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Demands of Police Officer Jobs
Copyright 2013 by Aurelio Locsin
Police officers have higher-than-average rates of injuries and illness, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They often confront angry or dangerous individuals who may be intent on doing harm to themselves and others. The dangers from this highly stressful work can be minimized through proper procedures and by ensuring that officers meet tough physical and emotional demands.
The minimum educational requirement for police officer jobs is typically a high school education or GED. However, some agencies, especially at the federal level, require college coursework or a bachelor’s degree. Applicants must be at least 21 years old, be U.S. citizens and have a driver’s license. They must also pass a background check, physical fitness test, a medical exam, and a written exam. In large urban agencies, knowing a foreign language can be an asset. Candidates may need to undergo oral interviews and show good moral character by taking lie detector tests. Felony convictions or misdemeanor domestic violence convictions can be grounds for disqualification.
Recruits spend several weeks training for their demanding jobs primarily through paramilitary police academies, which are administered by the hiring agencies. The academy at the Los Angeles Police Department, for example, takes six months to complete. In classrooms, recruits learn report writing, civil rights, municipal does, federal law, ethics, investigation techniques, booking procedures and traffic investigations. Hands-on training includes firearms training, self-defense, first aid, tactics and human relations. Because good health is necessary for handling the job, recruits go through physical training everyday to improve strength and endurance.
Several personal qualities and skills are necessary to meet the demands for police officer jobs. Empathy is necessary for seeing the points of view of victims, suspects, legal professionals and other officers. Balancing this is good judgment so they can determine the best course of action among many options. Communication skills are vital to receiving instructions from superiors, for explaining investigation and for expressing enforcement details to the public. Officers may deal with several things at once, such as questioning suspects while writing a ticket and investigating a crime, so the ability to multi-task is necessary. Finally, officers must show the leadership to affect large groups of people, such as crowds at crime scenes or subordinate officers.
The BLS expects jobs for police officers to increase by 7 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is half the 14 percent projected for all jobs in all industries. Employment is affected by government budgets and is expected to remain competitive at the state and federal level. Those with bachelor’s degrees and knowledge of a second language, or military experience, will find the most opportunities. As of May 2011, police officers earned a mean $56,260 per year, or $27.05 per hour. The biggest employers were local, state and federal governments, with state governments showing the best average wages of $60,650 yearly, or $29.16 hourly.
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