. They're going to look at your driving history. A majority of your time is going to be spent driving a city-owned vehicle in inclement weather, in advanced situations where you may be involved in a pursuit, trying to respond code 10 to certain situations. Those all bring in liability for this city so they're going to look at your driving record. Do you have a history of speeding, reckless driving, DUIs? There are going to be some things that will take you out of the running and automatically that will disqualify you. Take a look at the department and see what they want. Generally, you at least need to have that valid driver's license.

The other aspect is fitness. You've got to have a certain level of fitness to be able to enter an academy. Generally, most academies or application processes will have a physical fitness component in there that will be part of the testing process. You can start now. Get in shape and work your way up if you have the time to do that. Each department will have its own dynamic that they look at for their physical fitness test. If you take a look at "Earn My Badge" and you go to our website under the 'Resources', you can see some of the things that are required by certain departments. We've got videos up there that you can take a look at to show you a wide variety. Some of them will be obstacle courses, some will be the mile-and-a-half run, maximum pushups, and sprints. Depending on the department, it will dictate how you prepare for that. Take a look so that you're aware and you have a goal in mind with that.

They're also generally the minimum requirements that they're going to look at, but there are so many more things that come into play. For instance, your background. Do you have a criminal history? What is that? Was it just a speeding ticket? Was it a simple assault, disturbance, trespass, or it wasn't something more significant? Understand that each state has a governing board that will establish certain criteria that will prevent people from becoming police officers. Meaning, if you have a conviction on any of these things, you will not be allowed to become a police officer in that state. Some of those are going to be domestic violence, sex assaults, aggravated assaults, things like that. Keep that in mind and take a look at what your background is.

I always recommend that people go to their state's Bureau of Investigation, whether that’s the Texas Bureau of Investigation, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Florida Bureau of Investigation. You can go to their website and pull up your criminal history. They'll send that to you. You pay a nominal fee, but at least you know what is on there. If there are any inaccuracies, you can start taking care of them now. It's not an easy or quick process, to say the least, but if this is something you want, regardless of whether you want to go in law enforcement or not, you want your background history to be accurate. You don't want things in there that are not accurate that could prevent you from other opportunities in the future. Take a look, go through that, see what it shows and if there are any inaccuracies. If there are, go through the process to fix it. With that, you will be able to see where you have things that might come into play with exemptions or things that may prevent you from becoming a police officer.

All of this that you will go through is with the goal of entering a police academy. That's going to be another video that will go into details about that. Essentially, you are going to go to a department that will host you through their own in-house academy. They will sponsor you through a post academy at maybe a community college or you're looking at trying to get your post-certification on your own and apply to different agencies. Again, all of this is with the goal of getting to a police academy. I hope this gives you a rough overview of the things that you need to look at if you start down this journey and you can start looking at putting things where they need to be or acquiring the material that you need.

If you have any questions, always feel free to hit me up on "Earn My Badge," and I wish you luck.

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