What is the law enforcement recruitment process?

If you’re interested in having a career in law enforcement, you probably want to investigate the law enforcement recruitment process. The outlook for jobs in law enforcement is good, with growth expected to maintain a rate of 10% in the next ten years, which is about the same rate as all jobs in the U.S.

Law enforcement recruitment, as with any job, depends on the size of the law enforcement force. As of the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics figures in 2008, there were 883,600 law enforcement officers and detectives employed in the U.S.  Roughly 79 % of these law enforcement personnel worked for local governments. About 11% were employed by state law enforcement agencies.  Most law enforcement officers and detectives working for local governments are employed in cities with populations of over 25,000.

Rural communities and towns with smaller populations employ an average of 25 or less law enforcement officers.  Law enforcement recruiting in these areas is very different than in cities with vast numbers of people and high crime rates.

Law enforcement recruitment is a multi-tiered process.  The first step for applicants is to fill out an application. Many law enforcement agencies only accept applications at certain times of the year, so make sure you get yours in within the designated amount of time. Include and other documentation requested by the department, such as a copy of your driver’s license or a birth certificate.  Failure to do so often results in the application being tossed out. If they request a resume, make sure you include that, too and ensure that it’s accurate and highlights your strengths, training, job history and employment goals. As with any resume, it should be typed with no errors such as misspellings or misuses of grammar.

Submitting your application is often the first impression you’ll make in the law enforcement recruitment process, so make sure you look professional when you drop it off.  You don’t have to wear a business suit, but look neatly dressed and well groomed.  On the other hand, many departments now only accept online applications, so if that’s the case, it isn’t an issue.

 If your application is accepted, the next step in law enforcement recruitment is to take a written test.  Often times these are civil service tests. Before you take the test, get a good study guide and test prep manual, which you can purchase either online or in bookstores. Make sure you get the study guide that pertains to the branch of law enforcement you’re applying to. A state law enforcement force test is different from a metropolitan law enforcement officer test. 

 If you pass the written test, law enforcement recruitment requires that you take a physical fitness test which will determine if you’re able to fulfill the physical requirements of the job. The test can require you to perform exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, running, jumping and climbing.  Because they want to test your ability to pursue a fleeing suspect, you’ll be expected to run an obstacle course. Most tests aren’t scored, but are graded pass/fail. To prepare for the test, find out what it will consist of and begin practicing those skills well in advance of testing.

If you complete all of these steps correctly with a passing grade, you’ve completed the law enforcement recruitment process.  The next step will be to enroll for training at a law enforcement academy.


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