How to Become a Police Officer
What Does a Police Officer Do?
Police officers take on the crucial responsibility of preserving the peace, preventing crimes and offenses and apprehending criminals or others who may be lawfully taken into custody. They assist victims of crime, contain and preserve crime scenes and perform investigations and write reports related to the crime.
Police officers also executive warrants, administer First Aid when necessary and direct traffic during emergencies or during city events. They stop motorists from speeding or driving recklessly, issue tickets and citations and may participate in drunk driving roadblocks. Police officers do a lot of community outreach. They may visit daycares, schools and other organizations to discuss crime prevention and build relationships with the community they’re charged to protect. They also implement and manage neighborhood crime watches.
Some police officers may continue on to join an Emergency Task Force, whose members are specially trained to handle high-risk and/or dangerous situations, such as hostage situations, terrorist threats and protection detail.
Is This Career Right For Me?
The physical and psychological testing and training that precedes the actual selection process will determine, in and of itself, if law enforcement is the right career for you. Personality tests will determine your suitability and police forces will only pursue recruits that they absolutely believe have the right characteristics to become police officers. The entire recruitment process, from applying to being hired, takes approximately one year.
Contact your municipal or provincial police force to find out the exact prerequisites and qualifications required to start the admissions process, but in general:
Recruits must be Canadian citizens, although permanent residents of Canada can be considered. You may have to pledge allegiance to Canada, in some cases. You’ll need a valid driver’s license and high school diploma.
You must be willing to relocate within the province or country, depending on the police services you intend to join.
You’ll have to consent to an exhaustive background investigation, including interviews with family, friends, neighbours, landlords, present and past employers and co-workers. (Word to the wise: If you’ve hidden something in your background, they will find out).
You should have a clean criminal record or seek and obtain a pardon for any prior convictions. There can be no criminal charges against you pending before the courts at the time you apply.
You’ll need to have a current First Aid/CPR certificate before being considered for employment. Some agencies require you have this certificate before even applying.
If you can’t fulfill the basic requirements, chances are you won’t be successfully admitted into a police recruitment program.
Once recruited, you’ll have to undergo a series of rigorous physical and mental tests and exams to determine your suitability for a career in law enforcement. Depending on the force that recruits you, these tests may include, among others:
- POPAT (Peace Officers Physical Abilities Test)
- PARE (Physical Abilities Requirement Evaluation)
- PREP (Physical Readiness Evaluation for Police), and
- MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory)
If your ultimate goal is to work as a detective, in forensics, crime scene investigation or on an emergency task force, you will most likely have to serve in a patrol division for a minimum of four years before you’ll be eligible to apply for speciality work.
Where Are The Jobs?
With a 0% unemployment rate for qualified police officers in Canada, it’s one of the most stable career options available.
You can apply to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), which may require you to relocate within Canada. Ontario and Quebec have their own provincial police forces. If you live in either of these provinces, you can get information on admissions and recruitment from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) or Sûreté du Québec. (Note that you must speak fluent French to join the Sûreté du Québec).
If you’re willing to be stationed outside of Canada, contact the Canadian Forces to learn more about their prerequisites.
You can also find employment as campus police, conservation officers and Canada Customs officers, and in corporate loss prevention, correctional services, insurance investigation and more.
Where Can I Study?
The following are just some of the schools that offer programs in Police Foundations. Contact the campus nearest you to get more information regarding admissions requirements, program length, financial aid options and more.