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Advancement: Police Officer / Deputy Sheriff Positions



A police officer / deputy sheriff serves on the front line and is the first responder to all types of emergencies.

Testing Requirements

Orientation, Written Exam, Physical Ability Test, Oral Interview, Polygraph, Psychological Exam, Background Investigation, and Medical Exam

Orientation: Probationary Police Officer testing usually follows cycles where a law enforcement agency advertises a police test in order to establish an eligibility list. After an applicant submits a completed application, an orientation date is set. During the orientation, the agency has an opportunity to address the applicants as a large group and explain the benefits of working for that particular law enforcement agency. The orientation is mandatory and usually precedes the written and physical ability tests. Do not arrive late for the orientation!!

Written Exam: These exams generally tests knowledge and logic not necessarily specific to law enforcement. Most tests are a combination of multiple choice and true false for quicker results for the agency. Some tests will have the applicant study a large amount of written material in order to test the applicant’s memory later on. This material may include pictures of a mock crime scene or information from a police report. Generally, an applicant must receive a score of 70% or better to continue with the testing process.

Physical Ability Test: An obstacle course is set up to test the applicant’s strength, stamina and flexibility. Weaving between cones, crawling under barriers, running up and down stairs, scaling walls (no more than 6 feet) and dragging a weighted dummy are all things an applicant can expect to accomplish. A cut off time is determined ahead of time and all applicants regardless of age or gender must achieve or be under to continue on.

A second type of physical test is known as the POWER test. This test consists of a one repetition bench press, one minute maximum sit ups, sit and reach to test flexibility and a one and a half mile run. This test is age and gender specific as it relates to a passing score. Example: a 25 year old female has different passing scores then a 45 year old male.

Oral Interview: Can occur in several forums including a one on one with a police commission to a panel of officers holding various ranks throughout the agency. Questions usually are based on ethical decision making skills as well as integrity issues.

Applicants can be questioned with a group of other applicants. In this type of interview, each applicant is read a question and has one minute to answer. Each applicant takes a turn answering the same question. The order rotates so every applicant is first to answer a question and last to answer a question.

This is the portion of the testing process that will set an applicant apart from all other applicants competing for the job.

Polygraph (Lie Detector): This test is administered by a licensed operator, who is specifically trained to operate a polygraph. Generally the results of a polygraph are not sufficient as a singular means of disqualifying an applicant from consideration. Questions asked during a polygraph could include drug use, traffic violations, arrests and/or other undetected crimes like driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

Psychological Exam: This test is a comprehensive emotional stability and fitness examination. This test is administered by qualified professionals who use valid, useful and nondiscriminatory procedures.

Background Investigation: The background investigation often includes reference checks, a neighborhood canvas, credit check, criminal history check, driving history, educational credentials verification, and employment references.

Medical Exam: Tests an applicant’s ability to perform job related tasks and duties and will also include a drug and alcohol screen.


When initially hired, police officers generally serve a probationary period of 6 to 18 months, during which time they will ride with a Field Training Officer (FTO) or a more senior officer. The FTO phases will involve progressively more responsibility and autonomy on the part of the new officer. The purpose of the Field Training Program is to acclimate the probationary officer with the department’s rules, regulations, and arrest procedures.

The officer also learns the orientation of the community by studying street maps and learning where specific businesses and other landmarks (such as coffee shops) are located. The final stage of the FTO program includes a “shadow” phase in which the probationary officer operates on his/her own with a FTO nearby who will assist on all calls of service and act as a secondary officer on all traffic stops. After the probationary period is over the officer is generally put out on his own or paired with a partner. An officer should expect to serve at least a few years before being eligible for a promotion.

Certifications & Education

It is becoming more and more common for law enforcement agencies to require at least some college education.

Resources & Recommended Reading

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