FREE e-Newsletter
Important News - Hot Topics
Get them Now!
Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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.

Should You Gain Law Enforcement Certification On Your Own?

Many states allow you to attend the police academy on your dime. Is it worth it?

August 29, 2011  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

Let's discuss whether you should pay for your law enforcement certification to become a better candidate. While this is usually answered with the perennial, "it depends," there are differing views on the topic.

Many states now allow a "qualified" or "certifiable" person to enroll and attend the police academy. Each state is different, so make sure you fully research what you're embarking on. The caveat is that you're qualified to enter after a completed, brief background check.

This isn't the Golden Ticket; it's a starting point. You may complete the academy, but won't be certified until a law enforcement agency employs you. In some states, this completes the certification process. In others, you'll have to attend additional law enforcement training for completion. Because you haven't been a cop, you may not have received specialized training that requires full law enforcement clearances.

Each academy is different. In some states, it's a full-time academy, meaning you're a full-time student and nearly incapable of working a regular job. Do you have the financial means to take as much as six months off? Who's supporting you and paying the bills?

There are a few states with part-time academies that schedule classes a few nights a week and a full schedule on weekends. While this may work for you, it takes longer and several states don't offer this path.

What do I mean by "qualified" or "certifiable?" Graduating from the academy or passing state entrance requirements does not guarantee you a law enforcement job. Passing this cursory background is like getting to first base. Law enforcement agencies will perform an in-depth background check. You may face polygraphs and drug tests. Your neighbors will be interviewed. Former employers will give input.

Just because you don't have a police record or outstanding parking tickets, don't presume you'll skate. Graduating from this academy isn't a fast lane to employment. Look in the mirror and ask yourself if there are other things that could cloud your employment chances.

Ensure that you fully research your state's requirements. Every state has peace-officer standards, as well as a training council (P.O.S.T.) or commission. Fully research the state's requirements for certification. Most departments use this as a baseline, and can require more if they desire and explain why. Check out the medical requirements (such as vision and hearing), physical standards (such as physical training improvements), educational requirements (such as GED or college), and psychological requirements — you may have to be tested. Speaking a second language can give you an edge.

When it comes to background checks, each state has its own requirements. Some may allow life's youthful misadventures (such as a juvenile record). Others may take strong stances on recent recreational drug use. Some states are lenient, while others have no sense of humor.

Even if you feel you will make all the grades, this investment will not ensure you employment. Granted some departments seek certified officers but this is not a sure win. Our men and women of the Armed Services are granted Veterans Preference Points for their service to our county. Whether you agree or not, military veterans (like me, Hooah!) get them and may well score higher. This is life.

If an agency you desire to work for is under any consent decrees for past hiring sins, and you're not the ethnicity or gender they're seeking, you may be out in the cold. There is no guarantee in life, except death and taxes.

For you to invest your time, effort and a pile of money to become certified is indeed laudable. Before you do this, you must thoroughly investigate your prospects and weigh your chances. If you feel up to the challenge, go for it. I wish you the best. I don't want you to waste your time, effort and money if this is a pipe dream. If you're going to try this, give it all you have.

Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

Allen @ 9/3/2011 6:46 AM

We should make the process as accessible as possible to people of all ages. For example, if you are in a work environment that only allows you to go to night and weekend school, and feel that you would like a solid career change, offer these classes in community college with certification that when hired will severely shorten the actual training required to get on the street with an FTO. This way you won't have to lower the bar to bring in people who are unemployed and just looking for a 'job'. Another possible method would be to train reserve officers as close as possible to regular certification, then after a couple or few years active reserve allow them to challenge full time certification testing. Just a couple of thoughts. Be safe.

Join the Discussion

POLICE Magazine does not tolerate comments that include profanity, personal attacks or antisocial behavior (such as "spamming" or "trolling"). This and other inappropriate content or material will be removed. We reserve the right to block any user who violates this, including removing all content posted by that user.

Other Recent Blog Posts

Recharging Your Batteries: The Benefits of "Unplugging"
There is certainly benefit to being current on events involving the people you consider...
Speaking on the Unspeakable: Ending the Pandemic of Police Officer Suicide
I've talked with officers who have lost a colleague to suicide—as well as many widows of...

Police Magazine