How to Become a Police Officer in Arizona
The state of Arizona is more than just the home of the Grand Canyon. It is a vast land of diverse terrain that is inhabited by more than six million people. Although Phoenix has the largest number of residents, Tuscon has a sizable population as well. Many smaller, less prominent towns are scattered around the state. Every community, no matter how rural, has the security of police presence. These dedicated officers risk their lives daily in order to protect the public from harm. A job in law enforcement is one of the most respectable career paths available.
All jurisdictions that are not patrolled by a city or county department are under the control of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. An entry-level trooper is paid about $45,000 per year while sheriff’s deputies and city officers in urban areas often make more. Benefits usually include a wide array of insurance coverage and a solid retirement plan. Vacation time and paid leave are among the perks as well. Most law enforcement personnel have access to assistance programs such as peer and family support.
For individuals who are interested in becoming sworn officers in the state, the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board has laid out some general requirements. Each new recruit must adhere to the following stipulations.
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Be 21 years of age or older
- Hold a high school diploma or GED
- Undergo an extensive background investigation that includes fingerprinting
- Present proof of a current medical examination
- Have no felony convictions
- Have no dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Armed Forces
- Have no previous certification that has been denied, revoked, or suspended
- Have never illegally sold, produced, cultivated, or transported marijuana or any other dangerous drug or narcotic
- Have not used marijuana illegally within the past three years
- Have never used marijuana illegally for any reason beyond experimentation
- Have not illegally used marijuana or any dangerous drug or narcotic while employed as a peace officer
- Have not illegally used a dangerous drug or narcotic other than marijuana within the past seven years
- Have never used a dangerous drug or narcotic illegally for any reason other than experimentation
- Have no pattern of abuse of prescription medication
- Pass a polygraph exam
- Have no pattern of traffic violations within the past three years that indicate a disregard for traffic laws or safety
- Have read and signed the Code of Ethics in Subsection F
Each law enforcement agency within the state has its own regulations in addition to these general standards. For example, the Phoenix Police Department requires 20/20 vision either corrected or uncorrected.
Whether an aspiring officer attends the police academy at a local community college or through the hiring law enforcement agency, he gains the necessary skills to serve the public with confidence and expertise. The course of study includes the following topics among others.
- Criminal Law
- Arrest Procedures
- Constitutional Law
- Cultural Diversity
- Defensive Tactics
- Driver Training
- Physical Fitness Training
- Firearms Training
- Report Writing
Cadets who participate in the ADPS Pre-Academy and Advanced Basic Training Program earn an annual salary of $39,101 while in training. Some city agencies run their own training academies as well. At a local community college, students can expect to spend about $5,000 in tuition for the program if they are state residents. At theMaricopa County Sheriff’s Office, the academy requires 720 hours of training; it is a 20-week course. Upon graduation from any approved school, recruits can pursue certification from the AZ POST board and move forward into an exciting career.
Although certification does not guarantee employment, it helps to qualify applicants for entry-level positions across the state. A graduate has three years to get a job before his certification expires. New officers usually serve under the supervision of a Field Training Officer during a probationary period. At the Tucson Police Department, the first three years must be dedicated to the patrol division. The assignment places the new officer in one of five sections under an FTO for 17 weeks. Once a trainee is able to go on solo patrol in Tucson, he has six months to do a community project that raises awareness among the local citizens.
After completing the required probationary period, an Arizona sworn officer can apply for a number of specialized positions within law enforcement. A few of the possibilities are listed below.
Investigator – Detectives may work on narcotics investigations or criminal cases sometimes serving as undercover cops. Although investigators may respond to a crime scene occasionally, they mostly do follow-up tasks in an effort to solve crimes and prepare cases for court.
Canine Handler – Officers who work with canines must keep them fed and groomed while maintaining a level of obedience that is essential to police operations. The dogs are used in searches for cadavers, narcotics, explosives, and accelerants. Since they also serve to protect officers from harm, their handlers must keep them trained to act aggressively at times without becoming unnecessarily violent.
SWAT Team Member – The purpose of a SWAT team is to provide a high level of protection, support, and firepower in exceptionally dangerous scenarios. The term stands for Special Weapons and Tactics. A SWAT team responds to hostage situations, performs high-risk arrests, and takes charge of all other crime scenes in which armed resistance is likely.
Search and Rescue – Population growth in Arizona has led to an increase in calls for search and rescue. Flash floods catch people off-guard while steep mountains trap amateur climbers. The use of helicopters adds to the effectiveness of search and rescue teams among local law enforcement. Special tactics training prepares team members for a wide variety of challenges.
Firearms Instructor – Law enforcement agencies with training academies need qualified instructors in the handling of firearms. Experienced officers are often called upon to teach other courses as well. This position requires excellent communication skills in addition to extensive knowledge of police procedures. Most academies specialize in the use of handguns, shotguns, and rifles.
Special Operations – The Arizona Department of Public Safety works with federal intelligence organizations to combat terrorism, high intensity drug trafficking, money laundering, and the use of chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear, and explosive weapons. Sworn officers assist in a variety of ways. With information that is provided by groups like the Criminal Investigations Research Unit, law enforcement professionals are often able to track down perpetrators through special strategic units.