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Old 12-15-2009, 8:40 AM
SoCalDep SoCalDep is offline
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What is your education background? Do you have your high school diploma, AA, Bachelors, etc.? Lots of departments only require a high school degree but many prefer higher education...even an AA or a certain number of college credits can greatly increase your chances of getting hired and increase your pay level.

The economy is not great right now, but there's almost never a time when NO agencies are hiring. You may not get your preferred agency right now, but maybe others are hiring and that's important for reasons I'll point out below. My agency, a very large SoCal Sheriff's Dept., has been rumored to be toying with a hiring freeze, but things can change very quickly.

OK...Controversy/Reality time. You're a girl. You have a better chance of being hired by many agencies, all else being equal. It's a very well established fact in my agency that women are being given preferential treatment in hiring, going to patrol, attaining coveted positions such as Detective/Narco/Gangs/Promotion, etc. It's the way it is and there's nothing any of us can do about it. I know several damn good female deputies who flat out told the Captain "no" when told to apply for some of these spots. They were basically strong-armed into taking the spots because we need our female numbers up for the consent decree. They wanted to advance on their own merits and were concerned about perception that they got the spot because they were females (which they did). I don't fault them and since it's the system we work in, you should use it to your advantage...just make sure you deserve it and work hard. You're more likely to get a spot in the academy so make sure you're ready.

As for paying for college "academy" classes or Criminal Justice classes...This is a good way to learn more about law enforcement, but most departments, upon hiring you, will pay for you to attend the academy. They'll pay for at least some of your stuff, and they'll pay you. You get none of this if you pay your own way, and I'm not sure how much it benefits you. Others may be able to explain the cost/benefit more.

Here's a simplistic and one-point-of-view timeline...

When you apply to a law enforcement agency, you will be required to complete an in-depth background packet. You will probably take written, oral, and physical tests. Your background will be investigated and you may (depending on dept.) be required to take a polygraph or voice stress analysis test. If all goes well you will get a psych eval (usually a written test and oral interview), medical eval, and then be given a conditional offer of employment. My process took 11 months and part of that was that the dept. messed up. I know people that got hired in 3 months. Much of it has to do with how much you have in your background. If you're young with less work experience, the background check is easier. (But that doesn't mean you're more likely to be hired.)

Once you're hired, you'll go to an academy. Some agencies will recognize other academies (if you pay your own way) while others won't and they'll require you to attend their academy regardless.

In the academy, you will be required to perform well in several categories including physical fitness, knowledge based testing, firearms, driving, defensive tactics, officer safety, etc. Failure to perform in each of these areas means you fail. This adds stress beyond simply being able to perform in a certain area. For example...You may be fit, but if you're up all night studying because you're a crappy test taker (not a put down...everyone has weaknesses) your PT performance and ability to avoid injury (the evil word) will suffer. There is a great amount of balance and multi-tasking necessary in the academy and the more prepared you are in advance, the easier it will be. That's one big reason why it's a good idea to be in the best shape possible before you go in. A big hint: Go on lots of ride-alongs at the department you want to apply to...Make friends with the officers/deputies. They've been through it and can give you some good tips and tricks. Less surprises = good. (Take everything with a grain of salt though)

OK...So you made it through the academy, and now you're sitting in your living room flashing your badge at the mirror and freaking out in coffee shops because you figure everyone in the world can see that monstrous issue pistol you're trying to conceal under clothing you haven't yet made "CCW friendly". Two things will happen....If you got hired by a Police Dept (or some Sheriff's Depts) you will go straight to patrol. If so, skip this next part...Well, read it anyway, but it won't apply....If you get hired by one of many Sheriff's Departments in CA, you will go to that wonderful place called custody (or courts, transportation, admin etc.) before you get parole...I mean patrol.

I spent four and a half years in custody. I'm working with people who spent less than a year and we just got two female (patrol) trainees who spent about four months in custody. The time varies and don't believe what anyone says...You can be out in patrol anywhere from a few months to several years. When I was hired (and threatened with being laid off due to the budget) they were telling us that we'd be in custody for 7-10 years. Then all of a sudden, with a new house and a wife newly pregnant, they flipped a switch and it was like "go! now!" Things change that fast so don't put too much stock in the rumor mill.

So while you're marinating in custody, you get to learn about bad guys. You wanna learn how tweakers make meth? Call the dorm trustee and tell 'em to bring you a meth cooker. In twenty minutes, you'll know. ID theft, burglary techniques, gang makeup and requirements, drug influence, manufacture, hiding places, where they get guns, where they hide guns, how they buy drugs and guns, etc. Criminals will talk to you in custody like nowhere else. It's college for criminals and it's a doctorate for cops. If you play your cards right, you'll go to patrol with an unbelievable amount of experience.

Speaking of experience, there are other options besides custody. You could work courts or transportation,etc. While they have advantages (work courts and you get to see how the system (doesn't) works and see what types of testimony are good/bad/etc.), but I believe nothing is better during this time than working custody.

OK....Now you made it through custody. You managed to avoid getting caught up in the "new cop" traps like going to bars and getting in fights/driving drunk/etc. doing UNBELIEVABLY stupid things that will get at least one, if not more of your academy classmates fired. They put out the list and "holy poop! You're going to patrol!" By this time you're either ecstatic or mildly suicidal. Hopefully you prepared and are jazzed. I was...

After you get handcuffed to a tree in front of the module and covered with every expired condiment from the ODR while other custody deputies take pictures of you and every supervisor at the facility is conveniently tying their shoes (what!?!?? I didn't say that, did I?) you'll see that place no more. You'll have graduated into "PATROL".

You'll probably go to some training, then you'll be in the field with a training officer. In my agency this is 6 months, give or take. Then you're on your own. Most coveted positions (Detectives, Narco, Gangs, etc.) require time in patrol, so you'll want to take this opportunity to have fun and build you're resume. After a while you may decide to become a field training officer and teach the people who were in your shoes. That will make you much more desirable to those special units.

If you don't get hired by your preferred agency, try for others. Upon getting your Basic POST certification, you can apply as a lateral to other departments and are much more likely to be hired. You also may find that you actually grew to love the agency you hired with and decide to stay...

It's a process, and a long one, but it's fun, hilarious, rewarding, and you will see things that no one else will. It's a great career and a rewarding one. It can be tragic and it can destroy you if you don't keep perspective.

I cannot imagine myself doing any other job.

Good luck and when you decide it's right for you, never, never, never give up. Never.

Last edited by SoCalDep; 12-15-2009 at 8:43 AM..
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