A police officer is at every level of the journey of protecting the public from crime – educating, deterring, investigating, apprehending and prosecuting. You may be expected to wear protective vests and carry pepper spray, speedcuffs (modern handcuffs), a torch, personal radio and extendable baton. It is a very stressful job and one that you could become totally immersed in; one that you may find it difficult to switch off from off-duty. So far in the UK, only firearms unit officers may carry guns.
Who can I work for?
The Police Force and the Ministry of Defence are the only employers of police officers in the UK. The latter operate their own special Police Force. You may work out of hours (for private companies), but only on an advisory basis and in your own time (ie, off-duty).
Where and when can I work?
Anywhere in the UK. Sometimes you may be called to work abroad to liaise with overseas forces or specialists to trade knowledge. Mainly shift work that involves anti-social hours. Most crime is committed at night.
What can I earn?
A constable's starting salary is £21,000-£24,000, while an experienced one could receive more than £33,000. A sergeant will get £33,000-£38,000, depending on experience and an inspector £43,000-£48,000. Heads of police earn over £100,000. You'll get extra money for working in the capital (or what's called London weighting). The head of the Metropolitan Police, earns £260,088 a year.
What are the benefits?
Performance-related bonuses, the chance to work overtime and the chance to bring people who have caused a lot of despair to justice.
Are there chances of promotion?
The Police Force has a multitude of different tangents and promotions. There will be the standard policing career path – constable, sergeant, inspector, etc, going all the way up to the head of The Met. But also within the Force there are many posts requiring specialist help, such as CID (dealing with serious crimes such as murder and rape), missing persons units, covert police (undercover), Special Branch (which includes anti-terrorism operations and specialist protection) and high-tech crime divisions. Many police officers go into private security work.
What will I be responsible for?
+ Dealing with confrontational drunk, disorderly or violent offenders
+ Dealing with paperwork
+ Attending courts to give witness statements
+ Interviewing suspects and witnesses
+ Responding to 999 calls
+ Establishing contacts within the community, making yourself visible and approachable and gaining the trust of various factions of the local populace
+ Making visits to youth clubs, OAP homes, etc, to educate the public about crime prevention
+ Providing emotional and practical support to crime victims
+ Investigating crimes
+ Providing extra security at big events, such as football matches
+ Searching for missing persons
What qualifications do I need?
No formal qualifications are needed but you will have to sit an aptitude test that examines health and fitness, psychometrics, communication skills and decision-making abilities. And you must have a good standard of physical fitness and vision, declare any previous convictions, pass background and security tests, be over 18 and be a UK citizen. Your first two years as an officer is spent training on the (IPLDP) Initial Police Learning and Development Programme, which entails on-the-job learning and working towards an NVQ Level 3 in Policing with the requirement to get an NVQ Level 4 in Policing near the end of the training period. The HIPDS (High Potential Development Scheme) fast tracks promising recruits who want to study for a recognized Masters degree while serving as police officers.
Do I need any experience?
Volunteering as a youth police cadet will give you an insight into the ethos of the job – and can only work in your favour (good record permitting!) when it comes to applying for a job. Once accepted, experience will be gained 'in the workplace'.
What attributes are needed?
You'll be physically and emotionally strong. You'll display empathy but not gullibility. You'll be a sound judge of a human being. You'll have strong communication skills, keep your temper while others lose theirs and be brave and ration not a bull in a china shop. You'll be able to make quick decisions under pressure and be well mannered. You'll also be well disciplined and have the ability both to follow and give orders. You'll be honest, humorous and dignified and be able to appreciate the bigger picture.