Police Officer Hiring Process

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Applying for the job of police officer is a bit different than trying to land any other job. In fact, the process a police applicant must undergo can be quite challenging. To qualify for one of these coveted positions (there’s often a several month waiting list), an applicant must be a U.S. citizen, have a high school diploma or equivalent (many departments now require all applicants to have an associates degree or higher), and be at least 21 years old on their hire date. And there’s normally a height and weight requirement.

There are several steps in the hiring process (this varies in every area), beginning with a written application. Those who do not satisfactorily complete the written application will not be considered for a position.

The next step is usually a written test consisting of :

1) Written communication skills

1) Ability to remember intricate details


3) Spelling

4) Effective report writing


5) Use of judgment and logic


Bringing a knife to a gunfight – poor judgment.

6) Grammar


“You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.”

  • Source: United Press International, “Bush Proposes Increase in Education Funds,” Mark Kukis, Feb. 21, 2001

7) Following written directions

8. Neatness


9) Listening skills

Those applicants who pass the written portion of the exam will be asked to participate in the next step of the process, the physical fitness assessment. The PT assessment consists of a 1.5 mile run, push ups, and sit ups. Some departments also require the successful completion of agility testing.


Agility testing


Push ups

The next stage of the pre-employment screening is an oral exam/questioning period where applicants meet with a panel consisting of ranking officers from the department.


Sometimes, members of the community are asked to participate as panel members. Candidates are asked questions, such as their reasons for wanting to become a police officer. They’re also given various scenarios and are asked what they would do if they found themselves in those situations.

Candidates who’ve made it to this stage in the process are required to submit to a background examination. Sometimes even a polygraph examination is administered. The focus of this portion of the procedure is on past and current drug use and abuse, criminal activity, past employment problems, honesty, and discrepancies in other portions of the application process.


Final contenders must undergo psychological testing to determine if they’re mentally fit for a career in law enforcement.

Needless to say, anyone who makes it through this grueling process has earned the job. Little do they know, the worst is yet to come. Police academy training is no picnic!

* * *


POLICE PROCEDURE AND INVESTIGATION has been nominated for a prestigious Macavity Award! I’m truly thrilled and humbled to be included with such a star-studded group of authors. What an incredible honor. Thanks so much!

Here’ the list of this year’s Macavity Award nominees:

Best Mystery Novel:

  • Reed Farrel Coleman: Soul Patch (Bleak House)
  • John Connolly: The Unquiet (Hodder & Stoughton*/Atria)
  • David Corbett: Blood of Paradise (Ballantine Mortalis)
  • Deborah Crombie: Water Like a Stone (Morrow)
  • Laura Lippman: What the Dead Know (Morrow)

Best First Mystery:

  • Tana French: In the Woods (Hodder & Stoughton*/Viking)
  • Joe Hill: Heart-Shaped Box (William Morrow)
  • Lisa Lutz: The Spellman Files (Simon & Schuster)
  • Tim Maleeny: Stealing the Dragon (Midnight Ink)
  • Matt Beynon Rees: The Collaborator of Bethlehem (Soho)

Best Mystery Short Story:

Best Mystery Non-Fiction:

  • Barry Forshaw: Rough Guide to Crime Fiction (Penguin Rough Guides)
  • Jean Gould O’Connell: Chester Gould: A Daughter’s Biography of the Creator of Dick Tracy (McFarland & Company)
  • Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower & Charles Foley, editors: Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters (HarperPress*/Penguin)
  • Lee Lofland: Police Procedure and Investigation: A Guide for Writers (Howdunit Series, Writers Digest Books)
  • Roger Sobin, editor/compiler: The Essential Mystery Lists: For Readers, Collectors, and Librarians (Poisoned Pen Press)

Sue Feder Memorial Historical Mystery:

  • Rhys Bowen: Her Royal Spyness (Penguin)
  • Ariana Franklin: Mistress of the Art of Death (Putnam)
  • Jason Goodwin: The Snake Stone (Faber & Faber*/ Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Clare Langley-Hawthorne: Consequences of Sin (Viking*/Penguin)
  • Joyce Carol Oates: The Gravedigger’s Daughter (HarperCollins Ecco)

*UK publisher (first edition)

Congratulations to each of you!

16 replies
  1. Peg H
    Peg H says:

    Lee, you owe me a new monitor–I spewed coffee on mine…

    Congrats on the nomination!!! You’re the winner in our eyes, no matter what.

  2. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Kendra – Thanks.

    We had petty much the same results – hundreds of applicants for two or three positions. There were a few undesirables in the bunch, but normally we had a group of highly qualified people. BUT, once the testing process started it didn’t take long for the cream to rise to the top.

  3. Kendra
    Kendra says:

    Congrats, Lee.

    Joyce–OMG! 1% qualified. I don’t know if this is recognition that you hire cream of the crop, or police work attracts a lot of losers.

    I’ve been asked to sit on the next hiring or promotion panel for my city’s police department. I have no idea what I’m getting into.

  4. Yvonne Mason
    Yvonne Mason says:

    Congratulations. Kudos!!! And all the other accolades out there.
    Isn’t amazing that they are allowed to walk among us. I don’t know what if anything they are thinking. That is why I love what I do. It is such a hoot –

  5. Joyce Tremel
    Joyce Tremel says:

    You really deserve that nomination! Here’s hoping for a win!!!

    Our department requires that applicants have either a bachelor’s degree or an associates degree and a few years experience. They also have to have already completed their police academy training. We don’t get many openings because the officers usually stay until they retire.

    Out of 300 applicants for our last open position, only 30 passed the written exam and out of those, only 3 passed the physical agility test.

  6. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Thanks, Linda.

    I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, typing with my fingers crossed or not. That’s why I use a voice recognition program whenever possible.

  7. l.c.mccabe
    l.c.mccabe says:

    Congratulations on the nomination Lee.

    I’ll keep my fingers cross for you. (Metaphorically speaking of course. It would be hard to type without free range of my fingers.)


  8. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Elena – Maybe the guy felt his experience with the system would give him a leg up in the hiring process.

    Sarah – Good to see you hanging around here again! I was going to write you later today to tell you about the nomination. I’m really excited about it.

  9. Elena
    Elena says:

    We had a dude who applied to be a probation officer who on his background check turned out to be a parole violator! Maybe it’s hard to remember which side you’re on.

    Congratulations Lee, I am delighted for you – your book well merits the honor. It was a pleasure to read.

  10. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Dave – I, too, conducted background checks for our department. It is a grueling process, but what amazed me the most were the idiots who applied knowing they had outstanding warrants. Easy arrest, but man…

    Terry – Thanks. Owning two books is a smart move. Rotating doorstops makes them last much longer.

    Bobby – You know I always save the Mayberry pictures for serious blog posts.

    Oh, Dave, the pictures are from my Springfield, Ohio collection…

  11. Terry
    Terry says:

    Congrats on the Macavity, Lee. And unlike the Oscars, where it’s been years since I’ve seen a nominated movie, I actually own your book. Two copeis, actually — let’s not get into why. Looks like they might be worth a lot more on eBay in a while.

    Oh, and I love the post, too!

  12. D. Swords
    D. Swords says:

    Congratulations on your nomination, Lee. That’s great!

    And where the heck do you find these pictures? They are so appropriate, and funny.

    Great blog. Again.

    I used to do background checks for my department for potential hirees. We used to go through about ten candidates to get one new hire. It is a long and tough process.

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