HOW DO I BECOME A POLICE OFFICER?
One of the most frequently asked questions of a chief of police is, “How do I become a police officer?”
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer, and it is very important that individuals continue to ask the question.
Although requirements and procedures are constantly changing and individual police departments have their own requirements, this basic procedure assumes that you meet all of those physical, psychological, and moral requirements and addresses the “mechanics” generally available for entry into a police department.
In the South Jersey area, there are generally two circumstances under which police departments hire new officers:
Anticipated Openings / Unanticipated Openings
“Anticipated openings” are the most desirable and most uncommon. When a municipality increases its workforce authorization for a police department effective for a particular date, an anticipated opening occurs.
Prior to that date, the department would initiate its applicant screening process, and after the selection is made, the applicant would be appointed by council and sworn as an officer, and, of course, he/she would be scheduled for the police academy where he/she will receive training for approximately 20 weeks. Generally, this is a paid, full-time status, and the officer is a member of the respective police department.
“Unanticipated openings” are the most common and most undesirable. An unanticipated opening happens when a vacancy exists in a police department for any number of reasons. Since the majority of police departments do not have an excess of police officers, the shortage of even one officer can often result in overtime, or at best, schedule disruption and almost always creates a burden for all the members of the department.
Therefore, the vacated slot must be filled as soon as possible. Usually, 19 to 20 weeks is much too long to wait for an untrained replacement.
Another consideration is whether a police department is regulated by the rules under Title 11A (Department of Personnel Regulations) or Title 40A.
In departments under Title 11A (formerly known as Civil Service), applicants must apply to the Department of Personnel and take a written exam administered by that department. They are then placed on a list of candidates for the particular department to which they applied. Specified points are awarded for veterans, and the municipality must hire from this list.
In departments under Title 40A, applicants apply directly to the department desired. The department may or may not do the following: issue an application, require a written examination, and give preference to veterans.
ALL departments are required to send recruits to a New Jersey, state-approved academy within one year after hire.
Some police departments prefer to hire non-experienced applicants in order that they may be trained from the beginning in the ways of that particular agency.
CLASS II SPECIAL OFFICERS
Every police department is authorized by statute to have a specific number of Class II Special Officers. These appointed, sworn individuals perform special duties in conjunction with the regular officers of the department.
A Class II Special Officer is an individual who has completed the Class II Special Officer program at an approved police academy and has received certification from the New Jersey State Police Training Commission.
In many instances, a department might look to a certified Class II Special Officer as a suitable applicant. A Class II Special Officer may receive a full waiver of training or would require only a minimal time for training at the academy. Therefore, a department may assign the officer to actual street training while filling the shift.
Presently, a certified Class II Special Officer (even if he/she is not employed in law enforcement) is a marketable entity for any department, and he/she may enter the full-time law enforcement profession faster than a completely non-trained applicant.
The next question is, “How do I become a Class II Special Officer?”
To obtain a position as a Class II Special Officer, you may go to your local police department and inquire if any Class II Special Officer openings exist. If none are available, or if your local municipality does not employ Class II Special Officers, feel free to go outside your town and apply to other departments. You should always consider the shore areas when applying for a Class II Special Officer position, as any police department located in a resort community is entitled to an UNLIMITED number of Class II Special Officers.
In order to attend this program (Four nights per week for about nine months), an individual must be APPOINTED by a municipality (not necessarily sworn) and be subject to the control of the sending police department. In order to be appointed, the department must have an unfilled, authorized slot for a Class II Special Officer.
While searching for a position, keep in mind that the Class II Special Officer program hosted by Gloucester County Police Academy can fill very quickly; Classes beginning in September are sometimes closed by February. Begin your job hunt early!
Some provisions of the Special Officer Statute that an applicant should know include the following:
- Only municipalities may appoint Special Officers. (County agencies, such as sheriff’s departments, park police, college campus police, etc., cannot appoint Special Officers.
- You cannot serve as a Special Officer in more than one municipality at the same time.
- Full-time police officers cannot be appointed as Special Officers to work in any other community.
- A Special Officer applicant cannot be made to pay for his training.
- No public official responsible for setting law enforcement policy or exercising authority over the budget of a municipality may serve as a special officer in the community.
- All special officers must complete the required training BEFORE they can perform ANY work for the municipality as a special officer.
- All special officers are appointed for a term not to exceed one year.
Be careful of the selection of police academies for Special Officer training. Although several academies offer special training, not all conduct the required number of hours needed to obtain a waiver of training to become a regular officer.
There are no short cuts. A law enforcement career requires a commitment and perseverance.
College students or those with prior active military service now might ask, “Are there any other ways to pursue a law enforcement career?” The answer is, “Yes.” READ ON!
ALTERNATE ROUTE BASIC COURSE FOR POLICE OFFICERS
The New Jersey Police Training Commission has granted approval to police academies in this state to conduct the Alternate Route Basic Course for Police Officers. This program permits qualified applicants to apply for admission to an approved academy for the purpose of participating in the Basic Course for Police Officers.
In order to qualify for entrance into Gloucester County Police Academy’s Alternate Route program, applicants must have at least 60 college credits or at least two years of full-time active military service, be between the ages of 18 and 35, examinations, live in the state of New Jersey at the time of application, and successfully pass all other entrance tests, evaluations, or investigations. Tests include: physical fitness test, written examination, background check, oral interview, psychological evaluation, and medical screening. Applicants successfully passing all phases of the entry process will be placed on a list to be included in the two Basic Courses conducted here annually. PLEASE NOTE THAT APPLICANTS CAN LIVE IN ANY COUNTY OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY TO APPLY.
The academy has the right to refuse admittance for any reason, and successful completion of all phases of testing does not guarantee any applicant admission to a class. The academy does not guarantee employment to any trainee upon graduation.
The cost to the applicant to participate in this program is approximately $1,500 (tuition, medical evaluation, psychological evaluation, Uniforms and equipment, and ammunition).
The Basic class is conducted from 7:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, for 19-20 weeks. Trainees are required to undergo rigorous physical fitness activity and military discipline, as well as extensive academic courses related to the position of municipal police officer.
WHAT HAPPENS TO GRADUATES OF THE ALTERNATE ROUTE PROGRAM?
Upon graduation, the academy will notify police departments in the South Jersey area of the availability of these graduates and supply names, addresses, and phone numbers of these individuals. Any other job seeking efforts will be the sole responsibility of the graduate trainee.
Graduates are given three years to find a position in law enforcement without having to return to an academy for retraining. Please note that 97% of our graduates receive employment within the three-year time period.
I MEET THE QUALIFICATIONS. HOW DO I APPLY?
We accept applications during August and September of each year for classes to be conducted in the following year (i.e., Applications submitted in August and September 2008 would be considered for classes conducted in 2009). However, we do keep a mailing list throughout the year for interested parties. To be placed on the mailing list, please call the academy at (856) 415-2266. Please do not ask to be put on the mailing list unless you will have your 60 college credits by December prior to the year you will be hoping to attend the academy. For example, if you would be applying for classes in 2009, you would need your 60 college credits by December 2008.