Police officers serve their local community by working to protect people and property against crime, detecting offenders and taking a lead in dealing with emergencies. Joining the police force can offer you a lifelong occupation that is challenging and full of variety
All officers begin work, after their initial training, as uniformed constables on the beat. This may be on foot or in a patrol car. Officers must be prepared to deal with whatever comes along, from attending scenes of accidents, searching for missing people, responding to emergency calls, making arrests, sorting out street fights, taking statements, attending large public gatherings and so on.
The work can vary enormously from one day to the next but a lot of it means being outside in all weather. Nearly all Police officers work for one of the 43 Police Forces in England and Wales or one of eight forces in Scotland. There are also opportunities with specialist forces working in transport, nuclear establishments and around military bases.
To join the police, you must be at least 18 years old. You must be either a British Citizen, a citizen of the EU or other states in the EEA, or a Commonwealth citizen or foreign national with indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
There is no formal educational requirement, but you will have to pass written tests. If you pass the assessment process, you will then have to take a physical fitness test. To pass, you will need to be reasonably fit, and able to run short distances fairly quickly. Later you will also have to pass a medical examination.
Personal qualities are more important in the police than exam passes. It goes without saying that you must be honest and trustworthy, have a mature outlook and be aware of social issues. You will also need good decision-making skills, with the ability to weigh up a situation and react to it quickly and appropriately.
While you may not experience the drama of The Bill on a daily basis, you need to be brave enough to confront potentially violent attackers and to have the mental and emotional strength to deliver possibly tragic news to the families of victims.
Finally, you have to stay alert and observant, even when you are feeling physically exhausted. For a detailed list of eligibility requirements click here.
The Recruitment Procedure
Procedures may vary between forces but there are generally three stages in the police recruitment procedure:
- The written application form
- The Police Initial Recruitment Test (PIRT) or Scottish Police Standard Entrance Examination
- health and fitness checks
The initial written application form can be found here. You can only apply to one police force at a time. The police have certain requirements not required by other employers. You must, for example, declare any tattoos. If you have any tattoos that are in any way offensive, or if you have any tattoos that are football-affiliated, this could disqualify your application.
You must also declare any convictions, even for a juvenile offence. A criminal record will not necessarily disqualify your application, but it will require a review and decision from the Chief Constable. More than six penalty points on your driving licence could raise questions about your suitability and a drink-driving ban would make progress extremely difficult.
If your written application passes you will have to attend an assessment centre. Here you will undertake an interview, four interactive role play exercises, two written exercises and a numerical and verbal reasoning test. Your background will also be checked.
If you pass your assessment, you will then take a fitness test, eyesight test and a medical examination.
The fitness test will check your dynamic strength - involves performing five seated chest pushes and five seated back pulls on the Dyno machine to measure your strength. It will also test your endurance - you will be asked to run along a 15 metre track in time with a series of bleeps, which become increasingly faster.
You will also have to pass an eyesight test and the full medical examination to ensure that you have no serious health problems.
Once qualified, you will serve a two-year probationary period when you start. You might spend a few weeks with your local force before attending a 15-18 week residential training course at one of the national police training centres. You'll learn about self-defence, legal systems and how to treat people fairly. You will also have to endure some highly strenuous physical activities.
Having survived the residential training, you spend a few weeks on the beat at a local police station under the supervision of an experienced tutor-constable. After a short spell of further training, you should be ready to go on patrol by yourself.
As your career develops, you will attend further short training courses and you will have the opportunity to gain experiences of specialist sections such as traffic, criminal investigation and dog handling.
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