wikiHow to Become a Detective in Los Angeles

Four Parts:Passing the PreliminariesApplying for a Job and Taking TestsAttending the Police AcademyGetting Promoted to Detective

To become a Los Angeles police officer, you must go through rigorous training, background checks, and tests in order to be eligible to serve and protect. After years of experience, you can apply to be a detective or work in other specialized divisions. To be a police officer, you must start by meeting some basic eligibility requirements.

Part 1
Passing the Preliminaries

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    Receive your high school diploma. You can also pursue a General Education Development (GED) certificate or California High School Proficiency Examination (CHSPE). However, a high school education is the minimum requirement to become a Los Angeles Police Officer. You can submit your 2 or 4 year degree in lieu of a high school equivalency certificate.[1]
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    Be of age. You must be 21 years of age to be a LA police officer. However, you can apply earlier and take the test when you are 20 1/2 years old; you just must be 21 by the time you are hired on.[2]
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    Ensure you are a citizen. You can also be a permanent resident alien who has applied for citizenship. You will be required to prove your status with documentation when applying to become a police officer.[3]
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    Consider earning a 2 to 4 year degree. While this level of education is not required to earn a detective spot, it is helpful in achieving a promotion early on and proving that you have had training in investigation. You should seek degrees in police science or criminal justice. Law or pre-law could also be helpful.

Part 2
Applying for a Job and Taking Tests

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    Apply for a city police officer position. On the City of Los Angeles website, you'll find job listings for the local police department.[4] To start yourself on the way to becoming a police detective, you first download the job you want. To begin the application, you move on to the next step.[5]
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    Complete the Public Safety Online Application. On the City of Los Angeles Personnel Department website under Public Safety, you'll find a section marked "How to Apply." When you click on that section, it has a link to the Public Safety Online Application.[6] As a first-time user, you will need to create an account to fill out this part of the application, such as putting in an email and password.[7]
    • This portion of the application process will help you assess whether you are a good fit for becoming a police officer.[8]
    • It has four parts. The first part will ask for biographical information. The second part will want information on recruitment. The third part is an pre-background check. It will help you know what's coming with your background check and what may be a problem. The final part is part instruction on what the job entails, and it will help you decide whether this job is the one for you.[9]
    • While you don't need a perfectly spotless record to be a police officer, you do need to be in a good place or at least improving your situation at the time you apply; these positions are hard to come by, as many other people are applying, too.[10]
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    Submit and print off the Public Safety Online Application. Once you complete the application, you will need to print it off. You must have it with you for the next part of the application process.[11]
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    Take the written test. The written test is a series of essay questions. It's meant to test how well you can communicate on paper.[12] You can find a schedule of tests on the Los Angeles Police Department Academy website at[13] Don't forget you'll need to take the first application with you when you go.
    • This test will also evaluate how well you make decisions and how well you are able to adapt to certain situations.[14] You need to be able to communicate well because you must fill out reports and logs on the job with accurate descriptions. If your communication skills aren't great, the academy recommends that you take an English course at a community college. You must show you can make good decisions because you have to be able to assess a situation and keep it from escalating from something minor to something huge. Finally, you need to be adaptable because you have to work in many different situations, from being alone on the job to being on a team, in many different environments. Basically, you're showing how your past experience has prepared you to be a police officer.[15]
    • You could fail this section in a number ways, such as if you provide inadequate examples of how you've solved problems in the past or you don't give enough detail. You may also fail if you tend to ramble or verge off of what you're discussing. Finally, you could fail if your grammar isn't sufficient.[16]
    • You also need a valid ID (state or federal) to take your test.[17]
    • You must get 75 percent to pass, and you can retake again in 6 months if you do not pass. However, it's better to score higher, as you're competing against other candidates. If you do well, you will be contacted for the next part of the application process.[18]
    • Plan out your answer in your head before you write; make sure you understand the whole question. Also, make sure your grammar is as stellar as you can make it.[19]
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    Verify your background. At this time, you'll need to get your actual background check done. You'll need to provide biographical details. You also need to be willing to be fingerprinted. Passing a polygraph test is part of this section. They will check up on all the information you've provided, and they may talk to your friends, family, and co-workers.[20]
    • The first part of this section is completing the Personal History Statement, which is the biographical information section. The investigator will discuss any issues she sees on your statement on the day of your background check.[21]
    • Be honest. It's best to be upfront about anything dubious in your background because it's likely it will be found out in the field investigation anyway. For this portion, it's fine to dress business casual. In fact, the police department encourages you not to dress up too much and to be comfortable.[22]
    • You will be judged in the following areas: interpersonal skills, sensitivity, and respect for others (being objective and showing empathy for others); decision making and judgment (being able to assess a situation and make a sound judgment); maturity and discipline (acting responsibly and representing the city well); honesty, integrity, and personal ethics (being forthcoming about your past and being able to uphold the rules, not bend them); setting and achieving goals (showing responsibility and leadership in past positions); and record checks (having an overall good record with the law and financially).[23]
    • Be sure to get enough rest and eat well before your polygraph so you are relaxed and rested.[24]
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    Pass the Physical Abilities Test. To be a police officer of any kind, you need to be up to certain physical standards. This test is taken in two parts. If you don't do well on the test, you won't do well at the academy or in the job. However, the test is pass/fail.[25]
    • In the first part, you will need to show your strength and endurance. You have three ways you will show this ability: side step (begin at a center line and side step or slide to a line four feet to the right and left; you have 10 seconds); cable pull (pull outward on cables at chest height to measure how much force you can generate); and stationary bicycle (you have 2 minutes to get as many revolutions as you can with the bike set at a certain resistance). The first test will be an average of two tries, while the second will be an average of three.[26]
    • The second part examines how much aerobic endurance you have, but you must pass the Medical Evaluation first. You must run on a treadmill for 10 minutes and 20 seconds; however, it is supposed to be the equivalent of 1.5 miles ran in 14 minutes, as it will vary incline.[27]
    • You can take a fake test, called the mock Physical Fitness Qualifier (PFQ) before you take the exam; you must take this mock test if you fail the PAT and want to try again.[28] You can also join the Candidate Assistance Program, which provides training for the physical portion 4 days a week at various locations.[29]
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    Take the department interview. If you pass the first part of the physical test, you'll move on to the department interview. This interview is conducted by a panel from the police department. It is basically like any interview; the panel will try to assess your suitability for the job, your oral communication skills, your motivation, and your past accomplishments.[30]
    • If you do well, you will be given a conditional job offer. If you don't do well, you may be interviewed again in 3 months, though you can take it quicker if you go to an Orientation/Oral Prep Seminar.[31]
    • You can go to Oral Prep to prepare yourself for the interview. It is offered on the second Thursday of the month. It runs from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM. Oral Prep is located at the Ronald Deaton Civic Auditorium.[32]
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    Pass the medical evaluation. This exam measure how healthy you are and if you are healthy enough to be a police officer. They will also administer psychological tests to see if you are healthy enough mentally.[33]
    • The medical portion will look first at your body fat. As a woman, you cannot exceed 30 percent body fat, and you can't exceed 22 percent as a man. You must be able to see 20/30 in each eye; if you were glasses, they must correct your eyesight to 20/30 in each eye, and you must be able to see 20/40 in at least one eye. You must be able to see 20/70 together without your glasses. However, if you wear soft contacts, you only must be able to see 20/30 in both eyes with them in; it doesn't matter what your sight is without them. Also, you must be able to see color. Finally, you must pass a hearing test.[34]
    • For the psychological evaluation, you will be interviewed by a psychologist. This person will also look at your medical history to evaluate whether any mental conditions you have may affect your job. Some mental illnesses may eventually disqualify you from the process, such as bipolar disorder or severe anxiety disorders. However, your application will not automatically be thrown out if you have a disorder; the police force just wants to make sure you are capable of doing the job.[35]
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    Get your certification and appointment. Once you have gone through all the steps, you name will be certified with the police department. Nonetheless, you still need the police department to recommend you to the police academy, and the police department only recommends the best candidates. You will likely be checked for substance abuse prior to your appointment.[36]

Part 3
Attending the Police Academy

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    Be selected. Once you have been selected for the academy, you will attend it for half a year. The training is free to you. The training is difficult, both mentally and physically.[37]
    • In addition, you are paid a salary while you are training.[38]
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    Focus on classroom training. Much of what you do at the academy will be focused on what you can learn in the classroom. You will cover several areas. One of the main areas you will cover, of course, is the law. You must know the law to enforce it, so you will learn about everything from sex crimes to search and seizure. You'll also spend time on human relations. You'll need to learn about how to manage stress and how to relate to the community, as well as how to deal with the media and how to react appropriately to cultural issues.[39]
    • In addition, you will need to learn how to investigate, how to communicate over the radio, and how to write reports.[40]
    • You'll also need to learn Spanish and how to perform traffic stops.[41]
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    Learn driving skills. Another area you'll focus on is driving skills. The main portion of this section will be on how to operate emergency vehicles, including the best way to pursue suspects and how to drive defensively. You'll learn how to perform these maneuvers as safely as possible.[42]
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    Train in weapon handling and tactics. You'll be taught how to handle several weapons, including a sidearm and a shotgun. You'll also be trained to learn how to handle chemical weapons. While undergoing this training, you'll learn how to handle them safely, as well as how to shoot them well. With tactics, you'll learn what you need to do when you approach crimes that are already happening or when you enter a building to search it. You'll also learn when deadly force is necessary and when you should draw your gun.[43]
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    Develop physical fitness. Of course, you must be physically fit to enter the academy, but you will continue your physical training while there. You will perform physical conditioning. You'll also be taught the physical parts of the job, such as how to arrest a person.[44]
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    Learn LAPD training. The LAPD has specific training it will give you to enter its workforce. For instance, you will learn about your in-car computer, performing operations with dogs, cultural diversity, and many other topics.[45]

Part 4
Getting Promoted to Detective

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    Complete field training. After being at the academy, you will need to complete a year of field training. During that time, you will be a patrol officer, and you will be at the rank of Police Officer I; you are under probation during this period. In addition, you will have a Training Officer to help guide you through your first year as a police officer.[46]
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    Move up to Police Officer II. Moving up to this rank is fairly easy. You only need to complete your academy training and your one year of on-the-job training. Once that time is up, you become a Police Officer II automatically. You are still considered under probation as a Police Officer II.[47]
    • You will also have a higher-ranking officer supervising you closely while you are a Police Officer II.[48]
    • As a Police Officer II, you will also be a patrol officer. Generally, you will preform tasks such as responding to emergency calls, talking to witnesses, and making written reports afterwards.[49]
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    Become a Police Officer III. Like moving up to Police Officer II, you gain the rank of Police Officer III automatically. You just need to complete 3 years on the job successfully as a Police Officer II.[50]
    • As a Police Officer III, you enforce the laws. You can make arrests, but you will continue to write reports on what you witness as a police officer.[51]
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    Take the exams. After four years (total) of serving on the police force, you are allowed to compete to become a detective. You will need to take an exam and be interviewed for this position. The exam will test your knowledge on what you'll need to know to be a detective. Your local precinct can provide you with what you'll need to study to pass the exam.[52]
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    Pass the interview. After you pass the exam, you will need to pass another interview. The interview panel will assess whether you have the necessary skills to become a detective.[53]


  • Study hard to earn top marks on all your examinations. Usually only the top candidates are hired into LA detective positions.

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