HOW TO BECOME AN AUSTRALIAN POLICE OFFICER
Do you have what it takes to become an Australian Police Officer? Are you ready to make a difference to the lives of thousands of people? Maximise your chances and learn the process of joining the police service in any Australian State.
THE ROLE OF AN AUSTRALIAN POLICE OFFICER
The role of a police officer provides career opportunities like no other. A career that is so diverse, so intense and so challenging, also sparks a great deal of rewards, excitement and satisfaction; prospects that all coincide with one another to make the job undoubtedly worthwhile.
Throughout Australia, police officers have an array of various requirements and commitments, all of which are tailored to providing a safe, honest and trusting service to the Australian public.
Amidst police officers, Australia’s law enforcements are also made up of bailiffs and sheriffs. Whilst police officers handle the responsibilities regarding criminal law, Australian bailiffs and sheriffs are responsible for enforcing the law for more civil offences.
It is fair to say, police officers are tasked with challenging responsibilities. It is more than just arresting people, their duties go above and beyond anyone could ever imagine:
- Detecting and deterring anti-social behaviour and any illegal activity;
- Interview witnesses and suspects;
- Search for missing people;
- Assist accidents such as road collisions;
- Dealing with customer queries face-to-face or telephone;
- Attend public events to promote safety and provide demonstrations;
- Control incident scenes;
- Conduct traffic enforcement duties in relation to alcohol and drugs;
- Escorting prisoners between prisons and courts;
- Patrolling neighbourhoods to ensure safety and well-being;
- Promote the importance of the law and follow guidelines and procedures of the police department.
As you can see, police officers are responsible for a wide range of different areas. A job as an Australian police officer will always offer something new; no two days will ever be the same. Your abilities, strengths and mind-set will constantly be put to the test. Could you handle this? Could you see yourself in this job role?
Australia comprises a federation of states, all of which maintain their own police force. The State police are required to perform many responsibilities on behalf of the Australian government.
Becoming a Police Officer in Australia is a tough process. Not only is it universally hard across all Australian sates but each state has its own police service and recruitment process.
Although the selection process for becoming a police officer will vary slightly depending on the police department you apply for, our How to Become an Australian Police Officer guide, will teach you the entire application process for:
- How to become a police officer in New South Wales (NSW);
- How to become a police officer in Queensland (QLD);
- How to become a police officer in South Australia (SA);
- How to become a police officer in Western Australia (WA);
- How to become a police officer in Tasmania (Tas);
- How to become a police officer in Victoria (Vic).
Whilst the selection process for each of the aforementioned States will differ, this guide will cover all the elements of the police officer selection process. Although some areas may not apply to you, we have broken down the process into the key areas, in order to cover the main elements of selection! As I mentioned, State police only have jurisdictional powers within their State. The Australian police service is also under control by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), whereby they monitor and protect Australia as a whole. They look at anything which threatens Australian borders, their interests, and welfare of the entire general public.
AUSTRALIA POLICE OFFICER ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA
In order to become a police officer in Australia, you will need to meet some general eligibility requirements. These requirements are to ensure that candidates are ‘able’ to perform the role of a police officer professionally and competently.
Some of the requirements are very basic, such as having Australian citizenship or permanent residence status, but other requirements are very specific. All of these requirements will need to be met if you wish to apply for a position as an Australian police officer.
I have broken up the eligibility criteria based on the key requirements across all Australian States and Australian Federal Police.
General requirements for all States and AFP:
- Australian citizenship or permanent residence status
- New Zealand citizens will need to have a Special Category Visa.
- Current driver’s licence.
- A first aid certificate, complete with Level 1 First Aid Certificate with CPR.
- Pass the medical assessments.
- Communicate effectively and professionally. Show an ability to negotiate.
- Pass background checks including criminal activities, and drug and alcohol use.
- Applicants must have completed a minimum of Year 10.
- If you are under the age of 21, you will need to have passed the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) or equivalent.
- If you are aged 21 or over, you can submit your application under the mature-age entry.
- Maintain strong levels of cardio fitness and physical strength. Complete the fitness test, including: strength and stamina tests, 100m swim, bleep test and agility run.
- Ensure no associates will affect your application.
Some police departments have additional/different requirements. Before applying to any police department, it is advisable to learn which physical, educational, and other requirements applicants must possess.
POLICE OFFICER – SKILLS, QUALITIES AND CHARACTER
No matter which department you hope to apply for, you should be aware that all Australian police agencies look for the very best candidates possible.
The testing and selection process are designed to weed out those candidates who do not meet minimum physical, mental, and emotional standards.
Some desirable qualities for those who wish to take on the role of Police Officer include the following:
INTEGRITY AND LOYALTY
As an Australian police officer, you will need to demonstrate your integrity and loyalty to the police service you work for.
These qualities are integral characteristics for potential police officers, whose main aim is to provide a service with honesty and dependability. The Australian public will look up to officers, and feel a sense of comfort and security; and this is achieved via officers who emphasise the importance of a loyal and faithful service.
Courage is an integral part of a role of a police officer. There will be many times where police officers will face challenging and often fearful events. Therefore, a police officer will need to demonstrate bravery and resolution.
Police officers are tasked with challenging and difficult situations every day. They need to be equipped with the utmost confidence to handle these situations and perform the job to the best of their ability.
A job as a police officer, or a job of any means for that matter, needs people who are confident in their abilities. Lacking confidence in a job like this could mean the difference between life and death.
Becoming an Australian police officer means that you will be required to react and adapt quickly in the face of all kinds of situations. These situations are often unexpected, adverse and traumatic.
You need to be able to ‘bounce back’ from these situations, and not be affected from what has happened.
One of the most important qualities of a police officer is the ability to make quick and effective decisions. Police officers will often find themselves in a difficult situation, whereby they will have to make a hasty decision in regards to handling the situation.
Although police officers work in a team environment, the majority of times will require officers to think on their feet and make their own choices. Therefore, it is important to demonstrate strong levels of decisiveness.
Steps to Becoming an Australian Police Officer
To become a police officer in Australia, you will be required to go through the following selection process:
The first stage of applying for a job as a police officer is to submit an application form. The application holds an incredible amount of weight; your ability to move forwards in the selection process will all depend on whether or not your application form is successful.
Meeting the Requirements
Before submitting your application form, you will need to check whether or not you are eligible to apply. In simple terms, do you meet the minimum criteria? If not, your application form will likely be rejected.
Please read the eligibility criteria above to use as a guideline of the key requirements for joining the police force. Don’t forget, these are just basic criteria, and the police department you apply to may have slightly different requirements. Be sure to check out their website to know what requirements you will have to meet.
Alongside the criteria, the selection process will also assess you on how well you meet the desired qualities. Whilst these are not mandatory, meeting these qualities will hugely increase your chances of being successful.
No matter which department you hope to apply for, you should be aware that all Australian police agencies look for the very best candidates possible. The testing and selection process are designed to weed out those candidates who do not meet minimum physical, mental, and emotional standards; however, candidates who excel in certain categories are understandably much more desirable than those who do not.
Some desirable qualities for those who wish to take on the role of Police Officer include the following:
- Honesty, personal accountability, and integrity are universally desirable traits. Candidates will undergo thorough background investigations to ensure that they meet standards.
- While people with certain criminal convictions and traffic convictions are welcome to apply for positions, some convictions are serious enough to prevent an applicant from moving forward. If you have a conviction on your record, you should discuss it openly with recruitment personnel to find out whether it would affect your chances of successful selection.
- If you have prior learning experience, such as college credit, or if you have had some previous work experience, particularly work within some capacity of law enforcement, your chances of success improve.
- Whilst police departments offer academy training, some applicants are more desirable due to their maturity and past experiences.
- Prior to engagement, all successful applicants are required to undergo final medical examinations and testing for illicit drugs, along with a final security clearance. Maintaining a drug-free lifestyle and becoming as physically fit as possible are advisable.
Australia's police forces are committed to recruiting individuals from all of the diverse groups that make up Australian society. Your gender, ethnicity, race, or other difference does not place you at any disadvantage.
How to and where to apply
Applying for a police officer position is easy. First, you must decide which police department you wish to apply with. Some candidates place applications with multiple departments in order to speed up the process, which can be lengthy. Before choosing a department to apply with, take some time to research what that department does. What areas do its officers work in? Where are officers stationed? What are their duty schedules like? What opportunities for advancement does the department offer? Many police departments offer career information sessions that can help make the decision making process easier.
Putting serious thought into the application process not only helps you make an educated decision about which department or departments to apply to, it also shows recruitment personnel within those departments that you are serious about your commitment to put forth your best effort during the application, selection, and training process.
Many police departments offer online applications, and most departments have personnel specifically dedicated to recruiting new members. You may pick up an application at a jobs or career event, or you may simply print it out at home.
Be sure you know when and where to turn in your application. Applications completed online may be submitted online; some departments may ask you to turn the application in in person. Still other departments may allow potential candidates to mail applications.
Useful tips about the Application Form
Below I have provided some useful tips to help you prepare for the application form of the police officer selection process. Whilst these might seem like common sense, you will be surprised by how many people fail to follow these simple, yet effective tips!
• SCHEDULE A TIME AND PLACE
Just as you would with any other vital task, set aside a precise time and place for completing police applications.
Police agencies use initial applications as a method for selecting the best candidates. Being at your best when you complete applications will ensure that you do the best you can; and, it will make your application stand head and shoulders above applications from others who never received or failed to follow this advice.
• READ ALL THE INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY
Before you touch pen to paper, be sure you have read all instructions. Once you have read the instructions, read all the questions. Some questions may seem like duplicates, but you'll notice that they are in fact different from one another.
Before writing or typing anything, consider your answers carefully. Remember, you are going to be judged on your answers so they need to be as clear and concise as possible.
• ALWAYS BE HONEST
Do not, under any circumstances, lie on your application. Do not bend the truth, not even a little bit. Police officers are human beings. They have often made mistakes in their lives. Some of them may have made the same kinds of mistakes that you have made, before they were police officers.
• BE PREPARED TO EXPLAIN YOUR ANSWERS
Be prepared to answer questions about your background, and be ready to provide honest answers to explain past behaviour and to explain the ways in which you have changed, if applicable. In some cases, you might fill out an application one day and be contacted by a background investigator the next. Being completely honest and open in answering inquiries.
Police agencies are now checking social media sites to see what applicants have posted in the past, and some things you think you have deleted might still be accessible to background officers. Be ready to answer questions about your social media activity.
• AVOID COMMON MISTAKES
There are a number of common mistakes people make when turning in police applications. Avoiding these mistakes can help make your application shine. These include:
- Making sure grammar and punctuation is spotless;
- Do not scribble or cross anything out;
- Do not leave any blank spaces;
- Written application forms need to be filled out neatly;
- Online application forms need to be submitted on time. Be sure to click all the correct buttons;
- If mailing your application, be sure to use an envelope that looks good. Try not to bend the application form.
• ATTACH ANY DOCUMENTATION REQUIRED
Many police agencies require candidates to turn in additional documentation with their applications. Some ask that additional pages be stapled to the application, while others ask applicants to use paper clips or place all documentation in a certain type of folder. Do not deviate from these requirements.
Double check to ensure you include all necessary documentation. Taking a few minutes to ensure you've dotted every "I" and crossed every "T" can be all it takes to help your application stand out from the rest. The easier you make recruiters' jobs, the better your chances of success. Don't just tell them why you're a great candidate, do all you can to prove the point.
• TURN YOUR APPLICATION IN ON TIME
Often, police departments accept applications during specific time periods. If you hope to gain employment during a specific time span, then be sure you know when the deadline for turning in applications is.
If you're applying and it's close to the end of one hiring period, consider waiting to turn in your application until the beginning of the next hiring period. You want your application to be noticed, not tossed onto a growing heap of last-minute paperwork.
Once a police department has accepted your application, you will go through a demanding selection process that includes written testing, physical testing, and testing designed to determine whether you have the mental and emotional fortitude required to be an effective member of a law enforcement team.
It is vital that you learn as much as possible about tests prior to taking them, and it is also very important that you build yourself up physically in order to get great scores on physical aptitude tests. Not only will you be competing against perhaps hundreds of other applicants, you will be intentionally placed under increased stress so that recruiters may gauge the way you react when under pressure.
As I have mentioned, the application process will vary from state to state, therefore the tests you will have to undertake will depend on which police department you apply to.
The tests that you will have to undergo include any of the following:
- Written tests;
- Reasoning ability tests;
- Mathematics tests;
- Physical aptitude tests;
- Agility tests;
- Psychological evaluation tests;
- Background checks;
I have broken down the above assessments to show you what type of things will be assessed during each test.
Remember, you may not be required to undertake all of these assessments – it just gives you some idea of the common assessments used during Australian police testing.
How to prepare
As mentioned previously, police applicants must often present themselves to be interviewed several times during the selection process. This can be something to be enjoyed, or it may be completely nerve-wracking; depending on your personality, you might feel frightened or eager prior to interviews. There are several ways you can prepare yourself in advance; physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Not only should you prepare for the questions that they may ask you, but you also need to prepare how you come across in an interview. Appearance and ‘look’ goes a long way in creating the right impression, and you don’t want to ruin your impression by not dressing appropriately, or knowing the correct interview etiquette.
Useful tips about the Interview
Below I have provided some useful tips to help you prepare for the interview stage of the police officer selection process.
• PREPARE YOUR ANSWERS PRIOR TO THE INTERVIEW
When preparing for an interview, it is important that you go through the common types of questions that you will be asked during the process. That way, you can prepare your answers to ensure that you meet all of the requirements and excel yourself on the day. Practice sample interview questions, and write down bullet points – this will really help you to structure your responses, so you don’t ramble on and you hit all of the important details.
• DO YOUR RESEARCH
It is important that you do as much research about the police department as possible. Learning more about specific departments, including their histories, geographic areas they serve, and public service programs and departmental policies can help you make a better impression, plus it can help you feel a bit more at ease during your interview.
Think of it this way - the better you know someone, the easier it is to talk to him or her. Since your interviewer is a representative of the department you are interviewing with, your knowledge will give you something in common.
• APPEARANCE IS KEY
It may go without saying, but your appearance is just as important to your success when interviewing for a position on a police force, as it is when applying for any other type of job. You want to look professional, mature, and responsible, so be sure to follow any instructions you are given when you are advised of your interview date.
For men, a suit and tie is never a poor choice. Women should aim for professional, conservative looking attire; if you elect to wear a skirt, be sure it hits you right at the knees; too long, and you'll look frumpy; too short, and you'll look unprofessional.
Other things to consider include: clean shoes, minimal make up and accessories, a hint of cologne or perfume, brushed hair, personal hygiene etc.
• ARRIVE AT THE DESTINATION EARLY
Arrive at your destination a few minutes early, and put on your jacket before entering the building.
When you arrive, try to visit the washroom before waiting for your interview. Take a quick peek in the mirror to ensure that your wardrobe is not malfunctioning in any way.
• STRONG LEVELS OF EYE CONTACT AND A FIRM HAND SHAKE
Make eye contact with people you meet, and be sure to greet your interviewers with a firm and confident handshake. If you're new at shaking hands with people, consider getting a friend to practice with you so that you can perfect your grip.
Sample interview questions
Below I have outlined some of the key interview questions that you are likely to be asked during the police officer interview:
- Why do you want a career in law enforcement?
- What do you know about this department?
- Why do you want a job with this department?
- Have you applied to any other law enforcement agencies?
- Tell us about your goals.
- Which of your qualities would make you a good police officer?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What duties did you perform at your previous (or current) place of employment?
- Why did you leave your last job (or any job)?
- Have you ever used (or sold) illegal drugs?
- Do you have any medical problems that would prevent you from performing police duties as assigned?
- Are you willing to submit to a medical, psychological, fitness, or drug test?
After completing the recruitment process, you will then undergo a training course at the Police Academy.
This training course will allow candidates to learn about the role of a police officer and work towards gaining their Diploma of Policing (given at the end of the probation period). After completion, you will be confirmed as a police constable and will be able to move on to the probationary period as a newly stated police constable.
For example, during the Victoria Police Academy, you can expect your time to be broken down as follows:
- Your time will be divided between lectures, training and learning operational procedures and skills;
- By the twelfth week, you will undergo numerous assessments including written tests, practical examinations, report writing exercises and communication assessments.
- You will then venture on to performing police duties at a police station.
- Further training will continue as you continue your development as a police constable.
Please note, the selection process will be slightly different from state to state, so I advise that you check the specifics before applying as a police officer.
After successfully completing the selection process, you will then commence your employment with a probationary period. This training period can last months and will put you through a rigorous and challenging programme that will ensure you become a competent police officer.
The training period will vary depending on which Australian police force you have applied to. To refresh your memory, I have provided the Australian states alongside their website to gain an insight into how their selection process works:
- Police New South Wales (NSW)
- Police Queensland (QLD)
- Police South Australia (SA)
- Police Western Australia (WA)
- Police Tasmania (Tas)
- Police Victoria (Vic)
The probationary period is specifically designed to ensure newly stated constables have the skills, and build on their qualities to ensure they are competent at providing a great service to the Australian public.
Your duties and experiences will greatly increase as your probationary period continues, and you will find yourself in all manners of different situations. Duties will venture outside of the Academy, and you will be supervised on patrols and at police stations.
You will be assessed at the end of your probationary period in order to be considered for a permanent position.
Here’s what is included within the guide:
Essential tips and advice on preparing for the Australian police officer selection process.
- Explanations and in-depth advice on the role of an Australian police officer;
- Tips and strategies on how to pass the entire selection process for becoming a police officer;
- How to pass the police officer interview with high scores;
- Detailed sample interview questions to teach you how to prepare your own interview responses;
- What the assessors are looking for from their candidates, and how you can prepare for every stage of the police officer selection process.
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