Police Employment and the Civil Service System

The civil service system plays a big role in the employment of the police and other public service oriented careers. The system has the ability to verify whether an individual is competent to perform the job or not. Patricia Ingraham and Guy Peters defined Civil Service as a “term applied to the appointed civilian employees of a governmental unit. The civil service system in the United States is characterized by a merit system of employment. This means that employment will be based on technical expertise which is determined by competitive examinations, and on permanent tenure and nonpartisanship (Ingraham et. al., p 1).”

The Civil Service System created a process that an individual needs to fulfill and pass in order to become a Police Officer.  The requirements are as follows:

 A candidate must have completed 60 semester credits from any accredited college/university or two years of full-time military service. Candidates must also submit the following: A driver’s license, pass the physical and medical exams/tests which also includes a drug test, must be 22 years of age upon the date of application, and must be a US citizen at the time of appointment. A background check is also implemented.

The following will be a cause for disqualification: (1) conviction of an offense, the nature of which shows a lack of good moral character or a disposition towards violence; (2) repeated convictions of any offense; (3) discharge from employment because of poor behavior or lack of discipline; (4) being discharged from the Armed Forces; and (5) being convicted of petit larceny. An individual convicted of a felony will not be eligible to the title of Police Officer (Rafilson, pp. 26-27).

These requirements are very important and are not to be taken for granted because of the duties a police officer must fulfill while on the job. The purpose of the police in America is crime prevention by the use of law enforcement.  This is the most important function other than the day-to-day patrol activities.

After their training, most police officers will be assigned to patrol duty (Rafilson, p 6).  Regardless of the department size, patrol officers have two basic responsibilities. (1) To prevent criminal activities and (2) to furnish day-to-day police service to the community.  Other than the mentioned responsibilities, police officer duties include:

Traffic Enforcement – enforce traffic laws, investigate traffic accidents, etc.Communication – relay important information to dispatchers, other police vehicles and commanding officers.Court Procedures – testify in criminal and civil court cases, present evidence in legal proceedings, and obtain search and arrest warrants. Paperwork – file reports, citations, summons, and memos. Review and sign reports to ensure completeness and accuracy. (Rafilson, pp 6-8).

Becoming a Police Officer is not as easy as getting a regular job in the office or in a customer service oriented company.  There are more requirements that need to be passed, and a certain amount of dedication from the individual is needed to become a Police Officer. The Civil Service System created these requirements to ensure the public that Police Officers can be trusted and are capable of upholding the law.

We see a lot of advantages in this kind of recruitment process.  The system makes sure that all candidates have not committed a crime, are physically fit, and have no records of using prohibited drugs. This ensures the public that police officers have gone through rigorous tests and have passed them before they are allowed to do their jobs.  The only disadvantage we can see in the system is the fact that the individuals that cannot afford to go to college and finish 60 semester credits cannot become a police officer.


Ingraham, Patricia W. with Peters, Guy (1998). “The State of the Higher Service After Reform: Britain, Canada, and the United States” OECD: Paris.

Rafilson, Fred M. (2003). Police Officer. United States: Peterson’s.