I fielded a call the other day from a young lad who was preparing to end his tour of service (ETS) with the military. I am very thankful for his and all of our veterans' service to our country. Now, he wanted to enter law enforcement nearly instantaneously. Hold on; it is not that simple.
As I explained how hiring cycles worked, it dawned on me that other young men and women have these same questions. So, here is a primer to police hiring cycles.
Read the Job Description for Dates
If you pick up a paper or surf the net and see a law enforcement job opening, read it thoroughly. Matter of fact, read it a second time for good measure. Many ads will state that an agency is beginning to start a process for the next academy. If the job announcement does not mention the start or academy date, this should be the first question. Some state agencies may only have one or two academies a year. Some larger municipal agencies have continuous hiring because they have multiple academies. How long is the cycle? It depends. I have seen some, due to good timing, last only a few months, some nearly a year. However, between now and the academy start date there are a litany of hurdles to cross. Some agencies refer to these hurdles as phases or steps.
Further read the description and note if the agency is hiring police trainees/recruits and/or precertified candidates; some departments may only hire precertified or seek lateral transfers. Why this is important is that there may be a variance in the hiring cycle between them and you.
A precertified/lateral has the academy and certification behind them; several of the screening components are completed. These are often on a separate track. If you are a trainee recruit, the academy may have reading competency testing; the state will probably require several other components for certification.
One Step Leads to Another
For the military veteran reader, often most agencies will not discuss hiring without your DD Form 214, or discharge from the service. An agency does not want to commit to a process and then have your tour of duty get extended or whatever. Also, the DD Form 214 has coding on it that will give great insight into your past career and skills. It is often a ticket to the next step.
Yes, there are some departments that will allow you to apply and begin the process without it, but having the 214 will move you along in the process. Be sure to talk in depth to the recruiter or human resources office about this.
Some departments require an initial application. Then if you meet the minimum requirements, they will require a more in-depth application to assist with the background investigation and polygraph. Some departments may want it all up front at the beginning.
Whatever you do, if you can, make a copy of what you submitted. If you are asked about your past by a background investigator and you give different answers, this can be a problem. I did mention backgrounds and polygraphs, if you have done something in your past that can be a cloud on the horizon, find out what the disqualifiers are now to save future embarrassment.
Face it, if you have had youthful misadventures and indiscretions, better to declare it now; it shows integrity. Yes, it could eliminate you from consideration, but be up front first. Don't let them find out about it on their own. Yes, I have seen police applicants arrested by the background investigators for failing to disclose vital information.
Timing Requires Planning
If you are exiting the service or college and need instantaneous employment, planning and alternate plans are required. You may indeed need to have transition housing and employment.
First, you apply to a department that has a timeline for acceptance of applications. From there, there will be written and physical testing that must be scored. Then if you are lucky, you go next to medical exams, physiological testing, backgrounds, and interviews. All of these take time and often they are scheduled. It doesn't hurt to ask what the timelines are, and when if all goes in your favor you could expect hiring. Most will be up front and tell you.
These things take time; you have to have shelter and gainful employment during the transition. The more you plan now, the less stress it will put on you and others.
Plan to succeed and you can!