In the United States, you cannot become a police officer without a driver’s license. There are other countries, such as Great Britain, which do not require one, but you will find it is a requirement in all states in the US.
You cannot become a police officer in the United States without having a driver’s license. Due to transporting offenders and patrol duties, having a valid driver’s license is a necessity. This requirement is also part of every state law. Disqualifiers other than those concerning the operation of vehicles include people who have felony convictions or serious misdemeanors and different pre-application situations like being dishonorably discharged from the military and bad credit history. Disqualification can also occur during the application process with educational requirements, physical fitness, and not passing the psychological exam.
Police officers who teach criminology classes often discuss what it means to be in law enforcement. They talk about how once you decide to pursue this career path, your actions and decisions should reflect the high-level of integrity this job requires. Past indiscretions of youth rarely qualify, but after you turn 18, watch out! Read on to find out which disqualifiers departments and agencies are looking for.
Being a police officer often means being above reproach, having a good work ethic, and making a difference in your communities. This also means if there are certain negative things on your record, it will disqualify you from being an officer. Everybody makes a mistake or two, so not all minor offenses will prevent you from getting a career in law enforcement, like a single speeding violation. The following are common disqualifiers you should be aware of if seeking a job in any criminal justice field:
Unable to Operate or Drive a Patrol Vehicle
A patrol car is a police officer’s most important tool. Without it, they wouldn’t be able to arrive at crime scenes in time, transport and detain suspects or criminals, or patrol neighborhoods. The police car is the most visible deterrent an officer has. That being said, there are a couple of requirements a candidate or officer must have to be able to drive or operate a patrol vehicle:
- A valid driver’s license. This is a law in all fifty states. Any person applying and working in law enforcement must obtain and have a valid driver’s license to perform their duties.
- Passing EVOC. Officers state that most people don’t pass the police academy due to not passing the Emergency Vehicle Operations Course. This course has you driving at high speeds, around obstacles, and other typical driving scenarios you would encounter on the job.
- Clean Driving Record. This means that if you’ve had your driver’s license suspended, excessive speeding tickets, or any reckless driving convictions, it might disqualify you from becoming a law enforcement officer.
Though it’s not a requirement, you may ask yourself if you like driving. You’ll spend around 50% of your time driving in your patrol car.
Felonies or Serious Misdemeanors
This should go without saying: if you have a record with felonies or serious misdemeanors, it will most likely disqualify you from becoming a police officer. You may be wondering what some of these might be.
- Domestic Violence. This is the complete antithesis to being a good police officer. It can also be a liability to the department having an officer with this on their record.
- Drug Convictions. Though many states have marijuana as a legal substance, departments and agencies won’t hire people with a history of drug use.
- DUI Convictions. Some departments will look at when the conviction happened. If it was more recent than ten years prior, some departments might not look at it.
- Assaults. Crimes of violence like assault and battery are signs an officer might not control their tempers.
Perjury and Theft. These speak to a person’s honesty and integrity.
If you want a job in law enforcement, you’ll need to keep a clean record. Ethics and morals play an essential part in being a police officer.
Not sure if you want to be a cop or a firefighter? Check out our article HERE!
Other Disqualifiers Pre-Application
There are several other types of information departments, and agencies look for before taking an application seriously. These disqualifiers are just as serious as the legal infringements above. Some of these are:
- Dishonorable Discharge from the Military. Integrity in law enforcement means they will not hire people who have been dishonorably discharged from any military branch.
- Past or Current Gang Affiliation. Law enforcement agencies won’t hire people with current gang affiliation. If an applicant has youth gang affiliation and has long since changed their connection to that gang, there might be a chance of being hired. As with other information, be as honest as possible.
- Bad Credit History. This might give one pause, but it is of grave concern with any agency or department. Police officers may come across large sums of money in investigations and or crime scenes. Departments want to make sure their officers can take care of their financial responsibilities and won’t be tempted to graft or bribery.
- Poor Work History. Most people have been in a position where a job doesn’t work out for various reasons. What changes this scenario is when it is repetitive and happens way too often. This can indicate a poor work ethic or somebody that doesn’t work well with others.
These disqualifiers may not be as severe as crimes but still are indicative of a person’s character. Everybody makes a mistake or two. If you’re pursuing a law enforcement job, think about what might be revealed in the application process. If it is any of the above scenarios, you might still have a chance depending on when those events happened and the circumstances surrounding them. Most departments will ask you to disclose information about yourself fully. Be open, honest, and clear about any possible disqualifiers. With enough explanation, they may overlook some situations.
Disqualifiers During the Hiring Process
The process for becoming a police officer can be rigorous and in-depth. There are many requirements for becoming an officer that not everybody may meet. Though most disqualifiers come from the past, many can happen during the hiring process. The following are some of the more common disqualifiers that occur during the process:
- Past Crime Come to Light. As stated above, disclose everything that may be counted as a disqualifier. If, at any point, after you’ve been hired and past crimes come to light, you will be fired, and there will be worse consequences, including possible legal ramifications.
- Don’t Pass the Psychological Exam. This part of the application process is one of the main disqualifying reasons besides not passing the Emergency Vehicle
- Operations Course. If you don’t pass, it doesn’t mean you’re crazy; it just may bring to bear the fact you’re not suited to work as a police officer. Criminal justice isn’t for everybody.
- Not Physically Fit. Being an officer is strenuous work. All applicants need to pass one of two different types of physical fitness tests. The type of test will depend on the department or agency in which you’re applying. Make sure you know what you’ll need to do and practice.
- Educational Requirements Not Met. This may be an issue before the hiring process but can be remedied, unlike a past criminal record or affiliation. You’ll need a high school diploma or GED to apply for entry-level positions. These days, most departments seek applicants with a minimum level of some college or even a four-year degree.
- Don’t Pass the Medical or Written Exam. Both of these exams are required during the hiring process. If you don’t pass, you will be disqualified from becoming a law enforcement officer until you can pass them unless the medical condition can’t be rectified.
Any department will have any information available for their requirements and disqualifications. If you’re looking into law enforcement as a career, check and see what it would take to be an officer in your local department.
Should police officers have a driver’s license?
Yes, a police officer should have a driver’s license. Not only that, but it is a law in all fifty states. The police vehicle is a police officer’s best and most important tool. Some of the reasons for a law enforcement officer to have a license is:
- Transporting officers to crime scenes
- Patrolling neighborhoods and communities
- Transporting offenders or suspects to jail
- Carrying gear like radios, on-board laptops, emergency medical kits, and extra weapons
- Provides a visible deterrent
Can you become a police officer with multiple traffic violations?
It will depend on the state or county and what the violations were. On the NYPD, they will ask about every traffic violation, including ones committed during your teenage years. Departments might overlook one DUI up to ten years before applying, with an explanation. Other violations might take 3 to 5 years to clear off your record for somebody to be considered in most departments or agencies.
If you have a juvenile record, can you still become a police officer?
If you don’t disclose your juvenile record during the application process, most police departments will disqualify you. They have access to juvenile records and will check. Honesty during the application process is always the best policy.
To learn how to best prepare and study for your police exam click here.
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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun and I’m so grateful that you’re here.
Civil servants are some of the hardest working, most generous people I know. I have been passionate about all types of civil service career paths for years now and enjoy sharing everything I continue to learn about them.
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