The term 'peace officer' is synonymous with various law enforcement officials, such as police officers, state troopers, detectives and sheriffs. These professionals are armed, badged and sworn to uphold the peace and enforce laws passed by a legislating body. Not only must the applicants be physically and mentally fit, they must pass the Peace Officer Skills Training certification, work for up to two years in a probationary position and be evaluated by a full-time officer of the peace.
Certification of Completion - Peace Officer
Aspiring peace officers must complete a certified Peace Officer Skills Training (POST) course, often referred to as the police academy. This training can last six months to one year. Individual jurisdictions may have specific requirements, but most POST programs require applicants to be 21 years old, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and some may require 1-2 years of college coursework. Graduates receive a POST certificate of completion that makes them eligible for probationary employment (typically 12 to 24 months) with law enforcement agencies.
Applicants must first pass a background check that includes a polygraph, drug screening and driving history appraisal. Applicants must be physically healthy and have vision correctable to 20/20 with color vision and depth perception within the normal range. Candidates also must submit to an in-depth psychological test that assesses judgment, character, stress tolerance, conflict resolution and need for power. Cadets must maintain a high level of fitness in order to complete the fieldwork required for courses. Program courses include laws in the cadet's given jurisdiction, police procedure, theory and technique, and emotional and personal management. Other course topics include:
- Basic narcotics investigation
- Cold case homicide
- Violent suspect control
- Courtroom testimony
- Mental illness recognition
- Sexual assault laws
Military Reciprocity - Peace Officer
Those with five or more years of military police experience who have received an honorable discharge are eligible for professional certification by passing the POST equivalency exam. Reciprocal officers may be asked to serve a truncated probationary period focusing more on jurisdictional laws and procedure than on field skills.
Continuing Education Information
Officers must complete continuing education as required by their jurisdictions, and many go on to take advanced courses in detective and investigative skills to qualify for promotion to detective or lieutenant.
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the broad category of police and detectives is expected to see a four percent growth between 2014-2024, prompted by population growth. Job openings include agencies such as Border Patrol and Customs; Homeland Security; Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco; and the Drug Enforcement Agency.
While pay varies widely according to agency, rank and length of service, the BLS reported the mean salary for police and sheriff's patrol officers to be $61,270 in May 2015. First-line supervisors of police and detectives had a mean salary of $85,810
Peace officer certification programs may apply to various positions within law enforcement, depending on a student's career goals and areas of interest. These programs can cover topics such as narcotics investigations, mental illness recognition, cold case homicide, and more, further preparing students for work in the field.