“ Write here only if you have personal experience of working as a uniformed police officer. Why did you decide to become one? What are your qualifications? What are the ups and downs of the profession? „
I was really struggling to think of a Dooyoo review to write until I saw this subject area! As I've been working for the police for the past 16 years both as a civilian initially and now an actual officer, I thought I'd share my experiences.
Whatever your background everyone seems to have an opinion of the police whether thats a "they do a great job but its not for me" attitude or the "as opposed to lecturing me for speeding why not catch some real criminals" one! Some choose to discover what being a police officer is like for themselves and I can really recommend it.
The job itself is a trying one with plenty of highs and lows. My initial experience with the police was as a 16 year old working in a department called the Admin Support Unit (ASU). This department housed the hundreds of files that were ongoing through the court system and gave me an insight as to just how much paperwork was required in the job. Many of the office based jobs had begun to be "civilianised" at the time in order to free up police officers to be out on the streets and I could see, as a civilian, just how time consuming and draining dealing with all that paperwork could be. But this was and still is the price of our Criminal Justice system and it is the burden of the prosecution to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that a suspect is guilty of a crime. As such, for all the governement's ongoing promises of trying to "beat bureaucracy" I feel that lots of paperwork will always be an integral part of the job.
Seven years later and a colleague of mine said he was applying to join up as a police officer and leave the civilian ranks behind. I'd never really fancied it myself but decided to take the plunge as a support to my mate, and to see if I could get through the many hurdles facing applicants. I'd be lying if I didn't mention that at the time I would also be earning about £7k a year more as an officer as opposed to a civilian!
The beauty of joining the police is that no formal qualifications are necessary so you get a real mix of university educated applicants next to those that have "studied at the university of life!" The real key to joining is how you are as a person and how you react to certain situations. Also, if you struggle to communicate effectively, there is no real point in even attempting to join. As long as you are 18 or over, you are welcome to apply with no upper age barrier.
I was in an ideal position as a civilian to join up as over the years I had befriended a number of police officers that had come through the doors of the ASU. The initial process was the application form which was a mix of a number of security questions plus a fairly detailed section about what makes you as an individual tick, what life experience you have, and of course, why you want to be a police officer. The application came in the form of two booklets which seemed to take an age to complete as they had to be handwritten so that the assessors could check that your writing was legible!
Different Forces mix up the next stage of the application but I had an assessment which tested my ability to work in a group, problem solving, basic numeracy and writing tests as well as logic and observation tests. My observation skills have always been awful, but fortunately the scores were taken over all the subject areas and I got through.
The next test for me was the physical and again, the nature of these vary across the Forces. Mine involved 3 laps around a mini assault course, designed to mimic some of the aspects that you may face as a police officer. It involved sprinting, crawling, jumping over obstacles, pulling a body (which in my nearly 9 years as an officer I have never had to do!!!) and a push-pull machine to test your strength. Although I didn't find the course overly taxing, a decent level of fitness is required and if you push yourself too hard you make mistakes which incur time penalties.
Following the physical was the medical for me which is basically a general health test. Forces again vary regarding what their standards are. If like me, you had a bit of childhood asthma, you may seek to join one of the bigger metropolitan Forces as their standards for lung capacity and things like eyesight fluctuate massively from the rural Forces that have far fewer vacancies and can afford to be more choosey.
If you pass all of those, then there is just the little matter of an interview to get through before you pick up your uniform. The interview is usually conducted by a Superintendent or above with an Inspector and Sergeant. If you are thinking about joining, I would strongly recommend popping into your local police station and asking for some advice about the process. Most of the Forces websites also now contain a great host of useful information to read up on.
Assuming you pass the interview you go into training after your welcoming ceremony. Your first two years as a police officer are classed as your "probation" with much of the initial 3-6 months being classroom based as you start to go through the law books to make sure that you don't arrest someone for the wrong thing when you are unveiled on the streets! This really pushed people when I went through it as not everyone is as academically minded as others. Although you don't need to be a brain surgeon to get through this, some people did really struggle and a few of my colleagues dropped out which was sad considering all they had been through to get to this stage in the first place.
If you can battle through the law input, along with all the policy and procedure work you will be allocated a "parade station" and a tutor officer. The tutor will be an experienced officer that basically watches your every move for the first 10 week and assesses your development. Any problems should be ironed out with a little discussion and practice although for some, this is the stage that they get to when they realise the job is not for them.
When you get through your tutor phase there is just the little matter of completing that initial two years before you are confirmed in rank. This period is perhaps the most nerve racking for officers as the comfort blanket is pulled away more and more and you are expected to deal with issues and take the lead. It is perhaps the steepest learning curve part of the job but getting through it is so rewarding.
Once you're confirmed in rank the world is your oyster. You can now choose to carry on working on a response team (24/7 shifts) or a Neighbourhood Team (slightly more sociable hours focussing on specific communities) or widen out to the likes of CID, Firearms, Traffic or any other of the many departments that exist. If you haven't had your fill of exams and law, you can also apply for promotion and take another beast of an exam to start that process.
For me, the beauty of being a police officer is the wide variety of work and the worn out phrase that "no two days are the same." It really opened my eyes up to what goes on in the world and that there are some truly evil people out there along with some truly wonderful ones. It can sometimes get difficult to switch off from work, particularly when you get ladened with some of the ridiculous amounts of paperwork that the job heaps upon you. Many a night I have struggled to sleep thinking about what I need to get done the next day.
There is obviously the side to policing that would shock and disturb a number of people. I have attended some truly horrible road traffic accidents which perhaps makes me realise why so many of my colleagues are so vociferous in enforcing seat belt laws, particularly when children are involved. Also the first murder scene I ever attended is something that I can vividly recall to this day.
Counselling is available as part of the job, and its perhaps not surprising considering the kinds of situations you can be exposed to. I'm glad to say that mandatory referrals are now common place for certain incidents meaning that all the bravado that some officers try and show afterwards can still be probed to make sure there are no deeper issues.
The last 9 years that I've been a police officer have been a real rollercoaster. I've met some amazing friends that I'd like to think I will be close to forever and have lost, in the line of duty, some close friends that I have been proud to have called more than just "colleagues."
The Police Service isn't for everyone and some people decide at one stage or another that its not for them. It can be depressing with the incredible amount of paperwork that only seems to have increased since the age of "blame culture" and popularity of lawsuits against people. It always upsets me when a suspect is handed a paultry sentence for a serious offence he's committed when I know I've worked hard for the past 3 months to get him to court. That being said, there is perhaps no greater feeling than when a serious offender is handed a good term of imprisonment and you can tell the poor victims that their ordeal is perhaps now over.
Working shifts can also be a trial if you have never worked them before. Added to the fact that you are not always guaranteed to finish on time, many a romantic dinner date has been ruined thanks to the perils of the job!
Policing certainly isn't for everyone, but for me, I love it. My opinion is that the positives far outweigh the negatives and the thought of being able to make a real difference in peoples lives day in day out is something that few other jobs can offer. I'm really glad I joined and the fact that I can retire on a full pension at 48 helps too!!!
Being a police officer for the last 3 1/2 years, I really couldnt imagine doing anything else, especially after working 12years 9-5 in an office.
It was a job I always wanted to do from a very young age, but didnt join until later in life (age 30). The reason for this was because I truely thought that having life experience behind me would be helpful, and believe me it has been, given the vast range of jobs we coppers have to deal with on a day to day basis, some of which I have attended has made me feel like a gloryfied social worker (hence my life expereinces have helped so I could help these people)
The job involves a long probation period (2years), after an 8 month training course which is included in the 2 years. Once out of training school, there is alot of work to get through to be fully confirmed.
You are not only learning the job for real without the "safe" enviroment of a class room, but also completing a degree, which needs to be fully completed and signed off as complete before the confirmation and the all important pay rise.
You are forever learning, with the law being complex etc, which can be hard going on times, but great fun, especially if you enjoy learning and developing youself, with so much oppourtunity out there to change roles and specialise.
The shifts can be long, and does impact on your family and social life, and you certainly do find out who your real friends are!, as in my experience, true friends will understand that your working and cant finish early to go out for a few pints like you used to do, or need some sleep hence thats why the ironing hasnt been done.
but when you enjoy the work like i do, working long hours is not a chore
just a way of life with my second family by my side
The police is truely like a family all of its own, where you form close friendship with members of staff you work closely with on a day to day basis. Most of which you relay on for back up when things go wrong, so alot of trust is born with shift members.
the job can impact on you emotionally, as we do deal with alot of heart ache, death, and misgivings. But the force is always there behind you to offer support when required, not forgetting your other shift memebers to talk things over with over a hot cuppa after a hard shift, putting a smile back on your face.
I wont pretend, its not an easy job, and certainly not for the faint hearted. You face danger every day, with quite often the simplest of jobs turning nasty. Such as stopping a driver for speeding for his and others safety, and you end up getting assaulted, as the driver took offence?! (yes this happened to me whilst i was alone, in a small village, with my nearst help 15 miles away). So situations like that can be scary, but having a personality which can be friendly, but firm, with good interaction skills is a plus, especially if you end up working alone in a rural areas
There is mountains of paper work as well, which comes with each and every job you attend and find a crime has been committeed. But this you tend to learn how to clear that little bit quicker as you get more and more experienced
With all the negative points, there are more positive ones to make this role a fantastic one
I would say to anyone thinking of joining, take a visit to your local station. There will be loads of people more than willing to give you sound advice, and explain the role in more depth, as being a uniformed police officer, for me, is the best thing that has ever happended to me
Currently in my probation period and i have to say i am enjoying it so so much.
Its true to say tho that there is a lot of information and law to take in and learn and at times it can feel that you are never going to understand it all. But believe me - you will - and when you do you wont even remember thetimes when you were worried about it.
The excitement and opportunity is outstanding and i dont think that any other job could give you the variety = there is a career path for everyone, firearms, child abuse investigation, dog section, public order - you name it the police have it
The hardest part is the application stuff once you get through that the fun begins - dont be affraid to ask for adivce and ask questions - that way you'll learn more and faster!
My advice to those thinking about it is - GO FOR IT
I was a Police Officer for a period of 3 and a half years. Not an overly long time to be doing the job, but not a short time either.
Deciding to join the Police.
All through my life, I have only ever wanted to be a Firefighter. Anyone else who wants to do that will know just how hard it is to become one. As such, at the age of 18, I decided I needed a job that would give me similar satisfaction as a career in the Fire Service, pay relatively well and have good job security. There was only 2 options that I could think of, being a Police Officer or work for the Ambulance Service. Seeing a theme here people?? Well, to get into the Ambulance Service, I was informed I would need to go through college and university, which I did not want to do, so Police it was.
That was it, my decision made. I am but a simple person, so I like to make decisions simply. Off I trotted to my local station and not only received an application form, but was given guidance in how to fill it out correctly.
The Application Process.
The advice I received was obviously pretty good, as after filling in the form (which is a very big form, with lots of different questions about your family, etc), I was invited to a recruitment evening and a selection day.
The evening was a bit non, just giving a bit of information about what to expect on the selection day. It would have been cheaper to just send out the information in your invitation pack.
The selection day was a very filled day. I had to reply to a letter received from a member of the public complaining about something and write a report about something as 2 written tests. I also took part in 4 role play scenarios, putting you into different situations and seeing how you respond to them. Then a 20 minute interview, consisting of 4 questions and 4 questions only. That was the day and again, I obviously did well as I passed and was invited to the Physical stage.
Now this a joke. In my invitation to it, I was informed I would take part in a push/pull test, the bleep test and a grip test. On the day, we were informed that the grip test was no longer being used from that day, so only 2 tests. To pass the bleep test, you had to get to level 5.4. For those in the know, that is pretty pathetic. Those not in the know, it is pretty much a very slow jog. The push/pull test was having to push 33kg and pull 35kg. I am no way a strong person, yet I managed in the 50kg mark for both.
After this stage, it was the medical. Pretty simple, pee in a cup, look at the letters on a board, have a medical exam and that is all. Being 19 at the time, I was in good health. That was the whole process. I don't know if it has changed, but it was and still is a lengthy process. For me, it took 18 months between application going in to starting.
This will differ between forces around the country. My force, Kent had just started to use a university program for the training. It lasted for a year and was split between phases at university and then operational phases in a developement unit to put into practice the theory you have learnt. I really did not enjoy the theory part, as I stated I did not want to go to university. At the end of it though, I came out with a Foundation level in Policing. I know some forces still use the old way of training, which is something like 15 weeks of theory, followed by 10 weeks of practice and then a final phase of theory. Kent have changed the way they do it since I went through my training and now do it all 'in house'.
I can say if this is something you really want to do, then put up with the training and after that it is so much better. I was posted to the busiest area in the county, which made for some good shifts. I was also put on the best team for the area, who for my first 8 months on the team had the highest arrest and detection rate of crimes.
It is a difficult job, as what ever action you take at most incidents directly impacts on someone's life. It is not like working in a shop, where getting something wrong in the big scheme of things doesn't really matter. Get something wrong here could mean the wrong person beign convicted or worse.
You have to be able to adapt to anything that happens. You can go from speaking with some youths about something, to dealing with a triple stabbing. You need to be able to stay calm and collected when everyone around you is doing the complete opposite. You see things that most people would never even think about seeing.
After all this, you then have to do the paperwork. When I first started, it was a little overwhelming. There are so many different forms to fill in and it is all duplicating on every form. After a while though, you learn the tricks of the trade. You learn that copy and paste was a truly great invention. I found that after doing the forms a few times, they became pretty easy to fill in and the time taken to complete them was as minimal as it could be.
The most frustrating part of being a Police Officer by far is the Criminal Prosecution Service(CPS) and court system. The CPS have various guidelines on how to charge people with crimes. The worst guideline they have is if it doesn't have a 100% chance of being found guilty at court, they will not charge the person, as it won't then impact on their figures.
The courts aren't much better. It is luck of the draw on the day as to who you have as Magistrate or Judge and how they are feeling. I once had a case where the person was guilty and they did not deny that fact, yet they were found not guilty due to the arresting officer not saying he was under arrest before using his protective equipment. We found it very hard to say he was under arrest when he was punching us in the head several times!!
It is a truly great career and I do miss doing the job. Every so often I got to help someone who genuinely needed my help. The reason I left was due to me having to travel a very long distance every day to get to work. After requesting a transfer, I was informed I couldn't go anywhere for 18 months due to being given a course shortly before. They did not seem to care that I was having to drive over 40 miles after working throughout the night and wanting to go to sleep. When I said I wanted to leave, which meant they was losing the experience of my course, they made no effort to get me to stay. A great career if you can put up with the politics of it all.
I could write for ages on the subject, but shall end here. If anyone wants more specific advice about how to get in, etc, then just message me and I will gladly answer.
Being a police officer, to me, is first and foremost about helping people. This can be welcome or unwelcome. If you're pulling apart two people trying to batter each other, they probably won't thank you for it. It is a facinating job with a range of career possibilities. It is also repetitive, frustrating and thankless.
If you've seen The Bill or Life on Mars and decide to apply based on what you've seen you're going to be disappointed. You probably won't even make it through the assessment process. To find out what it's like, go through the information on the internet or in the careers library and speak to PCs and PCSOs. They'll give you an insight into the reality of the job.
The youngest you can apply is 18, with no upper age limit, although PCs and Sergeants normally retire at 60. Last year the average age of new recruit into the Metropolitan Police was about 24.
I have spent a year working with the Special Constabulary, volunteers who do the same tasks as regular officers. This has been an eye-opening look at aspects of society I wouldn't have seen otherwise. When you're searching a drug addict for needles or directing traffic in the rain at 2am, you might decide against it.
Not put off?
This is where you may have to be patient. There are many different police forces, recruiting at different times. To find out about this start with the national police recruitment website:
This will give you a summary of which areas are looking. It will also give you links to their individual websites so you can get a feel for them. It's probably not good choosing a largely rural force when you want the hustle and bustle of city streets.
Usually you will be sent application forms following attending an event. These is a presentation where the police service gives you an idea of what you could be doing and the process you'll go through. This includes the complexities of filling in your application. You usually have the chance of asking a variety of police officers any questions you may have.
The application form is more than just a listing of your personal details. You will be required to write detailed answers about how you have handled different situations. These will demonstrate what are known as 'the core competencies'. These include how well you cope under duress, your ability to work in a team, and how well you understand diversity in communities.
Having sent your forms off, you will next be invited to attend an assessment centre. You will undertake interviews, roleplays and written exercises, again looking at how effectively you meet the core competencies. This is a very important stage because, if you are successful, a report will be compiled on your strengths and weaknesses which will be used to personalise your training.
The second stage is a medical and fitness test. You will need to have your GP complete a form prior to this, and will pay abou £30 for them to do so. You will have your eyesight and hearing tested, be subject to a drug test and have your Body Mass Index taken. Strength and stamina are also tested, but the minimum level required for a pass is surprisingly low. If you only scrape through, you should do additional preparation prior to starting training.
If you pass the fitness and medical stage, you might have to wait a long time to be offered a start date. Security checks will be carried out and you will be kept on a list until a suitable space on a course is found.
The new(ish) police training is designed to focus on the individual officer and the community in which they will work. Your probation will last two years, starting with two weeks working in a community organisation. Gradually you will learn about the law and the day-to-day practices you will be expected to master. You will be assigned a tutor police officer, who will observe and support you as you put your learning into practice. The final stage is to undertake individual patrolling, before being declared fit to perform your duties.
There is a lot to learn, some of it off-by-heart. Remember, if you don't know certain legislation a defence solicitor will make no allowance for you being new. The amount of paperwork is staggering and you will learn a whole new way of writing notes. This will be a feature of the job for years to come, regardless of what government ministers may say.
After your two years probation, you are free to explore any speciality you may wish to, whether you want to work with Dogs, ride motor cycles, or investigate more serious crimes. Places are highly sought after, though, and you might need to be patient. You can also begin working your way through the ranks by taking the examinations for Sergeant and Inspector, taking on greater responsibilities for better wages.
Pay and Holiday
Salaries will vary depending on which force you join. Generally, a new officer will start on £20,000 with an annual increment. The Metropolitan police start on about £27,000 when London allowance is added. An additional bonus is free rail travel within a seventy mile radius of your region.
You will initially have 23 days annual leave, with opportunities to earn overtime. Given the nature of the job, you will not work Monday to Friday 9-5, at least for the first years of your service. There are a range of mechanisms to ensure you have adequate time off, but be aware, the shift system can put a strain on relationships.
If you want to feel part of a team, and that you are making a difference, this is a fantastic career. It can be frustrating and, because you wear that uniform, some people will make assumptions about you. The job is a privelege to do and, if you have the right attitude, you will learn fascinating things about yourself and your community.
For further information
NOTE: In my experience, all the guides that tell you how to pass the assessment test for the Police are a waste of money. They give you information about how to prepare (which you can find by speaking to officers, looking at websites, and obtaining literature from the different forces). Most of what they say is common sense and you're better off saving your money. You won't get extra credit by writing on the form that you bought one of these guides!
Police Recruitment Site - www.policecouldyou.co.uk
Metropolitan Police Site - www.met.police.uk
Wasting Police Time: The Crazy World of the War on Crime by David Copperfield
Perverting the Course of Justice: The Hilarious and Shocking Inside Story of British Policing by Inspector Gadget
Theory and officer training
Blackstone's Student Police Officer Handbook by Bryn Caless, Kevin Lawton-Barrett, Robert Underwood, and Dominic Wood