How to Become a Police Officer in Maine
Maine is not a state with large cities and endless development. The largest town is Portland with a population of 66,000. Nevertheless, a professional law enforcement structure is essential to the safety of the citizens. Through cooperative efforts between agencies, the violent crime rate in the Pine Tree State is kept lower than average.
An effective law enforcement system, however, must be well-planned and implemented. This responsibility belongs to the Board of Trustees at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. Since the group is comprised of community leaders, sworn officers, representatives from corrections facilities, and local civilians. it considers a wide range of perspectives when determining the standards for training and certification across the state. The Board of Trustees strives to maintain the highest level of expertise and respectability among the region’s various police units.
The basic requirements for potential police officers in Maine are as follows.
– Must be 21 years old (20 years old if the applicant has an associate’s degree or 60 credit hours of postsecondary education; 19 years old if currently enrolled in a postsecondary school with 40 completed credit hours)
– Must hold a high school diploma or GED
– Must have a Maine operator’s license
– Must have no serious criminal convictions nor extensive motor vehicle violations on record
– Must complete Phases I and II of a pre-service course in order to have the legal right to make arrests and carry a firearm while on duty
The first phase of the pre-service course can be taken online. It includes 40 hours of training plus a final exam that must be scheduled at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro. Phase II involves 80 hours of classroom-based instruction that lasts for two weeks. Attendance is required Monday through Friday from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm. Once a student has earned his course completion certificate, he can apply for a job (either part time or full time) at a local law enforcement agency.
Each police department in Maine has its own specific requirements for applicants. In order to begin training as a state trooper or deputy with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, for example, one must pass the ALERT exam. The Maine Criminal Justice Academy conducts the test on the first and third Wednesday of every month. The Portland Police Department, on the other hand, has a comparable test that measures general aptitude and knowledge. Writing skills and reading comprehension is important for entry-level law enforcement officers. In addition to a written exam, aspiring recruits must take a fitness test. They must be able to perform push-ups and sit-ups as well as a timed 1.5 mile run.
Some agencies require an extensive application process for employment. The steps may include a resume submission, an oral interview, a background investigation with fingerprints, a polygraph test, and a medical examination. If the applicant is accepted, then the hiring agency must send Notice of Employment and Firearms Qualification forms to the state’s Criminal Justice Academy. The Academy, in return, will send a Provisional Certificate so that the trainee can work until the completion of Phase III.
The Maine Criminal Justice Academy runs the 18-week Basic Law Enforcement Training Program in Vassalboro. This 720-hour course is a residential program that prepares potential officers for the responsibilities of a career in this field. Recruits must arrive early on Monday morning each week and stay until late Friday afternoon. A student who has been hired by an agency must complete the training course within his first year of employment in order to receive certification. Recruits who are not currently working in law enforcement can enter the academy by paying tuition. They must also cover the expenses for a polygraph test, psychological and medical exams, and a background check. Recruits who have completed similar training in other states may apply for a waiver although federal and military programs are often not deemed “substantially similar”.
Maine’s BLETP requires the following stipulations.
– All absences must be approved by the training supervisor and may not exceed 10 percent of the total required hours. In the case of a student who has successfully completed 14 weeks or more and has left the academy for a reason that is not voluntary, the Director may allow the unfinished session to be completed during the next available program.
– Each student must score 75 percent or higher on all weekly and major academic exams. If a student fails a test, then he is allowed no more than two make-up exams. His cumulative academic average must also be at least 75 percent.
– Every student must achieve a “professional value system” score of 80 percent or greater at the end of the program. Guidelines for this requirement are written in the BLETP Cadet Orientation and Curriculum Guide that can be acquired from the academy.
– For competence and safety in the handling of service weapons, each student must earn a proficiency score of 80 percent or higher.
– A proficiency standard of 70 percent is required in the operation of emergency vehicles.
– The proficiency requirement is 80 percent in the mechanics of arrest, restraint, and control. Twenty percent of the final grade is earned through a MARC scenario at the end of the course. Students who fail the scenario will be allowed up to two make-up scenarios.
– Each student must fully participate in every aspect of firearms and MARC training. He must be in attendance for at least 75 percent of the training in these areas.
– At the end of the program, all students must meet the physical fitness standard. They must perform at the 50th percentile according to age and gender norms.
– The certification exam must be passed at the end of the course with a 75 percent or higher.
After certification has been achieved and the new recruit has served under a Field Training Officer throughout his probationary period, he is ready to step into his role as a solo police officer, deputy, or state trooper. The job comes with many challenges but offers numerous rewards. Here are some of the perks.
– Annual salary of $40,000 or more
– Health insurance often including dental and vision
– Group term life insurance
– Pension plan
– Sick leave, paid holidays, and vacation time
– Fitness equipment access
– Employee assistance programs
– College tuition discounts or reimbursements
A variety of specialized units among the agencies in Maine provide sworn officers with many exciting career paths. Some examples are as follows.
– Criminal investigations
– Vice unit
– K-9 section
– Crash reconstruction
– Drug recognition
– School resource / D.A.R.E. program
– Court security
– Transportation of inmates
– SWAT team
– Firearms instruction
– Bombs and explosives unit
– Crisis negotiations
– Underwater recovery team
– Tactical team
– Incident management
– Air wing
– Evidence response team
– Members assistance
Since many of the state’s towns are positioned along the coast, some departments have special units that deal with the enforcement of fishing restrictions. The Maine State Police even has a pipe and drum unit for recruits who wish to express their departmental pride through musical talent!