City Police Jobs: What You Need to Know
City police officers and detectives are on the front line of law enforcement in the communities they serve. Uniformed city police officers are highly visible, which is a critical component for keeping the peace. They maintain routine patrols, respond to crisis calls, make traffic stops, intervene in disputes, and build relationships with members of the community. City police officers account for nearly 80 percent of all law enforcement personnel in the nation.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some 861,000 city police officers and detectives were employed in 2006. In the coming years, city departments are expected to have the most police job openings. Total jobs are expected to increase by 11 percent and the BLS predicts excellent career opportunities at the municipal level for candidates who "meet the psychological, personal, and physical qualifications."
Career Training for City Police Officers
Most cities have specific training and qualification requirements for police force applicants. General requirements are usually the same--proof of U.S. citizenship, a valid driver's license, a 21-year age requirement, and the completion of a high school diploma.
When candidates apply for a law enforcement job, they also have to pass a written exam, a drug screen, background check, oral interview, polygraph exam, medical examination, psychological screening, and a physical agility test.
Depending on the city, top priority may go to candidates who have partially or fully completed a criminal justice degree. These degree programs generally include coursework in forensic science, investigation, U.S. law and the intricacies of the court system. Applicants with military service are also looked upon favorably.
With experience, police officers are generally promoted by formal civil service and salary range statutes to successive ranks--corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, and detective. Depending on department size, they can apply for specialized duty in homicide, juvenile justice, robbery, canine corps, motorcycle patrol, crime prevention, SWAT, robbery, fraud, burglary, or the bomb squad.
The BLS reports that municipal police officers had 2006 median annual earnings of $47,460. With promotions, the median earnings rise to $55,183 for corporals, $63,564 for sergeants, $69,310 for supervisors, and $72,454 for lieutenants.
Career Benefits of Staying Home
Unlike many counterparts in state or federal law enforcement agencies, municipal police officers and detectives enjoy the benefit of working close to home and family. In smaller or medium-sized cities, officers have the opportunity to become very familiar with their beats, develop relationships in the community, and nurture their relationships within the force without regional reassignments out of the city.
In addition to maintaining regular patrols, city police officers can also participate in community outreach programs, municipal alliances with businesses, schools, religious groups, citizen crime watch programs, or other community organizations.