Why be a cop?
You might know them as ‘the fuzz’, ‘the five-O’, ‘the cops’, ‘the boys in blue’ or ‘the rozzers’, but do you actually know what it’s really like to work for the police force?
It’s not all about ‘bobbies on the beat’, sullen looking detectives like Dalziel and Pascoe, or wisecracking cops that wear jeans and run around town annoying people like Eddie Murphy does in Beverly Hills Cop.
The brave people that pursue careers in this area can work in a wide range of positions, from office jobs within corporate service departments, to frontline service roles. Whatever role you choose though, you will be helping to keep the people of Britain safe from crime.
How does policing in the UK work?
Without the UK’s police officers and the government departments that are dedicated to improving policing operations, crime would affect a lot more people on a daily basis. People would be able to break laws without blinking and the nation would be in chaos. Undeniably, crime prevention and law enforcement is one of the most important services that the government provides to its public.
Every region has its own police force, which employs people as police officers, police community support officers, special constables, analysts and emergency call-handlers. If you want to support your community and work for your local police authority, then you need to apply to the specific police force directly.
There are also various national policing organisations that operate all over the country and provide more specific policing services, such as the British Transport Police (BTP), the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP), the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC). These organisations recruit and train people in specialist law enforcement roles, corporate service positions and roles that are dedicated towards the research, analysis and implementation of policing strategies.
Furthermore, you could consider working for governmental departments and agencies, such as the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) or the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT), which is part of the Home Office. If you work for one of these organisations, you will be playing an integral role in the formulation of policies, strategies and initiatives that aim to optimise the efficacy of police operations.
Considering the fact that police work is inextricably linked to national security, you may have to undergo a security clearance process before you can enter this area of work. The extent to which you will be vetted depends on the individual role.
For some roles, you might just need to get a basic security clearance check, known as Baseline Standard (BS); however, for other roles, you might have to undergo Counter Terrorist Check (CTC), Security Check (SC) or Developed Vetting (DV) level security clearance.
What are my options within this field?
If you’re considering becoming a police officer, you should be ready for an eventful, challenging and immensely rewarding career. It’s safe to say that this isn’t your average nine-to-five office job. You will be investigating crimes, arresting criminals, protecting your local community, supporting members of the public that have been affected by crime and doing shedloads of paperwork.
If you want to start training as a police officer, you will need to be at least 18 years of age, physically fit and mentally sharp. Contrary to popular belief, there are no minimum or maximum height constraints for police officers. Sure, a career in the police force has its twists and turns, but it’s not literally a fairground ride! Moreover, applications from both male and female candidates are welcome and encouraged!
You will also need to meet certain eligibility criteria, with regards to nationality and criminal convictions. For more detail, check out: http://www.policecouldyou.co.uk/police-officer/am-i-eligible/index.html.
All potential candidates go through an extensive assessment process, including medical assessments, fitness tests and mental aptitude exams.
Once you have made the grade, all police officers spend the first two years of their careers ‘on the beat’, patrolling the streets and helping their community. Once this is over, you might choose to specialise in a certain area of police work, e.g. CID or road policing.
Police Community Support Officers (PCSO)
These courageous people offer valuable support to police officers. They also operate as uniformed ‘bobbies on the beat’, but don’t tend to have the same authority to make arrests and so forth.
Their main focus is dealing with anti-social behaviour incidents. These people also provide direct support to police officers from time-to-time at sporting competitions, political demonstrations or cultural events in order to reduce crowd problems.
You can apply to become a police community support officer at any age, so if you’re 16 and interested in helping out your community, this is certainly a quicker route into police work. Apart from the difference in age restrictions, you will pretty much need to meet the same basic eligibility criteria as police officers.
Policy, Support & Corporate Services
Working for the police is not just about working out on the frontline, foiling criminal activity and driving your panda car very fast though town with your siren blaring. There are a huge range of professional services positions and support roles available that allow police officers to carry out their work more effectively.
You could be responsible for handling emergency calls in a command and control centre; you could be working in an HR, finance, marketing, I.T. or administrative support department; or alternatively, you could be working in a more hands-on operational support role. For instance, you could be training police horses or working as an intelligence analyst to anticipate and detect criminal activity. If you’ve got a scientific background, you could even work in forensics or biometrics (i.e. fingerprint and DNA analysis).
The policies and strategies that affect police operational performance are not created out of nowhere. A dedicated team of research analysts, researchers, planners and policy-makers are employed by a range of governmental departments and agencies, such as the NPIA, ACPO, SOCA and OSCT.
Your job would be all about helping to come up with the ways in which the police service can save money or catch criminals more effectively. For instance, you could be researching and assessing the effectiveness of handheld fingerprint sampling devices for police officers ‘on the beat’.
Special Constables, Cadets & Other Volunteers
The police service is supported by a huge range of volunteers. You can volunteer in an administrative role or within a witness support capacity.
Alternatively, if you want to get a taste of police work without pursuing the career path full-time, you could become a ‘Special Constable’. These guys give up four hours of their time a week (minimum) to provide a uniformed presence on the streets, offer neighbourhood watch services and provide valuable support to communities.
You won’t get paid for these positions, as they are purely voluntary, and you must be 18 years of age to be eligible.
If you are between the ages of 14 and 18, you can get involved with voluntary police cadet schemes in many locations across the country. If you’re serious about becoming a police officer, this can be a great way to get a better understanding of police work, show your enthusiasm for the profession and help your community at the same time.
If you like the thrill of the chase and want to ‘get the bad guy’ then a career in crime prevention, policing and counter-terrorism might be right up your street! Check out the following occupational profiles for more details: