Starting a career as a law enforcement officer in the Sunshine State comes with many benefits: a flexible schedule, spending account, generous medical, dental, and vision coverage, top-notch retirement plans, paid sick leave, holiday bonus pay, and more.
In this article, you will find a detailed outline of the steps required to become a police officer, or law enforcement officer, with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
How To Become A Police Officer In Florida
- Meet the minimum requirements
- Complete the required screenings
- Complete the required training
- Pass the State Officer Certification Examination
- Gain employment with a Florida criminal justice employing agency
- Have the employment file reviewed by Commission staff
1. Meet the minimum requirements
Before a candidate can apply to become a law enforcement officer in Florida, they must meet the minimum qualifications outlined below:
- Age: Must be 19 years of age or older.
- Citizenship: Must be a United States citizen.
- Education: Must be a high school graduate with a high school diploma. A bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as criminal justice is encouraged but not mandatory.
- Valid Florida driver’s license: All candidates must have a valid driver’s license in the state of Florida. You must not have any repeat traffic violations, as this may hinder your chances and will be uncovered during the driving history check of a background investigation.
- Affidavit of Application: Applicants must fill out an Affidavit of Applicant Form and submit it to their hiring Criminal Justice Employing Agency.
2. Complete the required screenings
- Background check: Each candidate must pass a background investigation to be considered as a law enforcement officer in Florida. Background checks will be conducted by the applicant’s Criminal Justice Employing Agency to determine if they have a good moral character and have a history of making good ethical decisions. The background investigation will look at things like credit history, work history, driving history, criminal history, rental and homeownership history. Candidates must have a clean criminal record—meaning no felony charges, misdemeanors concerning violent and aggressive charges, or perjury or false statement charges on their record.
- Drug testing: Candidates will have to undergo a drug test before getting hired by an agency. History of drug use does not necessarily mean that a candidate will not get hired as a law enforcement officer, but they will need to be drug-free in order to get hired by a hiring agency or police department.
- Polygraph test: Candidates are required to take a polygraph test for psychological evaluation and to see if they are of good moral character. Candidates will be asked to answer a series of questions before the test and then asked the same questions again once hooked up to the polygraph machine.
- Fingerprints: Candidates must be fingerprinted by their employing agency and have the prints processed by the FDLE and FBI.
- Physical examination: A physical examination must be completed by a licensed physician, physician assistant, or certified advanced registered nurse practitioner to assess the applicant's physical health. Candidates will need to prove that they are in good physical condition to be considered for a career as a police officer.
- Physical agility test: Applicants will go through fitness evaluations to measure things like push-ups, sit-ups, and running to see if they are physically fit to keep up with the demands of the job.
- Basic Abilities Test: Candidates must pass the Basic Abilities Test (BAT) also referred to as the Criminal Justice Basic Abilities Test (CJBAT). The BAT assesses written comprehension and skills, memorization, problem sensitivity, inductive and deductive reasoning, and more. The test consists of 97 multiple choice questions and must be taken in the state of Florida. Candidates get 90 minutes to complete the exam and must achieve a score of 70+ in all three sections of the test. A candidate’s test score is valid for four years from the date of their test. There is a $39 fee for taking the exam and candidates get three attempts during any 12-month period to pass the test.
3. Complete the required training
Candidates must complete the Basic Recruitment Training Program through a training school certified by the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission in order to become a law enforcement officer in Florida.
This program is designed to help entry-level law enforcement officers prepare for their roles in the field. It teaches practical skills and runs simulated activities that are complementary to lessons learned in the classroom. The curriculum includes studies such as legal concepts, patrolling skills, arrest procedures, responding to disturbances, resolving vehicle incidents, directing traffic, crime scene and courtroom procedures, explosives, first aid, and more.
The Basic Recruitment Training Program is an in-person course only and cannot be taken online. Candidates may be exempt from taking this training program if they have served as a sworn-in law enforcement officer in another state for a minimum of one year or as a special operations officer in the armed forces for a minimum of five years with no dishonorable discharge.
4. Pass the State Officer Certification Examination
Before prospective police officers can be sworn in, they must successfully pass the state officer certification examination (SOCE). The state certification exam is 200 questions long and candidates must achieve a passing score of 80% to advance.
There is a fee of $100 for taking the SOCE. If a candidate fails three times, they must re-enroll and complete the Basic Recruit Training Program again before attempting the State Officer Certification Exam again.
5. Gain employment with a Florida Criminal Justice Employing Agency
This is a requirement for Florida police officer hopefuls once they have completed their training and examinations. In some cases, however, candidates may apply to be hired as a Temporary Employment Authorization pursuant with a Criminal Justice agency before completing the Basic Recruit Training Program or passing the State Officer Certification Examination. This is done at the discretion of the agency. Getting hired as a temporary pursuant can help speed up the completion of the minimum requirements as the agency would run a background check (including the drug screen) during the hiring process.
Once the candidate has met all of the minimum requirements, completed all the training, and passed all of the exams, the employing agency will submit an Officer Certification Application form to the Commission on behalf of the officer.
6. Have the employment file reviewed by Commission staff
Once the Commission has received the application, along with the candidate's employment file, the Commission staff will review all documents to ensure the candidate meets all requirements.
How long does it take to become a cop in Florida?
In total, it can take nine months or more to become a cop in Florida. The Basic Recruitment Training takes five to six months depending on the training academy, and it can take three months or more to fill out all the forms, go through all the screening, study for and write exams, as well as allow the Commission to review and accept an application.
Do you get paid while in the police academy in Florida?
Most students do not get paid while in the police academy. Some candidates, however, may receive payment if they have been hired temporarily with a Criminal Justice agency prior to completing the academic program or received sponsorship.
Prepare for a career as a law enforcement officer in Florida
At PalAmerican, we offer industry-leading training for security guards in Florida to equip them with the necessary skills for a successful application to become a law enforcement officer. Contact our St. Petersburg location to gain valuable training and experience in the security industry in Florida.