How to Become a Police Officer in Alabama
Police education in Alabama is often handled by academies operated by police departments in large cities. Smaller cities typically send their hires to academies elsewhere in the state. A college degree is not necessary to become a police officer in Alabama. However, having associates or bachelors degrees in fields like sociology, management, or criminal justice can equip you with additional skills for a career as an Alabama police officer.
A sociology degree can help you understand statistics regarding crime in your area and social problems that lead to criminal activity. If you are interested in advancement to command positions, degrees in management from offline or online colleges can help you develop the leadership skills necessary to succeed. A criminal justice degree, meanwhile, is the most direct collegiate preparation for police work, focusing on crime and law enforcement issues. If you are interested in a college education from an online college, this list of top online schools provide you with more information.
A college education is not necessary for those who want to become Alabama police officers, but academic work can improve your chances of being hired and advancing as an officer. Academic work can also help you develop solid communication and writing skills, which will make writing reports, dealing with paperwork, and talking to superiors much easier.
Basic Information on Police Officers in Alabama
Becoming a cop in Alabama allows you to join a group of 1,706 state officers and other state law enforcement employees in a variety of police jobs. There are about as many police officers in Alabama as is average for a state. Job growth for police officers in Alabama is not very strong, however, and the yearly projected growth is only about 1% through 2018, creating only 400 new positions per year. The Alabama Peace Officers Standards & Training (POST) Commission sets the standards for the education necessary to become a police officer in the state. Requirements are thus fairly standardized, and few organizations require additional education such as an accredited bachelor’s degree in sociology or criminal justice on top of basic police training.
You must be hired by a law enforcement agency before undergoing Alabama peace officer training, as Alabama does not allow for the presence of non-sworn trainees. There are ten POST basic training academies in Alabama for those interested in becoming a police officer in Birmingham or other Alabama cities. These academies also offer other courses for specializations in areas like jail management and high-risk entry if you are interested in specializing in non-traditional police fields as an Alabama peace officer.
While the minimum standards you must meet to become a police officer are standardized, there are some slight differences between certain departments. Minimum age requirements can vary, though typically the required age for police officers in Alabama is between 18 and 21. The specifics of the physical examinations you must take before employment can also vary, as some police departments may require additional tasks or field training beyond the state minimum.
What are the POST Minimum Standards to Become a Cop in Alabama?
- You must be a U.S. citizen.
- You must be at least 18 years old (some agencies require you to be older than this before applying).
- You must have graduated from an accredited high school, obtained a GED, or have equivalent education.
- You must pass a physical agility and ability examination involving climbing, window entry, weight dragging, balance, pushing, sit-ups, push-ups, and distance running (ensuring you have the stamina and agility necessary to deal with the demands of the job).
- You must undergo a psychological examination determining your mental fitness for police work.
- You must have a valid driver’s license.
- You must pass a background check made by the law enforcement agency.
- You must pass a physical examination by a licensed physician.
- You must submit fingerprint cards to be examined by the prospective hiring organization.
What Could Disqualify Me from Becoming an Alabama Cop?
The primary disqualification criteria for those interested in becoming an Alabama cop are felony convictions and dishonorable discharges from military organizations. If you have been convicted of a felony or dishonorably discharged, you cannot become a police officer in Alabama even if you meet all other requirements. Misdemeanors and other similar incidents, however, do not necessarily disqualify an applicant. If you are interested in becoming a police officer in Alabama, you should contact a recruiter for the organization with which you wish to be employed and discuss these prospects.
Police Training Academies in Alabama
In Alabama, the organization that sets the standards for police training is the Alabama Peace Officers Standards & Training Commission (APOSTC). This organization ensures that all peace officers meet minimum requirements for physical and mental skills. Established by state law in 1975 to oversee police hiring requirements in Alabama, APOSTC is funded by grants and appropriations from the state and federal government. All law enforcement agencies in the state, including city police departments and state law enforcement organizations, participate in the program. Agencies must meet these minimum criteria, though they are free to set requirements for becoming a cop above and beyond those listed.
For example, agencies can deviate from the requirements above in terms of minimum hours of training required for peace officers and field training requirements. Field training is not technically required as part of the minimum requirements, and 480 hours at police training academies are needed to enter police careers such as patrol officer or detective. The Birmingham police department, however, chooses to hire police officers who have 920 hours of instruction on a variety of topics. They also have a significant field training component, which involves at least 16 weeks of work alongside a field training officer.
Applying for a job as a peace officer usually requires a background check, but anyone who meets the minimum requirements of the hiring organization can apply. Certain factors, such as a felony conviction or a dishonorable military discharge, can lead to disqualification from police training courses in Alabama before beginning them. Basic training is reserved for those who have already been employed by a police organization, and no previous college education is needed. Basic training for police careers can cost more than $1,000 and involves physical and written work.
Basic police training courses in Alabama follow a 480-hour standard curriculum that ensures all police are familiar with essential concepts in police work. They focus on general concepts in police work, equipment use, criminal investigation, and other key knowledge areas. Some of the areas students can expect to be trained in include:
- Effective report writing
- Gangs, cults, and deviant movements
- Investigations of specific types of crime
- Care and use of police equipment
- Patrol techniques
Law Enforcement Jobs and Salary in Alabama
Peace officer careers made up more than six jobs per thousand in Alabama in 2011, and more than 11,000 people were employed in these positions in Alabama in that year. A police officer salary in Alabama averaged $39,990 in 2011, only about $200 higher than that of neighboring Georgia. The standards of living are comparable in both states, as are the crime rates, with Alabama and Georgia having violent crime rates about at the national average and property crime rates about 30% higher than the national average.
Alabama law enforcement jobs vary in responsibilities and titles depending on the law enforcement agency. Different precincts and organizations use different titles and organizational structures. In the Alabama Department of Public Safety, for example, there are nine rank titles for officers. In order of authority from highest to lowest, these ranks include:
- Colonel – Colonels oversee the entire department, and are appointed by the state governor. They are the ultimate authority in the department.
- Lieutenant Colonel – Lieutenant colonels aid the colonel currently heading the Department of Public Safety in all areas of administration of the organization, and are also appointed by governors.
- Major – Majors head up each of the five divisions of the Department of Public Safety. These include the Administrative Services Division, the Driver License Division, the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, the Alabama Highway Patrol Division, and the Service Division.
- Captain – Captains perform a wide variety of duties, including support for police officers and oversight of specific programs. They may deal with safety education, media relations, and other specialized duties for which an experienced officer is necessary.
- Lieutenant – Lieutenants serve in assistant commander roles, overseeing the activities of troopers, sergeants, corporals, and agents.
- Sergeant – Sergeants serve in some command functions, overseeing highly specialized tasks such as public information. They also oversee specific patrol troops or posts.
- Corporal – Corporals perform field duties such as patrols and body examinations.
- Agent – Agents investigate specific violations or situations as part of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation.
- Trooper – Troopers patrol highways, investigate crime scenes, and perform other necessary entry-level duties within the Department of Public Safety after completing POST certified training courses in Alabama.