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OK what to do, what not to do and what will DQ you.


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  • OK what to do, what not to do and what will DQ you.

    Cool How to get hired, what will DQ you, and what NOT TO DO!!!
    OK I have been reading and posting here on for a while now and I see several repeated subjects over and over again. So I am writing this complete guide for those wanting to get into law enforcement, the academy and going through the process of being hired or going into the academy and after.

    First my qualifications for writing this are I am the Police Academy Commander at an Academy in North Central Florida. Have been for 12 years. I helped write the State of Florida’s Police Recruit Curriculum currently in use. I have been a cop for 28+ years and have been on oral boards for a large agency (Broward County Sheriff’s Office) for about 2 years, and I have been involved in training or hiring police and corrections officers for more than 15 years. I have trained police officers all over the world.

    Let’s start with getting hired by an agency to be a cop. First you have to take an honest look at yourself and your background. If you’re dishonest with yourself, you should not bother applying to an agency as they will find it out anyway.

    What will disqualify me from becoming a police Officer???? Well how about what will qualify me?

    You need to be at least 19 in some states, and 21 in others. When in doubt look up your states laws or requirements.

    You need at least a high school diploma or equivalent. A college degree is better and rates you higher with a police department. I hate to say this but what the degree is in is not that important. While a degree in criminal justice is nice, it’s not going to beat out a Master in some other area of study.
    You have to be physically able to perform the job. If you’re on medications read further.

    Each and every state has its state laws that cover what you have to have to be a cop. States vary in requirements; some say 19 years old, some 21. Some say you have to have this or that, each has its own. You need to look up the particular state (All 50 STates Laws can be found here!!!) you are thinking of being a cop in and read the law carefully. Also chiefcop on the forum was nice enough to provide links to 49 of the States Police Officer Standards Sites here in this thread: . If you meet the minimum standards, then you may qualify by law, but then you need to read those things that will disqualify you also. These are things that may or may not be in the state law;

    1. Being a convicted felon - As convicted felons cannot carry guns in most cases, it’s hard for the police department to give you one or require you to buy one when it’s illegal for you to have one! Also domestic violence reports or arrest are a DQ. Also I have seen posted here on the question what if my spouse is a convicted felon? Well I am sorry but 99% of departments will not hire you. Almost everyone has a department policy against associating with felons. And that includes family members. While this in some cases should not apply I am sure, it does. Life is not always fair. Also any Domestic Violence conviction or even a call or two on record of domestic violence. It’s against the law in most states for anyone convicted of Domestic violence to buy/ carry a firearm, and that includes police.
    This is from Florida Requirements: Not have been convicted of any felony or of a misdemeanor involving perjury or a false statement, or have received a dishonorable discharge from any of the Armed Forces of the United States. Any person who, after July 1, 1981, pleads guilty or nolo contendere to or is found guilty of any felony or of a misdemeanor involving perjury or a false statement is not eligible for employment or appointment as an officer, notwithstanding suspension of sentence or withholding of adjudication. Notwithstanding this subsection, any person who has pled nolo contendere to a misdemeanor involving a false statement, prior to December 1, 1985, and has had such record sealed or expunged shall not be deemed ineligible for employment or appointment as an officer.
    Also having an injunction for domestic violence, or being convicted of domestic violence is almost always a DQ. Being arrested for it is not always one, but most of the time it will be.

    2. Some misdemeanors that involve perjury or false statements - It’s hard to let you swear to tell the truth in court when you have already lied. See #1

    3. Dishonorable discharges from the military. Self explanatory I think and covered in #1.

    4. Having a bad driving record - I mean tickets for things like speeding, reckless or careless driving, or other tickets that show disregard for safety. A history of a lot of tickets also is a no go in most cases. I saw a person post a question and ask if they would qualify after having 8 tickets and being arrested twice for not paying tickets. What do you think! Suspended license are usually a no go also. You should have a clear record for a period of time before you bother to apply or make sure it’s a minor ticket like a taillight out or something. A clear record for 3-5 years will get you by this one, or a minor ticket or two will be OK most of the time. Remember the agency has to trust you with a patrol car that you at times will have to drive in emergency mode, kind of hard to justify that in court when you had reckless driving tickets.

    5. Having bad credit – this one is different for different agencies, but all seem to be looking at it more. If you have bad credit (really bad, bankruptcies, or loads of outstanding debt) you are a liability for bribery or other problems. You may at times in this job find yourself handling large sums of cash and being in debt makes you a liability when doing that. The temptation is too much for some in need.

    6. Drug use – this is one I get questions about a lot. First let me say again each department may be a little different but most are along the same lines. Hard Drugs used even in the last 20 years is a DQ most of the time, heroin, Speed, LSD, addiction to prescription drugs are a few automatics. Most agencies will not touch you if you were dealing drugs at all (that is a felony, see #1). I actually had a kid ask me if he was DQ’d if he had dealt pot back when he was a teenager (7 years ago), he just admitted to a felony, so of course you can guess the answer. If you used drugs in the last 3 years or so most agencies don’t like it. If you’re 5 or more years out, it depends on what it was and how often. Daily usage is a no no, weekly is still not good. Using a couple of times in a 5 year period is better looking.

    7. Past Employment – having 20 jobs in a 5 year period is a no go. You should show some kind of ability to hold a job. Getting fired for failing to show up to work, calling in sick all the time, and having an ex-employer tell us that you were the “worst” employee they ever had does not look to good. Agencies depend on you to show up to work on time and ready to work. So do the other guys/gals on the shift.

    8. If you have a MySpace or FaceBook page, make sure it is something you would want your prospective employer to see. They are hiring people (like me) to look them up and give them copies of everything found there. Also do a web search for yourself and any user names that you use or used and see what you find. They are checking things like that. Remember, never write or put anything online that you would not want you’re Boss to see as he/she just might have seen it already!

    We had several Deputies get fired because of stuff they had put on their MySpace pages.

    That’s a rough guide for qualifying before even bothering to apply. When in doubt you should of course ask the agency you are trying to apply to if something in particular bothers you or you’re not sure if you are disqualified. It is much better to ask BEFORE you even apply to save yourself the time and money, in addition it will come out in the background if you try to hide something, and that of course is an immediate disqualification.
    OK so now if you pass those requirements and have decided to apply to an agency. First you have to decide where you want to live and with that, what agencies are in the area. You should research the departments on the internet and see what they are, how big they are, what they do and what kind of agency they are. Look at the benefits, retirement and other things that they offer the officers. You should also talk to a few of the patrol officers. Not just one, you may get the one that is not happy because he’s in trouble with the department. So make sure you get a good overall picture of the department.

    Go to the department and get an application or go to the human resources section or wherever you are supposed to go. Males wear a suit or shirt and tie, and women wear a pants suit. One that is in good taste and not lime green (saw one in an interview!!!) or purple. Just a basic suit or pants suit. Wear this every time you make contact with the department. Make sure you have taken out the purple hair coloring and all the face piercings. You need to look like you meet the appearance standards for the department or academy. Shave and make sure you look like you’re going to a job interview (oral board). Remember, first impressions are very important. And over a few times you may be there, your impression you leave with the people in HR and those that see you going onto and out of the department can be very important.

    The application process itself can be daunting. Filling out all those forms, paying for all the stuff to be done (if you have too that is). Let’s cover the application process parts.

    First the application, be sure to fill it out completely and accurately. Leaving something off the application can get you disqualified. You will have to list everything it asks and they expect it to be complete. Sit down and make a list of all your past jobs, addresses and schools to help you when you fill it out. Research these things if you have too. If you have a tough time remembering all your jobs, you may want to pay one of the online sites that do background checks on you to give you one on yourself. It will help to jog your memory, and give you an idea of the stuff that is out there on you.

    Make sure you type or print LEGIBLY! If they cannot read your application, it will get canned quickly. Miss-spelling, typos and other errors are also problems. If you have a real problem with writing so people can read it, have someone else fill it out for you.

    Make sure you have all the requested documents attached and in order before you turn in your application, or it will just sit there until you do. If it says to get a driving history, get one and attach it. Failure to do so will earn your application a quick trip to the “hold and wait until they get their act together” pile.

    Once you have a readable, neat, fully completed and filled out application, take it in and remember to dress accordingly like I said previously.

    If this is an application for entry into the police academy, follow the same guidelines.

    Once you turn your application in, then you have to sit back and wait. It can take some time for them to go through all the applications and get to yours and review it, and then make arrangements for further processing if you make it that far. So give them several weeks. If you do not hear something from them say after 3 or 4 weeks, it’s OK to give them a call and ask how your application process is going. Don’t call every other day and bug them, which will earn you a reputation before you even get hired (if you do).

    The testing and other processing.

    Written Exams

    You will more than likely be asked to take part in testing such as the CJBAT or FBAT or departmental specific testing. You should show up dressed as described above, and ready to take the test. They are usually easy if you simply prepare a bit. There are all kinds of study guides out there on the market for these tests.

    Physical Agility Course, Physical Abilities Course (or whatever your area calls it)

    The physical abilities test or PAT or Agility Course or whatever your area or departmental specific test are not that hard, they usually involve a run (ours is 1.5 miles) and a obstacle course of some design, and maybe some basics like pushups or sit ups and such. If you are truly out of shape a terribly over weight I suggest starting to get in shape well before you have to try and take this. It is not for athletes only, but it is not for the couch potato either. Do about 4-6 months of regular exercise before you attempt this test.

    Oh and please do not show up looking like your trying to get a date. Men and women included. Show up in proper clothing for running a physical course. Many require climbing and crawling, remember that. Don’t show up in jeans and a tee shirt and dress shoes! Or for that matter, your old military uniform and boots. Just wear gym shorts or long sweat pants, and a tee shirt (that does not have profanity or sexual writing on it!!0 LOL I mention these things because I have seen them at the testing!

    Doctors Physical Exam

    You will more than likely also have to get a physical, this is self explanatory, but the doctor will decide if you are physically capable of being a police officer. This is where you ask about medications you are taking, physical and mental problems you may have that you are concerned about and such. The doctor will decide based on the states or departments standards they have set forth.

    The Polygraph.

    Well let me say that it’s just part of the process. There is nothing you can do to prepare for this part of the process, but just go in with an open mind and tell the truth. You can read more about this test in other threads on the forum, but it’s just one of the things you have to do.

    The Police Oral Board..what and how???

    I am sure if your reading this you have either been to an oral board already or are getting ready to go to one, or you are interested in becoming a police officer and want to know what an oral board is and what it’s like, and maybe even get lucky and get some tips on how to do well in one. Well I will try to do all of those things here for you. How’s that for help!!

    End of Part 1 look at Part 2
    Police Academy Commander
    Lead Firearms Instructor
    35+ years as a cop
    Becoming a Police Officer
    So you think you can do this job?

    I accept all private messages requesting help or advice, why else bother to be here?

  • #2

    Part 2 of the previous post..

    Police oral boards are one of the most nerve racking things you will do. Most people are very nervous when they walk in the door of the room and see the oral board panel sitting there. You’re before a live audience and it’s time to perform your best!

    What is an oral board? It’s a live panel of people, usually 3-5 people (sometimes only 1 in small agencies) that ask the applicants a set of questions that they rate your answers too and then score them. These scores are compared with the required passing score, and against other applicants. You can in some agencies be removed from the application process for not passing the oral board. It’s a must pass part of the application process. You usually are seated in a room across a table from these people, they ask you questions in turn and then listen too, take notes on, and score your answers to the questions.

    So how can you perform well on these boards? There are a few things that can help you do well and get a better score or make a better impression on the panel, and I will cover those here.

    First thing is dress accordingly. That means for men, a suit and tie (conservative style) and women should wear a pants suit or dress. Whichever they are more comfortable in. Also ladies, a conservative cut is always best. Both male and female, you are dressing to impress, not get a date. Clean and neat hair (conservative cut), clean fingernails and no gaudy jewelry. No overpowering cologne or perfume. Take out all the facial metal piercings, and if you have tattoos on your arms, wear a long sleeve to cover them. (I have tats, so no comments about not liking them, this is for those going to an oral board) Nothing makes a worse impression that someone walking into the board in jeans and tee shirt and looking like they just woke up and crawled out of bed minutes before. First impressions are very important, so make a good one.

    When you walk in, say hello and reach out to shake the first members hand. If they take it, shake the hand of each board member and introduce yourself. Your name is good enough. Shake hand, “John Jones”. They will more than likely introduce themselves by name. TRY TO REMEMBER HOW THEY INTRODUCE THEMSELVES, if they use a title and name or only their name, this will come in later.

    Sit down in the chair provided and place your hands on the table in front of you in a comfortable position. Don’t put them down in your lap and don’t pick your nose or ear. Just try to relax and be comfortable. As much as you can that is.

    They will tell you what they are doing and how the oral board will be done. If they provide a pencil and paper, use it. Use it to write down the points of the questions they want you to answer. In some oral interviews I have been a part of they will purposely ask multi-part questions and see if the interviewee writes things down to keep track of the points, and then answers them in the order they were asked.

    What kind of questions will be asked? Well it varies from department to department, but they are generally structured to see if you have any knowledge of law and procedures, and to see if you will tell the truth. Also some are designed to see if you will keep the departments interest in mind over other things.

    Here are a few I have seen or heard of:

    1. Why do you want to be a police officer?
    2. If you witnessed another officer steal something what would you do?
    3. If you stopped the Mayor for drunk driving what would you do?
    4. If you stopped a family member what would you do?

    Those are just a few common ones. Answer questions in a chronological order. When they give you a scenario and ask you to tell them what you would do, answer from the beginning to the end and don't jump around.

    Always notify your supervisor of anything that you may think of as being of that nature your boss would like to know about. And make sure you request him/her to any scene that they need to be present on. One question I remember from the boards I sat on was "You respond to a possible suicide. When you arrive it appears to be a suicide, what would you do and who would you notify?" Answer; “First I would see what I have and check the victim for signs of life if that has not been done, then I would close off the scene and notify my supervisor to respond.” While that may not be to the department’s exact procedure, it shows your thinking and also you know about chain of command and its proper use.

    We know you would not write your family member a ticket (unless it was that brother you hate so much..jking..) so be honest and tell them what you would do, here is a good answer I saw to this one: I told them "No I wouldn't." They of course began drilling me as to "So it’s ok if your family speeds?" I said "No its not, but I certainly would not write my own Mother a ticket. However, I would tell my Mother not to speed any more, and explain that she's putting me in a bad position.”

    Also make sure you ALWAYS put the departments’ interest first. The typical question of "You see another officer steal a candy bar from a store while you are there on a burglary call, what do you do?" is actually a very simple one. You would tell the officer you saw what he did, and you have no choice but to notify your supervisor immediately. You just observed a crime and you can not overlook that. And it places the department in a bad position. Most stores have cameras, and if they find out about it and you did not report it, you would also be fired along with the officer for failing to report the crime. Get the idea? Other officers do not pay your rent or put food in your families’ mouth. You do not cover for anyone, you take care of yourself and the department. The days of cover-ups and stuff like that are gone, about 20 years ago.

    Make sure to look at the person that asks you the question. Eye contact is very important, looking from one panel member to the other is a good idea. In fact here is where remembering the titles and names of the panel members would be a plus. If Lt. Johnson asks you a question, beginning your answer this way is an impressive tactic; “Lt. Johnson I would………..” showing your ability to remember names and titles is a good way to make an impression on the panel members. And it shows respect for the title they used.

    The question “why do you want to be a police officer?” is one of the hardest for some reason for people. A simple short decisive answer is best. “I want to be a police officer because I would like a secure, steady occupation that I can enjoy and is not the same thing day after day. One I can make a 20 year career of. I want to be able to meet people and see if I can help them when they are in need, and I want to be able to protect those that cannot protect themselves, and I think I would be very good at that. That’s why I want to be a police officer.” That short answer is a good one and does not go overboard. Please don’t tell them because you want to play with or carry a gun and shoot people. Or tell them that you want to drive a police car fast and beat up on bad guys. Thos are not impressive answers.. LOL

    Most oral boards end with the panel asking you if there is anything you want to add. This is your chance to shine and put yourself apart from the rest. You should research the department you are applying to on the internet and see if you can gather some information on the department. When asked do you want to say or add anything, you can say (JUST AN EXAMPLE!) “Yes I would, I have looked closely at your department and I like the fact that it has 4 Districts, and a Dive team and K9 both of which I might be interested in. I like the fact your department has ____ and ____ and that the size of your department, 345 officers, is just right for where I would like to be a member of, it gives me a chance to work at ______. I think I would be a very good officer at your department.” Look up some things that you can use to show the panel you have looked at the department and like it and how it is being run. If you have a particular interest and the department has this unit or program, tell them you saw they have such and such and would be interested, in due time, looking onto helping in that program or unit.

    Always stick to the truth, honesty, and ethics. It’s what you’re supposed to stand for.

    Then when they say you’re done, get up, thank the panel for having you there, and excuse yourself.

    If you follow those simple guidelines, you should do well enough to pass, and you may even stand out just enough to be the one at the top of the list.

    Ok so that is the basic process to get into the academy or get hired by an agency.

    SO once you make it through all that, what about the academy itself?

    Well since I am the Academy Commander at an academy I think I can speak on this. You need to be prepared for the type of academy you are thinking of going too.

    Not all academies are created equal. Some are very different than others. There are those that are very militaristic, like most state police academies. Some you live on the academy grounds while you go to the academy, some you don’t. Some you go full time 8 hours a day, some you go in the evenings. SO it really varies from place to place, state to state. But I will try to speak on those things that the majority of academies have in common.

    First off, think of the academy as one big job interview. Your instructors are usually police professionals and current or past officers. They have ties to the agencies they are part of and will remember you if you do something that it merits remembering! Also you may have police officials walking around your academy at times, and when they see you standing the hallway, screwing off and talking about something you should not, they will notice you and remember your face and name.

    Treat the academy like your there and being watched the whole time as a working job interview. I get a call on every single person our local agencies are thinking of hiring. They ask about the time in the academy and what they did or did not do.

    Appearance is key. Professional looking uniforms (if you wear them) is important. Show the staff you can look good in a uniform.

    Also you have to study. Set time aside every day to study the material you covered that day. For some people it’s not new material, for others it is, either way you should go over it. The exams you are going to take are very important. In some state, like Florida, if you score under the cut off score, you fail the exam and then fail the academy. SO if you go through all the trouble and time and money to get in the academy, don’t blow it because you did not take the time to study because you wanted to go out with your friends drinking the night before the exam.

    Also if you’re not in a live on academy, do not get in trouble while in the academy. In fact while you’re in you should live the life of a Nun! Stay away from drinking in excess (or at all), of course I should not have to say this but do, no drugs, no criminal activity, and don’t get arrested. Getting tickets do not help either. So do your very best to drive like you are supposed to anyway, and behave yourself. You want to be a police officer, not arrested or ticketed by one!

    That’s about the basics. There is a lot more of course, but you will have to learn as you go for some things. I know a lot more about the Florida system, but am trying to make this generalized for all states and people wanting to get into law enforcement. I hope this helps. Be safe and be PROFESSIONAL!
    Police Academy Commander
    Lead Firearms Instructor
    35+ years as a cop
    Becoming a Police Officer
    So you think you can do this job?

    I accept all private messages requesting help or advice, why else bother to be here?


    • #3
      Thank you sir. Great Post!
      Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere


      • #4
        If people would only learn to use the search tool in the forums, half the questions would be answered from previous post..
        Police Academy Commander
        Lead Firearms Instructor
        35+ years as a cop
        Becoming a Police Officer
        So you think you can do this job?

        I accept all private messages requesting help or advice, why else bother to be here?


        • #5
          OH and I am writing a book on this subject, up to page 18 already.. started this week..
          Police Academy Commander
          Lead Firearms Instructor
          35+ years as a cop
          Becoming a Police Officer
          So you think you can do this job?

          I accept all private messages requesting help or advice, why else bother to be here?


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