How to Become a Police Officer in Ohio
Peace officers who serve the citizens of Ohio deserve the highest regard for their diligent work. They risk their lives daily so that residents of the Buckeye State can be safe from harm. In spite of its dangers, a career in law enforcement is attractive to many strong, competent individuals. It is a very competitive field, but the state of Ohio sponsors numerous schools.
The minimum requirements for pursuing a sworn position have been laid out by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission and are as follows.
- Be a U.S. citizen or in the process of gaining citizenship
- Hold a valid Ohio drivers license
- Have earned a high school diploma or GED
- Have no felony convictions
Most agencies require new recruits to be 21 years of age or older for permanent employment. Some department heads ask for additional qualifications such as good hearing and vision. For example, the Ohio State Highway Patrol hires only applicants with normal color vision and monocular vision that is correctable to 20/20. Each eye separately must be no worse uncorrected than 20/100. Hearing loss cannot exceed 30 decibels in either ear at the frequencies 500 Hz, 1000 Hz, 2000 Hz, and 3000 Hz.
Since peace officers must enforce the law, many police units will not accept recruits who have used drugs recently. At the City of Columbus, applicants who have used marijuana within the past year or other illegal drugs within the past three years are automatically disqualified from employment. Other concerns include domestic violence, non-compliance with court-ordered child support or alimony, DUI convictions, and multiple moving violations. Many departments prefer that recruits have no visible tattoos or piercings except in the ears.
Two types of basic law enforcement training academies exist in the state of Ohio. A “closed” program is common in large communities and requires that trainees secure employment through a local police organization before signing up. An “open enrollment” program allows students to attend without holding a current position.
The Cincinnati Police Department runs a 26-week training academy that covers physical fitness as well as classroom instruction. After extensive interviews and background investigations, the Police Chief chooses a group of applicants who have shown great discipline and self-motivation throughout the selection process. The decision is based on the following evaluations.
- Written Test that requires no prior law enforcement experience but measures the skills and abilities that are necessary for success as a sworn officer
- Physical Ability Test that requires the candidate to run 300 meters in 62 seconds, do 26 push-ups within one minute, and do 32 sit-ups in one minute or less
- Polygraph Test
- Behavior Assessment that determines if the applicant is suitable for a career in law enforcement
- Background Investigation that includes personal references, previous employment, and criminal record
- Medical Exam and Drug Screen
A recruit who is chosen for the Cincinnati Police Academy is paid an annual salary of $31,320 while she prepares for certification. After graduation, she is promoted to the rank of Probationary Police Officer and assigned to a Field Training Officer for 90 days. Her job performance is then assessed to determine if she is ready to step into a non-probationary sworn position.
Terra State Community College in Fremont has a Basic Law Academy for students who seek open enrollment. The program costs approximately $5,000 and consists of two detailed courses. Since the academy takes two college sessions to complete, cadets can choose between spring and summer attendance or summer and fall. The subjects covered include the following.
- Firearms Training
- Criminal Law
- Human Relations
- Driving Skills
- Traffic Patrol
- Civil Disorders
- Unarmed Self-Defense
Graduates of the Terra State Law Academy meet all the qualifications for taking the state certification exam. Well-trained recruits are likely to find employment with one of Ohio’s many city, county, and state law enforcement agencies.
Benefits and Opportunities
Once a trainee makes it to permanent status, she enjoys a large number of benefits in addition to a pay increase. The starting salary for a full-fledged officer can be over $50,000 a year. Overtime hours and off-duty work are usually available for supplemental income. Although employee benefits packages can vary among departments, the following perks are standard at most law enforcement agencies.
- Uniforms and equipment provided
- Health insurance including dental and vision
- Life insurance
- Disability insurance
- Workers compensation coverage
- Sick leave, personal time off, and longevity pay
- Paid holidays and vacations
- Military leave
- Retirement plan
- Occupational injury leave
- College tuition reimbursement
- Fitness facilities
Seasoned patrol officers, sheriffs deputies, and state troopers have a number of options within their career field. Below are a few of the specialized units for which they can apply.
Canine Unit – Canine handlers are trained for tactical application in tasks like building searches, crowd control, and the tracking of suspects. A police canine can be used as a tool to accomplish difficult assignments with reduced risk to officers and perpetrators.
Investigations – Detectives work to solve cases ranging from welfare fraud to murder. Every type of crime that is committed within an agency’s jurisdiction must be studied in an effort to achieve justice for the victims. Investigators may work at the crime scene, in the forensics lab, or in the computer room.
Vice Intelligence Unit – Undercover cops monitor many public events and respond to complaints about prostitution, drug sales, liquor violations, organized crime, and gambling offenses. They sometimes work with neighboring law enforcement departments as well as state and federal agencies to track down interstate drug offenders.
SWAT Team – Highly trained individuals work as a group to successfully perform hostage negotiations, drug raids, warrant sweeps, and other high-risk arrests. SWAT teams often deal with barricaded individuals who possess deadly weapons and pose a threat. Members train continually to stay prepared for emergency situations.
School Resources – School Resource Officers serve as liaisons between students and local law enforcement. Their main focus is on safety, problem-solving, and education. They often respond to drug or gang-related issues along with general disorder. Since a line of communication between police and school officials is essential, these public servants fill a void in the system.