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  • looking for guidence

    I am currently serving in the United States Army, about to retire and hopefully start a career in Law Enforcement. I will retire with a AA degree and on my way to a BA degree when I am out in about 2 years. I am just looking for some guidance on becoming an officer. Do's and don'ts and some pointers. Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    Welcome aboard, sgtclen -- thank you for your service -- you'll find some good words on this site from slamdunc, L-1, and other members.


    • #3
      Welcome to O.com. Thank you for your service to this great nation and best of luck with your career path. If you are retiring from active duty, I am going to assume that you are going to be 38 years or older. This may pose a few hurdles, but everything else will depend on your background and your having earned a degree while you were in. Most agencies don't care what your military job was, only the HONORABLE part of your DD-214 and they usually don't care what your degree is in. Your exit strategy timing is perfect (12-24 months from ETS), and although most agencies do not take resumes, it is nice to have one to work off of when filling out applications (consistency is critical). Prepare a chronological history of your military service including awards, training, education, clearances, licenses, languages, speaking engagements, publications, other skills; and major accomplishments/projects.

      Make a list of supervisor’s names and phone numbers for your most recent jobs and a list of 5-7 references including name, address, phone, and email. Contact former supervisors and references you may have lost touch with and obtain their current contact information. Use social media / networking such as Linkedin and (I'll probably catch some crap for this, but) FaceBook can be used if you take great care in what you post. This can help with connecting with old friends and new opportunities.

      The Army has both The Retired Officers Association and The Retired Enlisted Association and these can help with networking as well. IMHO, the most important thing you can do is to enroll in the Soldier For Life / Transition Assistance Program. This is an excellent program for assistance with resume prep, honing your interview skills, an overview of assistance available to you (additional educational benefits, and how to network with other soldiers in your situation.

      “Truth is not what you want it to be; it is what it is, and you must bend to its power or live a lie.”

      Miyamoto Musashi

      “Life Is Hard, But It's Harder When You're Stupid”

      George V. Higgins (from The Friends of Eddie Coyle)


      • #4
        You have a long and arduous process ahead of you. I’ll explain many of the hoops you will have to jump through and give you some ideas as to things you can do now to save yourself a lot of difficulty when you start applying.

        Most city, county and state law enforcement jobs are civil service positions. Hiring is usually done through competitive testing that measures your ability to perform the duties of the position you are seeking. Applicants are scored based on the number of correct answers they give to written and oral test questions. A list of successful candidates is the prepared and applicants are usually hired in the order of their scores (highest first, next highest second, etc.)

        Testing is expensive, so rather than test for each vacancy as it occurs, most agencies test periodically and create a list from which people will hired to fill vacancies over the next couple of years.

        Testing usually consists of an application review, written exam, oral exam, physical agility test, background investigation, medical exam and psych exam. In my part of the country, around 50% of the applicants get wiped out at each phase of the hiring process. As a result, only about 1 or 2% of the people who first apply actually get hired.

        The written is usually multiple choice. The oral usually scores you on things like:
        • Experience – assesses your ability and experience in accepting responsibilities and performing assigned tasks as demonstrated through achievements in work, school, and other activities.
        • Problem Solving – assesses your reasoning skills in developing timely, logical responses to a wide variety of situations and problems.
        • Communication Skills – assesses your oral communications skills, which includes speaking, listening, and non-verbal communication.
        • Interest/Motivation – addresses your interest in and preparedness for the peace officer job. It includes an assessment of your general level of interest, initiative, and goal orientation.
        • Interpersonal Skills – assesses many facets, such as social knowledge/appropriateness, social insight, empathy, social influence, social self-regulation, sociability, team orientation, social self-confidence, conflict management skills, and negotiating skills.
        • Community Involvement/Awareness – focuses specifically on your experiences and interest in community issues, as well as your interest in and ability to fill multiple roles and serve a diverse community.

        Because of your service, most agencies add Veteran’s credit to you final score. (My agency gives you 10 points) There may be paperwork you need to fill out to get those points. Don’t mess up and fail to do the paperwork.

        Government agencies are budgeted to employ a specific number of people. A new person can’t be hired from the list until an existing employee creates a vacancy by quitting, retiring, getting fired, promoting, dying, or the agency receives funding to create additional positions. Where I’m at, agencies create hiring lists that may be used to fill vacancies for several years, so most people who are successful wait around 18 months from time of application to actual hire date. Being in the military I’m sure you understand the meaning of the term “Hurry up and wait.” That’s our phrase too, especially when it comes to hiring. You will also hear the phrase, “No news is good news.” If at any point in the hiring process it is determined you will not process further, you are usually notified in writing. If you don’t hear anything, that usually means you are still in the mix, but because hiring takes a long time, people tend to get nervous and think they got bounced out. Don’t believe it until you see the piece of paper saying so.

        There is one thing to make yourself aware of. You always want to know where you are (what position) on the hiring list. You also want to know how long the list is good for and how many people they anticipate hiring from the list during its lifetime. For example, let’s say you are #30 on a list of 100 applicants. Let’s also say the list is good for two years and they expect to hire 60 people off the list during its lifetime. That means they will probably get to you (background, medical psych) in about a year after the list is published. OTOH, let’s say you are #100 on that same list. Odds the list will expire before you will ever be reachable, and you will never hear from them again. In that case you know to keep applying elsewhere because you will not be hired during this cycle and will need to take the next test and score much higher if you want to get hired by that agency.

        With two years to go in your service I would start applying to multiple agencies in about six months. By the time you are out, offers of appointment should be coming in.

        I’m going to suggest you go to this webpage https://post.ca.gov/forms.aspx and download two forms. They are the Personal History Statement - Peace Officer and Medical History Statement – Peace Officer.

        Print them out, look at the information they request, begin doing your research and fill them out now. While it is unlikely you will be submitting these particular forms to your background investigator or the physician for the department you are applying with, they ask questions similar to the ones you will be required to complete, Those forms require a considerable amount of detailed personal information I doubt you can come up with off the top of your head. Instead, they will require extensive research, checks with relatives, friends, previous employers, etc. It’s better to do it now and have it ready when the time comes rather than have to scramble at the last minute to meet tight deadlines when you actually apply.

        The cardinal rules when filling out applications and personal history statements are to be fully and completely accurate and to keep copies of everything – forever. This applies to documents for submit to each and every government and private employer. You do this to ensure consistency in your documentation. Background investigators will look at your applications, personal history statements and personnel packages with other government agencies you have applied with and private employers you have worked at. If you say ABC in one place and ABF in another, questions will arise as to whether you were dishonest or simply have difficulty in being accurate. Either can be grounds for disqualification.

        Bets of luck.
        Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere


        • #5
          Go Federal LE. All your military time will count.


          • #6
            Be wary though, some places are doing cuts
            Former Police Officer (Injured LOD)
            USAF VETERAN 2004-2012
            "The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day."-LTC Grossman
            Emergency Services Dispatcher, APG MD


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