Candidates interested in how to become a police officer in California are not always fully aware of the particular requirements of the state. While the dissociations are not exactly groundbreaking when compared to the average prerequisite in the United States, at times the minor ones have a substantial influence on the future of the potential cadets.

Minimum Requirements to Becoming a Police Officer in California

  1. At least 18 years old (although some agencies have a higher age requirement).
  2. A US citizen or a permanent resident alien who is eligible and has applied for citizenship.
  3. Has graduated from an accredited or approved US high school or GED equivalent.
  4. Must be able to pass the assessment of reading and writing ability.
  5. Should pass the assessment of oral communication skills and other factors.
  6. Must not have any felony convictions or misdemeanors.
  7. Must pass a thorough background investigation.
  8. Must pass the medical and psychological evaluations to ensure that the applicant is free from any physical, mental or emotional condition that may hinder his/her duty as a police officer.
  9. Must have a California Driver’s License upon appointment in the academy.

These minimum requirements are  pursuant to Government Code (GC) Sections 1029, 1030, and 1031, and Commission Regulations 9050-9055.

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At the same time, the state of California has various law enforcement departments, among which we can list:

  • The Department of Justice
  • Corrections and Rehabilitations
  • Fishing and Gaming Wardens
  • Highway Patrol
  • Alcoholic Beverage Control
  • State Park Rangers

Each of the aforementioned departments has its own physical and educational prerequisites, so cadets should have all their facts straight before mailing the application. Let’s look at what the typical California enrollment steps are, at the moment.

Choose the Department

There is the possibility of enrolling in Police Academy courses without having selected a department of law enforcement beforehand. However, that means the candidate will have to pay for the courses from his own pocket. A much better alternative would be to browse through the list of law enforcement departments (the list in this guide is not exhaustive) and obtain sponsorship.

Granted, following the graduation of the courses, the cadet will be obliged to work in the ranks of the law enforcement agency that accepted his application and sponsored his education. However, as readers will find out, it is not easy qualifying for this sponsorship.

Getting the Pre-Enrollment Approval

In the state of California, law enforcement agencies that help applicants will require quite a few things.

From the driver’s license to the US citizenship (which is required to be obtained prior to the final written examination), from the high school diploma (minimum, the CHSPE can present an equivalent), no department will take an application into account without them.

At the same time, all California law enforcement departments consider additional education (associate, bachelor or even a master’s degree) as a plus. On a side note, residency is not required until after graduation from one of the California police academies. These guidelines get the candidates through the pre-screening process, but their quest is far from completed.

The Tests

Once an application has been allowed, the future cadets will need to pass two more tests: physical and written. The physical test required by most law enforcement institutions in California is the PAT test, which stands for physical agility test, in conjunction with making it through the obstacle course within a specified time limit.

In order to successfully pass these tests, candidates have access to a wide variety of fitness and diet programs on the internet, some of which are designed by expert police officers.

In addition, the set of clothes worn on the day of the test can make all the difference. In respect of the written examination, the topics covered can be generally be found on the website of the California police academy of choice and they are usually designed in a multiple-answer fashion.

An important aspect to remember is that if a candidate fails to complete the physical test he cannot apply again for a period of six months. Passed both tests? Congratulations, you are on your way.

The Oral Examination

The oral examination will include questions about a candidate’s motivation to become a police officer, the skills and qualities recommending him, etc. More often than not, the examination board comprises of law enforcement HR personnel, experienced officers, members of the local authorities and, in certain situations, the Police Chief is expected to participate as well.

The Civil Service Board displays the list of candidates that have been approved and are considered eligible to become law enforcement agents.

What Follows the Oral Examination?

Only a few steps left to go, starting with a polygraph test in which the potential cadets are required to answer as truthfully as possible. The polygraph inquiry targets the background and the characteristics that would make an individual a suitable law enforcement officer.

There is also an additional psychological test as well as an extensive medical and drug examination. It is worth noting that while certain stains on the candidate’s background may not kill his chances to become an officer of the law, lying during the polygraph test will.

Welcome to the California Police Academy

The duration for the courses of law enforcement learning centers is approximately six months, but the training is quite intense. The status of the cadet following the academy is referred to as probationary, meaning that he is not sworn and lacks authority.

However, following the graduation and successful completion of the exams, the cadet becomes sworn and, after a short probationary period on the force, has the full authority of a police officer. 

For more information on how to become a police officer in California please visit the California POST website or call (916) 227-3909.

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