How Do I Become a Police Officer?
Although this is a common question, there is no simple answer. However, it is very important that those who are interested in law enforcement careers continue to ask the question.
Although requirements and procedures change constantly and individual police departments have their own requirements, this basic procedure assumes potential students meet all of those physical, psychological and moral requirements and addresses the “mechanics” generally available for entry into a police department.
In the South Jersey area, there are generally two circumstances under which police departments hire new officers:
Anticipated Openings/Unanticipated Openings
Anticipated Openings: When a municipality increases its workforce authorization for a police department, an anticipated opening occurs.
The department initiates its applicant-screening process and selects an applicant. He or she is appointed by the governing body and sworn as an officer. He or she is scheduled for the police academy for training.
Unanticipated Openings: These occur when there is a vacancy in a police department for any number of reasons. Because most police departments do not have excessive staff, a shortage of even one officer often results in overtime or, at best, schedule disruption and almost always creates a burden for all the members of the department. Therefore, the vacated slot must be filled as soon as possible.
Another consideration is whether a police department is regulated by the rules under Title 11A (New Jersey Department of Personnel Regulations) or Title 40A.
In departments under Title 11A (formerly known as Civil Service), applicants must apply to the Department of Personnel and take a written exam administered by that department. Then they are placed on a list of candidates for the particular department to which they applied. Specified points are awarded for veterans, and the municipality must hire from this list.
In departments under Title 40A, applicants apply directly to the department desired. The department may issue an application, require a written examination and provide preference to veterans.
All departments are required to send recruits to a New Jersey state-approved academy within one year after hire.
Class II Special Officers
Every police department is authorized by statute to have a specific number of Class II Special Officers. These appointed officers perform special duties in conjunction with the department's regular full-time officers.
Class II Special Officers complete the Class II Special Officer program at an approved police academy and are certified by the New Jersey State Police Training Commission.
In many instances, a department might look to a certified Class II Special Officer as a suitable applicant for a full-time position. A Class II Special Officer may receive a waiver of training if he or she graduated from the SLEO II program at least one year before waiver application. A waiver of training is granted when the Police Training Commission evaluates the curriculum the SLEO II graduate followed during his or her training. This evaluation cannot take place until the graduate has been hired full time by a law enforcement agency. The evaluation is based on prescribed paperwork prepared by the hiring agency. After the Police Training Commission completes its evaluation, it responds in writing with a list of specific courses the trainee will need to be certified as a full-time officer.
How Do I Become a Class II Special Officer?
To obtain a position as a Class II Special Officer, one may inquire whether there are Class II Special Officer openings at his or her local police department. If none are available, or if a local municipality does not employ Class II Special Officers, one can apply to departments in other municipalities. Everyone always should consider the shore areas when applying for a Class II Special Officer position because all police departments located in resort communities are entitled to an unlimited number of Class II Special Officers.
To attend this program, a person must be appointed by a municipality (not necessarily sworn) and subject to the control of the sending police department. The department must have an unfilled, authorized slot for a Class II Special Officer for this person to be appointed.
College students or those with prior active military service may want to pursue a law enforcement career through the Alternate Route Basic Course for Police Officers (see below).
Alternate Route Basic Course for Police Officers
The New Jersey Police Training Commission granted approval to police academies in this state to conduct the Alternate Route Basic Course for Police Officers. This program permits qualified applicants to apply for admission to an approved academy to participate in the Basic Course for Police Officers.
To qualify for entrance into the Gloucester County Police Academy’s Alternate Route program, applicants must have at least 60 college credits from a regionally accredited school, two years of full-time active military service or a combination thereof; be between the ages of 18 and 35; live in the state of New Jersey at the time of application; and successfully pass all other entrance tests, evaluations or investigations. Evaluations include a physical fitness test, written examination, background check, oral interview, psychological evaluation and medical screening. Applicants successfully passing all phases of the entry process will be placed on a list to be considered for two basic courses conducted annually at the Gloucester County Police Academy. Applicants may live in any New Jersey county.
The academy has the right to refuse admittance for any reason, and successful completion of all phases of testing does not guarantee an applicant a seat in class. The academy does not guarantee employment to any trainee upon graduation.
The cost for applicants to participate in this program is approximately $1,850 ($600 — tuition, $250 — medical evaluation, $400 — psychological evaluation, $250 — uniforms and equipment, and $350 — ammunition).
The Basic Class is conducted from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, for 19 weeks. Program requirements include rigorous physical fitness activities, military discipline and extensive academic law enforcement courses.
What Occurs After Graduation From the Alternate Route Program?
After graduation, the academy notifies South Jersey police departments that these graduates are available and supplies their names, addresses and phone numbers. Other employment-search efforts will be the sole responsibility of the graduate trainee.
Graduates have three years from their graduation date to secure a law enforcement position. Many of the College's graduates are employed within the three-year time period.
How Do I Apply If I Meet the Program Qualifications?
The program accepts applications in August and September each year for classes conducted during the following year (i.e., applications submitted in August and September 2014 are considered for classes conducted in 2015). One should not request an application unless he or she has earned 60 college credits by the December preceding the year he or she hopes to attend the academy. For example, students planning to apply for classes in 2020 will need to earn 60 college credits by December 2019.