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How to Become a Traffic Police Officer
Traffic police officers enforce federal, state and local traffic laws as a way of ensuring the safety of road users. They must have a deep understanding of traffic laws as well as knowledge of the principles of law enforcement and criminal law. Aspiring traffic police officers can enhance their job prospects by earning a degree in law enforcement and completing police academy training.
Obtain a Relevant Degree
Although a postsecondary degree is not a mandatory employment requirement for traffic officers, obtaining at least an associate degree in law enforcement or criminal justice improves your knowledge and makes you attractive to employers. These programs offer courses in traffic control and enforcement as well as accident investigation. Students also learn about police procedures, investigative report writing and courtroom procedures.
Some institutions, including universities, often hire civilians as traffic officers to manage the movement of vehicles and pedestrians within the campus. Obtaining such as job can help you secure traffic control experience that could add to your suitability for this job.
Learn the Skills
Successful traffic officers are decisive individuals with superb communication skills. When a motorist double-parks his car or violates another traffic code, for example, the traffic officer will typically issue a double-parking citation or, in some cases, even impound the vehicle. If the driver is not aware of his offense, the officer should be able to clearly explain the regulation and why he was in violation of it. Traffic officers can spend several hours on their feet directing traffic or patrolling streets to catch offenders, so you must be physically fit. When responding to a traffic accident, you might be faced with victims who are injured and in severe pain. It is important to remain calm and focused on your job to ensure victims receive the proper care.
Complete Police Training
Joining a police academy to receive training is the last hurdle to being a law enforcement officer. This training includes classroom and field instruction. Classroom instruction covers topics such as arrest and booking procedures, radio and communications, first aid, community relations, laws of arrest and traffic enforcement and investigation. Field training is designed to build your physical strength and endurance and teach firearm skills. Typical requirements to join a police academy include being at least 21 years old, being a U.S. citizen or having permanent residency status, and having a high school diploma. Other requirements include passing criminal and drug background checks as well as a series of physical and mental health tests.
After successfully completing police training, you can search for traffic officer jobs with state and local police agencies and departments of transportation. Employment opportunities are also available with federal agencies such as the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. National Park Police's traffic safety unit.
With the right experience as a traffic police officer and a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement, you can be promoted to the position of traffic sergeant.
The Indeed occupational resources website reports that traffic police officer earned an average annual salary of $49,000 as of March 2015.
- St. Clair County Community College: Degrees and Programs: Criminal Justice - Law Enforcement
- Government Jobs: City of Los Angeles Personnel Department: Class Title: Traffic Officer
- University of Mississippi: Job Description: Traffic Officer
- Indeed: Traffic Police Officer Salary
- City of Los Angeles Personnel Department: Academy Training
Based in New York City, Alison Green has been writing professionally on career topics for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in “U.S. News Weekly” magazine, “The Career” magazine and “Human Resources Journal.” Green holds a master's degree in finance from New York University.