Police Officer

    If you are wondering how to become a police officer, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of the emergency services, as well as job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Police constables or officers, serve the community. They aim to protect life and property, preserve order, prevent and investigate crime, and detect and prosecute offenders.

    As a police officer, after a period of training you could work as a uniformed officer on the beat (on foot or in a patrol car) or on police station duties.

    Typical responsibilities:

    responding to calls for assistance from the public
    making enquiries into crimes and offences and making arrests
    interviewing witnesses and suspects, preparing crime reports and taking statements
    searching for missing persons
    giving evidence in court
    attending accidents and fires
    custodial duties
    working on the preception desk, dealing with the public
    working in the communications room in two-way contact with officers on the beat.
    policing large public events, concerts and demonstrations
    visiting schools to give talks.
    Once you have successfully completed your probationary period as a constable, you can then specialise in specific branches such as CID, the drug squad or the traffic police.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good police constables include:

    honesty, confidence, social awareness and a responsible attitude
    the ability to weigh up a situation, react quickly and take positive action
    resilience and the ability to remain calm in sometimes life-threatening situations
    the ability to work alone or in a team, and to communicate clearly
    courage, initiative and common sense
    good fitness levels to deal with incidents and disturbances
    good literacy skills to record details of incidents and arrests accurately
    a firm, yet tactful approach and the ability to show tolerance and courtesy to the public
    discipline and the ability to give and receive instructions.

    How to become a police constable
    You will go through a demanding selection process before you are accepted as a trainee. The selection process involves a series of tests covering numeracy, literacy, information handling and reasoning. You will also take psychometric tests, and have to pass physical and medical examinations.

    To apply to join the police, you need to:

    be a British citizen, citizen of the EU or other EEA, a Commonwealth citizen or foreign national with indefinite leave to remain in the UK
    be at least 18 years old
    satisfy background and security checks and declare any previous convictions
    have above average physical fitness, with good vision and colour vision (with or without glasses or contact lenses).
    In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, once you have been accepted into the police through the standard entry route, you may be able to join the High Potential Development Scheme (HPD). This programme is designed to develop future leaders within the police force. Academic study plays an important role within this training programme. Serving officers can also apply.

    Police officer recruitment is handled by individual police forces and their eligibility criteria can vary. Check with your local force for exact details.

    Training and Development
    Once you start as a trainee police officer, you will go through a two-year probationary period. You will spend the first few months training on the job within your local force, and studying at a police college.

    The police probationer training scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is known as the Initial Police Learning and Development Programme (IPLDP). This includes training in community safety and partnership, and supervised and independent patrolling.

    During the two-year probationary period you will work towards NVQ Level 3 in Policing. You will also be expected to achieve NVQ Level 4 in Policing, either during or shortly after this period. These awards cover areas such as communicating with the public, conducting investigations, presenting evidence in court, and interviewing witnesses, victims and suspects.

    As a police officer seeking promotion, you can take further NVQs, which may improve your prospects. NVQ qualifications include:

    Level 3 in Police Supervisory Management
    Level 4 in Police Organisational Management
    Level 4 in Police Operational Management
    Level 5 in Police Strategic Management.
    During your time as a police officer you will be expected to keep your skills up to date and take part in relevant training as necessary. You will be monitored throughout your career.

    In Scotland, recruits attend a 15-week Initial Training Course at the Scottish Police College in Fife, which covers all aspects of police work. This is followed by further training courses spread over the two-year probation period.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    The starting salary is generally between £20,000 and £22,000 a year.
    With several years’ experience, earnings can reach around £30,000.
    A sergeant can earn up to £36,000.
    Inspectors can earn up to around £44,500.

    Job Prospects
    You would be employed as a police officer by one of the 52 forces throughout the UK.

    As an experienced police officer, you could specialise in one of a number of branches such as the traffic police, the fraud squad or underwater search units. Promotion is frequently available because all higher rank positions are filled from within the police service.

    The High Potential Development Scheme (HPD) exists to help talented members of the police take advantage of fast-track promotion opportunities. This programme is open to new recruits as well as serving officers. The scheme aims to identify those with strong leadership qualities who have the potential to be the leaders of the future.

    In Scotland, if you have successfully completed the two-year probationary period, and can demonstrate leadership and management potential, you may have access to an Accelerated Promotion Scheme. This programme aims to provide a fast track into senior management positions.

    Useful emergency services resources:
    Police Service Recruitment

    Skills for Justice
    Centre Court
    Atlas Way
    S4 7QQ

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