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William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.

Take Charge of Your LE Job Search

Law enforcement jobs are more competitive than ever, and you'll want to approach applying for one with the right mindset.

August 31, 2009  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

Do you know the classic Porter Wagner country song called "The Cold Hard Facts of Life?" The stark realities of today's economic impact on municipal budgets should be in the lyrics.

Today's job market is the most competitive I've seen in more than 30 years. If you want a cop job, brace yourself for an uphill climb. Once you get there, the view is good.

Be sure to esearch every job thoroughly! There are two new obstacles in today's job market that are getting more and more prevalent. First, the state certification process used to be a cinch. In several states, funding for departmental reimbursements for recruit training has been cut off or significantly reduced.

This has forced many departments to seek pre-certified candidates to save their budgets, making it all the more difficult for the non-certified applicant. Many candidates are now making the life commitment, by paying their own way through the police academy — an expensive and tough quest.

You'll also want to fully research the financial stability of the governmental body that is the fiduciary of the police department. There's hardly a day that goes by without news headlines about police layoffs or positions from attrition not being replaced. It may be your dream to work in a certain department, but if you can't count on a stable future, focus your search elsewhere.

When you receive a job offer, fully read the benefits package! Many are so excited to get a job offer they will accept anything; be wary here. Many agencies are scaling back on benefits and pension plans. What you're offered may be far lighter than what the veterans are receiving. Again, it's all about the stability of that department. Read all of the paperwork carefully.

New hiring schemes can benefit you, as well as the department. Regional hiring consortiums that allow you to apply for an a la carte list of the county's departments are becoming extremely popular. You fill out one application, one written test and one physical agility/readiness test, and then you come out on everyone's list.

This is one-stop shopping for the candidate who wants to position for a job in a specific region. This approach is extremely competitive because instead of a handful of candidates for a department, several hundred can come into play. Give it your best!

There is one spin on this wheel, and many of these consortiums have an application fee. This offsets the testing fees, administrative costs, advertising and so forth. Don't balk at this fee for it can be a time saver for you, instead of traveling about to participate several in processes, this is a once and done.

Because the market is so competitive, you must try harder and give your best at all times. Treat every application as the most important document you've ever filled out. Slight mistakes, omissions, or sloppiness can result in elimination.

Be on your best conduct for each encounter with recruiters, consortium personnel or background investigators. Never leave your efforts in reserve; give it all you've got! This market is competitive, and we want winners here in "Copland." Prepare, leave nothing behind, and bring your "A" game.

Editor's Note: Please visit, a targeted police and campus safety job board.

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