In a nutshell, police officers maintain law and order, protect the general public, investigate crimes and prevent criminal activity from happening.
If you become a police officer, your career will be all about crime prevention, prosecution and punishment. Policing is such a varied career path that you could find yourself doing all kinds of activities.
You might be responsible for preventing heinous crimes and stopping dangerous criminal groups, such as organised crime syndicates. Alternatively, you might be working to diminish anti-social behaviour, or you might be taking part in counter-terrorism activities.
Moreover, you might be responsible for investigating crimes against people and their property, or maintaining public peace and order at large events, public gatherings and protests.
Essentially, your working day will be incredibly varied. After all, it’s not all about pinning perpetrators to the floor, handcuffing criminals and driving really fast with the sirens blaring. Sure, that’s a small part of the job, but you’ll also be required to do a large amount of paperwork, write reports, attend court hearings, conduct research and interview suspects.
Police officers don’t just simply run around the streets arresting criminals: they also work in collaboration with other public service professionals, such as court officers, community groups and local businesses.
At all times, police officers must make sure their actions comply with current legislation. Consequently, police officers must keep up to date with the latest developments in crime detection and prevention.
Salary & benefits
Salaries for police officers at the beginning of their training are around £22,000 per annum. This generally increases to around £26,000 once police officers have completed their training.
As you progress and take on a senior role, your salary will increase considerably. For instance, if you become a sergeant, you will earn between £34,000 and £40,000, whilst if you progress to the role of an inspector, you will earn between £44,000 and £49,000. If you climb all the way up to a chief inspector, you will earn somewhere between £49,000 and £52,000.
However, if you work in London, you can expect to earn up to £6,500 more per annum. This is to compensate for the higher cost of living in the capital.
Police officers will also receive an excellent pension, free travel across London, flexible work arrangements.
As you can understand, working as a police officer does not entail sitting behind a desk from nine-to-five every day. You’ll typically work between 35 and 40 hours a week, but understandably you might be required to work early mornings, evenings, night shifts and weekends from time to time.
Fortunately, police officers receive extra pay for overtime, but are expected to be available for duty on a 24/7 basis. Mental agility and physical fitness are essential requirements, since the job is quite stressful, even under ordinary circumstances.
There are no minimum academic requirements for people who want to enter the police force. Anyone can join, although you must be at least 18 years old.
The job is open to British, Commonwealth, EC/EEA citizens and foreign nationals with no residency or visa limitations. The recruitment process is carried out by local police services.
You’ll also have to pass a series of security checks and have a high level of physical fitness. Contrary to popular belief, there is no height restriction. However, you must have good vision, with or without glasses/contact lenses.
No previous work experience is necessary, but it is worth noting that volunteering as a police community support officer or special constable will understandably help your chances.
All aspiring police officers must go through a bunch of tests and assessments before becoming a trainee police officer, including: an assessment centre involving several verbal, writing and numerical exercises, an interview and medical and physical fitness checks.
Training & progression
Trainee police officers in England and Wales are required to complete the Initial Police Learning & Development Programme (IPLDP) within the first 24 months of service.
The programme is divided into four sections: induction, community training, basic police skills and independent patrol. Once trainee police officers have completed this training period, they will have achieved an NVQ Level 3 and 4 in Policing.
Once you’ve become a fully-fledged police officer, you will need to keep your physical fitness, knowledge and skills in check. Consequently, you will be required to participate in continuous training sessions throughout your career.
After a two-year probationary period, police officers can choose to specialise in a particular area of policing, such as CID (Criminal Investigation Department), fraud, drugs, child protection, traffic and mounted patrol, etc.
As you progress upwards through the ranks, you’ll move on from a police constable to become a sergeant and then an inspector. Eventually, you might even become a chief inspector, superintendent or chief superintendent.
A fast-track scheme, known as the Police High Potential Development Scheme, also identifies talented individuals who can be accelerated into senior positions.