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Ten things you need to know to become a police officer

Applying to become a police officer in the UK is undoubtedly complex and challenging. While there are variations in the minimum qualifications to join, many requirements for applicants are common to all forces. Applicants must be at least 18 years, must have been resident in the UK for more than three years, and must not have a criminal record.  The format of Recruitment Assessment Centres and the health and fitness requirements are the same for all forces. Similarly, all applicants who believe they have a disability, such as dyslexia, can make a declaration on their application form. Afterwards, the force will contact them to find out if they would like to apply for reasonable adjustments. There are some differences in the recruitment process across the UK from force to force, and the eligibility criteria can occasionally change. Differences include, for example, whether a full driving licence is required or if the applicant needs to live within the police force area. The only certain way of obtaining accurate and definitive advice about vacancies and the application process is to look at the websites for each force the applicant is considering.

To help with your application to be a police officer, here are ten hints:

  1. Visit the local police station and ask regular officers about the work from their perspective.
  2. Take time to consider whether the role of police officer is appropriate for you, and if you are suited for a career as a police officer. A series of pre-application questions could help you decide.
  3. Parts of the application form and assessment centre are more likely to be competence-based, so plan how you will provide responses incorporating the competencies of a police officer. Analyse the competencies and decide what previous experiences from your everyday life you could refer to at interview to show you are the right person for the role.
  4. During the application process, you should be prepared to provide written and verbal replies to questions about what you have done in the past, to evidence individual competency. For example, if the question relates to team working, your responses should be about what you yourself did within the team, not what the team did as a whole.
  5. Research the force you have applied. This will reap benefits in the application stages. What is its core business? What are its current priorities and what is its vision or mission? Are there wider external factors that influence the business? Think about the questions recruiters might ask, based on this research and the job advertisement details.
  6. Each part of the recruitment process is no less important than the other, so whether you are completing situational judgement tasks in the initial stages, writing an application form, or attending an assessment centre, plan out and prepare for each stage of the application process.
  7. Consider attending a preparation course to help with applications. Some companies provide coaching for the role play and the interview elements of the assessment centre, for example, and can boost the confidence of applicants.
  8. At assessment centres and interviews, you should dress smartly to evidence good judgement.
  9. In an interview, you should be prepared to comment on your own values and ethics as well as those of the police force you are applying to.
  10. Usually you can only apply to one force at any one time. If you apply to a force and are unsuccessful, you may have to wait six months before reapplying.

Other police officer entry routes are available, including direct entry inspector and superintendent programmes for applicants who already have middle management or senior management/director leadership skills. Alternatively, there is the National Graduate Leadership Programme 2020, for outstanding graduates wishing to become police leaders in either uniform or detective roles. Should you wish to serve your community as a police officer, but have commitments that prevent you from taking up a full-time salaried position, there are also volunteering opportunities in the special constabulary.

Good luck!

Featured image credit: Two-white-blue-yellow vehicles. CCO creative commons via Unsplash.

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