|Becoming a Police Officer
|An Insider's Guide
to a Career in Law Enforcement
|A Most Honorable
|Copyright © 2019 Barry M. Baker
Barry M. Baker retired
from the Baltimore Police
Department in 2004.
During his thirty-two year
career, Baker served as a
patrol officer, sergeant,
|and lieutenant, as well as a special
operations lieutenant and detective
lieutenant. Baker spent the first twenty
years of his career as a patrol officer,
making him uniquely qualified to speak
from a breadth and depth of experience.
|There are Five Indispensable Truths
for a Successful Police Career:
The Police Hiring Process
|Do you have a particular
police department in mind?
Let’s say you’re considering a police career with the
Baltimore Police Department. You Google, Baltimore
Police Department application process, and the first
Civil Service Test
Must be a U.S. citizen
Posess a valid driver’s full license
Must be 20 years of age and 9 months upon
beginning the academy
Must have a high school diploma or GED
Must be able to pass an extensive background check
Some police department websites offer more
information than others. Large police departments
are generally in a cycle of continual recruitment;
whereas, small police departments experience a
significantly lower rate of turnover. The small police
department may only direct you to submit a
generalized application that covers all local
government employment. If and when a police
position opens, your application will be on file.
Let’s break down the main components of the hiring
Civil Service Test – In my opinion, the civil service
test is not that difficult. If you have an average IQ,
and you received a reasonably good high school
education, this part of the hiring process should be
a mere formality.
However, I'm sure you've heard the phrase "famous
There is never any substitute for preparation.
Preliminary Interview – This is really important.
You must be totally honest with the interviewers.
You must not lie or obfuscate when answering any
questions put to you. Remember, you’ll still have a
background investigation to get through.
Background Investigation - Here’s a list of
background check subjects listed on the Baltimore
County Police Department’s website:
Criminal record and arrest history
Polygraph Examination – Some people really
freak out on this one. As long as you haven’t
withheld important information during your
interview, you shouldn’t have any problems with the
polygraph examination. You might like to read
about my experience with the polygraph. Believe
me; it’s all about the polygraph examiner.
Psychological Examination – No police
department wants to hire an individual with serious
psychological problems. Again, as long as you’re a
reasonably well adjusted person, you won’t have a
Physical Examination – You’ll undergo a physical
examination by a physician designated by the police
department. You should know going in if you have
a medical history which might disqualify you from
There are some police departments that require a
higher level of education than a high school diploma
or GED. Also, most Federal Law Enforcement
Agencies require a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree
for entry level hiring. I’ve gone into detail here
regarding education and how it will affect your hiring
and subsequent career advancement.
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The national average for police academy training is
21 weeks. Some will be shorter in duration with
others as much as 27 weeks. Figure on spending 6
months in classroom and practical training
Generally, you’ll commute daily for training. The
exception is state police academies which conduct
their training on a more military style model. For
example, if you’re attending the Massachusetts
State Police Academy, you’ll reside on site in a
dormitory and begin your day with a morning run at
5:30 am. Your classroom instruction will last until
8:00 pm. You will get personal time from 8 pm until
lights out at 9:30 pm. This will be your schedule
Monday thru Friday.
More police academies are providing college credits
for your classroom instruction. If you complete the
Maryland State Police Academy, you’ll have 45
college credits toward a degree. That’s a big deal
when you consider the cost of a four year degree.
This is something you should consider when
choosing a police department.
Each state has a commission for police training
standards or Police Officer Standards and Training
(POST). You can visit your state’s POST website to
learn the training requirements in your state.
|17 self-help articles to aid you in the
police hiring process
|This is a very clean and concise page with all the
important information to include: