How to Land a Job as a City Police Officer

Government and municipal jobs are some of the most coveted around; unfortunately, they are also some of the most challenging to land. There is an extremely high interest in these jobs, and it is not uncommon for upwards of 2000 people applying for only a few positions. Most cities utilize a civil service commission to handle the massive applicant turnout and subsequent testing process. This frees up the police department to do what they are supposed to do, so if you want to land a job as a city police officer, you need to know what to expect and how to navigate through the process.


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    Stay clean. This is one of the most important things in the selection, or rather, the weeding-out process; however, it is one of the most overlooked aspects that is completely under your control. Each city likely has their own standards of what is acceptable use and is grounds for disqualification. In almost every case, there needs to be at minimum a certain amount of time that has passed since your last use, a maximum number of times you have used, or type of substance that you have used. If you are past this threshold, find another city that has more relaxed standards; if you have not yet reached it, stop now, stay clean and when you are eligible, apply.
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    Get in shape. If you have put on a little weight, lose it. If you have put on a lot of weight, start getting back in shape now. Let this be your motivation. Most, if not all, police departments have a physical aptitude test as part of their hiring process.
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    Check out the uniformed police officer exam series of books from your public library. There are various publishers of these books, which are basically sample exams. Most of these have about 4-5 practice civil service exams that you take and then check your answers. The great thing about these books is the explanation for the correct answer. You learn why you should have picked the correct answer and why your answer was wrong.
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    Research via the city's civil service commission website, or the police department recruitment section on the Internet, the phases of the hiring process. There could be up to 8-10 different phases; some are dependent upon passing the previous phase, others run concurrently.
    • Written exam. This is usually pass or fail. Sometimes your score is your rank in line, so it is vitally important that you do well on this portion.
    • Physical aptitude exam. This sometimes occurs on the same day as the written; sometimes it is held after the written exam, only to those candidates who passed that step.
    • Psychological aptitude exam. This may or may not be a part of your selection process; if it is, this step is likely part of the ranking process and it is a measure of your mental viability for the job.
    • Structured panel interview. You will interview in front of 3-5 officers of various rankings who probably will put you through a series of hypothetical, role playing scenarios. Be prepared for them to be in your face, yelling, screaming and trying to push your buttons. You must remain cool under pressure. This phase may be the basis for your ultimate ranking.
    • Polygraph examination. Because police officers have to testify in court, their honesty must not be in question. Both police officer and firefighter candidates will have to submit to a polygraph examination in the hiring process. Just be honest; 100 percent truthful 100 percent of the time, regardless of how embarrassing the questions may get, and they do get embarrassing.
    • Physical stress test, vision and psychological exams. If you get this far, your chances are getting pretty good. Just because you passed the physical aptitude test means nothing, really, to your physical fitness, however, the stress test will find that out real fast.
    • Oral interview. This is likely the last step, your do-or-die phase. If you got this far, you usually are in; however, you still cannot bomb this phase. If you have troubles with interviews, you better find someone and practice. With a little practice, you'll do well, and you'll get that badge.

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Categories: Careers in Government