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Ask A Cop: Becoming a police officer

Editor’s note: Every week a Lake Oswego police officer answers your questions in this space. Send questions to Reporter Cliff Newell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call him at 503-636-1281, ext 105.

“What is the process to become a police officer?”

In order to become a police officer, there are several minimum requirements. You must be 21 years of age, be a U.S. citizen, have a minimum of a high school diploma and be of good moral character. You cannot have any felony convictions and/or some misdemeanor convictions such as false information, domestic assault, and theft. The Department of Public Safety, Standards and Training (DPSST) list the minimum standards that must be met in order to become a certified police officer. You can find that information at: cms.oregon.gov/dpsst/SC/docs/Rules/Sept%202012/008-0010%20FINAL.pdf.

Once you determine that you meet the minimum requirements you need to find a law enforcement agency that is hiring. The website at www.oregon.gov/OSP/CJIS/Pages/index.aspx lists all of the departments that are currently hiring. The list comes out weekly on Friday. Beyond the minimum requirements all departments are like most businesses, each agency has a certain culture and specific requirements that may be required above the minimum requirements. Most agencies are looking for candidates with a four-year college degree.

Generally you complete a written application, after the application is reviewed and if you meet the department requirements, an interview is scheduled. Most interviews are a panel type with 3-5 members on the interview board asking various questions.  After all the qualified candidates are interviewed, they are ranked.  For every one position usually the top 3 -5 candidates go to backgrounds. The background stage is critical.  In this process the applicants entire work history, criminal history, driving record, credit history, places of residency, education, friends, family, truthfulness are all reviewed. Our background investigators will travel to every place you have ever lived to confirm and review any information you put in the background packet. Any untruths or omissions will result in disqualification. After the successful completion of the background, a “chief’s” interview usually takes place. Upon a favorable interview with the chief, a contingency offer based on successful completion of a psychological and medical examination is offered. 

After completing all these steps, the officer is hired and put on an 18-month probation and sent to the police academy for 16 weeks of very basic training. After returning from the academy, the officer then goes through an 18-week Field Training and Evaluation Program known as FTEP. After all this, the officer graduates to solo status and after successful completion of probation the officer is retained. 

The police academy (DPSST) also certifies the officer with a “Basic Police Officer” certificate. 

As a general rule, for every 100 applicants, only one candidate successfully completes the entire process and is hired as a police officer. Within five years of being hired, 50 percent of all new officers are no longer employed as police officers for any number of reasons. Nationwide there is a severe shortage of police officers due to a shrinking pool of qualified candidates. 

— Lt. Doug Treat, Lake Oswego Police Department




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