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According to data from the FBI, about 33,000 gangs with 1.4 million members were active in the United States as of July 2014. Gangs are such a serious threat to safety that police departments have created special "gang units" designed to attack and neutralize the problem. Gang unit officers communicate with people in the community to gather intelligence about who the gang members are and what their goals are, then infiltrate the gangs to eliminate them. Officers often go undercover to gain as much inside information as they can.
Take the First Step
Becoming a police officer is the first step to joining a gang unit. Qualifications vary from one department to the next. As a general rule, however, applicants must be U.S. citizens, have a high school diploma or its equivalent, be at least 21 years old in most areas, have a driver's license and be able to pass physical tests. You should also be able to clear background and drug tests. Some police departments give preference to candidates who have been to college. If you meet all qualifications, you'll attend your unit's police academy.
Join the Gang Unit
Once you're a sworn police officer, make it a point to learn as much as you can about the gang activity in your precinct. Attend gang-related training classes like the ones provided by the National Gang Center. These types of classes can help you learn important skills such as how to gather intelligence on gang activity as well as expand your knowledge of legal issues and common problems involving gang cases. Also, ask the officers already in the gang unit what you can do to help. To get assigned to a gang unit, approach your commanding officer to let him know you'd interested in being transferred to the unit. Bear in mind that he will probably prefer you have several years' experience as an officer under your belt first.
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation: Gangs
- LawEnforcementEDU.net: Police Gang Unit Career and Job Description
- National Gang Center: Law Enforcement Anti-Gang Training
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Police Officer or Detective
- Criminal Justice Degree Schools: Advice for Becoming a Gang Investigator: Interview with Gary Killam, President of the FGIA
- Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images