Do you want every day to different and somewhat unpredictable? Do you have a strong desire to protect others? The job of a police officer includes keeping the peace, enforcing laws, protecting people and property and investigating crimes. Police officers are expected to respond to a wide variety of situations, some of which can be life threatening making this an often dangerous job.
Due to the responsibility, physically demanding, stressful and dangerous nature of the job, taking the required steps to become a police officer is not a decision you should make lightly. In the state of Florida the following are required to become a certified police officer. You must meet the minimum qualifications (listed below), pass a Commission-approved Basic Abilities Test (BAT) prior to entering a basic recruit training program, complete the required basic training, upon successful completion of training pass the State Officer Certification Exam (SOCE), and finally become employed as an officer within four years of completing the Basic Recruit Training Program. The most difficult step is of course being accepted into and making your way through the police academy.
Before Being Selected
There are qualifications that you must meet prior to being selected into the police academy in Florida. Individuals must:
- Be at least 19 years old
- Be a United States citizen
- Have earned a high school diploma or equivalent (GED)
- Never have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor involving perjury or false statement
- Never have been dishonorably discharged from the military
- Be fingerprinted
- Pass a physical exam
- Have good moral character as determined by a rigorous background investigation
If you meet all of the above requirements you will then go through orientation. During orientation you will be given an overview of the entire pre-employment process and you will meet the person responsible for conducting your background investigation. The pre-employment process includes a number of exams to assess your ability to fulfill the duties required of a police officer as well as a background questionnaire. The exams include a civil service exam, medical, physical fitness and psychological evaluations, as well as written tests and a polygraph. With regard to the questionnaire, be honest! Integrity is a very important quality for a police officer to have and they are going to dig hard into your past to ensure that you have told the truth.
The results of these tests are then combined with the results of a personal interview where you will be assessed on your ability to respond to common police scenarios. These scenarios are based on things that can happen in the daily life of a police officer. You will be required to verbally go through your background to ensure that it matches up with your written background questionnaire. The evaluators will judge you on your responses and how you respond – your demeanor – to ensure that you are a suitable candidate for the academy.
Acceptance to the Academy
Maxine Denegall, with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), verified that “any person who wants to become a sworn officer in Florida has to complete an academy at one of the FDLEs Commission-approved training schools.” There are 37 Commission-approved training schools in Florida. The fee to attend an academy will vary depending upon which training school you select. All academies have to teach at least the minimum hours required by the FDLE. For Law Enforcement Officers the minimum hours required is 770.
Once testing has been completed, candidates selected to go through the police academy are informed and given the date and time of their first class. “The academy’s curriculum is created by our training section for use at all of the schools”, says Denegall. Classroom instruction includes constitutional law, civil rights, state laws, and local ordinances. Recruits also receive training and supervised hands-on experience in patrolling, traffic control, emergency response, first aid, firearm training and self-defense.
In a report provided by Denegall, of those who are accepted into basic training, 84.7% pass and become eligible to take the SOCE to become certified police officers.
A challenging career in a fast-paced environment, becoming a police officer can be potentially dangerous, but for the right person can provide satisfaction knowing that you are helping others and making your community a safer place.
Aside from rank, the wage you earn as a police officer will also depend upon the location where you are employed. Officers working in larger cities will typically earn more than those employed in small rural towns. The chart below shows entry level salary for police officers in select cities in Florida.
As a new officer on the force you can expect to work weekends, holidays and nights. As you gain experience and rank you will typically receive preference with regard to your work schedule – however, keep in mind that police officers work around the clock so your shifts can fall anywhere within a day, early morning, daytime or night.