The Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training Council (GPSTC) regulates the process of becoming a police officer in the state. Candidates must meet prerequisites and undergo training, and pass a background examination and entrance exam. Georgia has both municipal police departments and a state police organization known as the Georgia State Patrol. Entrance requirements for the two careers differ slightly.
Skills and Characteristics
Certain skills and characteristics are necessary for a career as a police officer. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that police officers should have good communication skills, empathy, good judgment, leadership skills, perceptiveness, and physical stamina and strength. Communication skills are necessary to interview people from all walks of life and to document findings effectively in crime scene and incident reports. Empathy promotes understanding of different people’s perspectives. Much of a police officer’s work involves solving problems, and good judgment helps them make the right decisions in stressful situations. Leadership skills come in handy in emergency situations, when officers must take charge. Perceptiveness helps police officers understand and anticipate the reactions and behavior of others. Physical stamina and strength are necessary to meet required entry tests and to perform daily tasks.
Prerequisites and Requirements
To become a Georgia police officer, you can expect to spend four to six months in the hiring process. The minimum age requirement is 18 for police officers at the local level and 21 for the Georgia State Patrol. You must be a citizen of the United States and have a high school diploma or GED. A criminal record can affect your ability to become a police officer. You must pass a background check and undergo drug testing and a physical examination. You also must interview with the GPSTC regional manager at the academy you plan to attend.
Training and Experience
Before you can begin training, you must pass an entrance examination. Fees are required for the examination, training and other steps in the process such as background checks. The basic law enforcement training lasts 408 hours. The GSP training program lasts about 33 weeks, and the state typically offers two training sessions per year. Even if you have previously completed training at a police academy, you must complete the GSP program. The GSP prefers applicants who have completed a minimum of 90 quarter hours at an accredited college or university and also prefers candidates with at least two years of experience as a dispatcher, police corporal or trooper cadet in the Georgia Department of Public Safety.
Applying For Positions
To apply for a position as a police officer, check with the municipality in which you are interested. Some large cities and towns such as Atlanta may have all the necessary information online. Although the Georgia State Police has an online application, you must download and complete it, then mail the completed application to the Georgia Department of Public Safety. You should also plan on at least one hiring interview to become either a police officer or a GSP trooper. Polygraph testing may also be part of the hiring process.