Police Officer Candidates' Frequently Asked Questions

Other parts of this site answer questions about qualifications, the hiring process, benefits and transfers/promotions in depth. This page answers some of our most frequent questions about the job.

Getting Hired

You must be at least 20.5 years of age to be hired; there is no maximum age limit. Candidates often worry about their height, weight, vision, hearing or health history. As long as you are fit enough to take and pass the physical ability test and pre-employment medical exam, get through the Academy and are able to perform all the functions of day-to-day police work - there are no physical limitations on who can apply.

No.

No, the backgrounds of our officers are varied and diverse. Some of our officers have decided to proudly continue a family tradition of service. Others knew they wanted to be police officers ever since they can remember and come to the department with college degrees in Criminal Justice, although this is not required. Others have a prior military background, or have transferred to the department as a lateral hire from another agency. Still others are attracted to this career through their interactions with police officers in social work or law careers. But many of our officers have backgrounds and interests not at all related to law enforcement and have decided to go into policing as a second or third career.

If you can meet the physical demands of the job, it is never too late to start your career in policing. Many of our officers have had other careers, and their prior fields have been as diverse as social work, piloting commercial aircraft, information technology, law practice, engineering and professional athletes. Many of our officers go into policing because they want a job where they can see immediate results of their efforts and make a difference in peoples lives everyday.

If you live in the area, we strongly recommend that you attend one of our test-prep workshops.

If you are out of state, or unable to attend a workshop, make sure you read through the 'test prep' packet, and watch the video and prep for the physical ability exam both available on the test-prep page.

Training

ENTRY-LEVEL

The Basic Law Enforcement Academy (BLEA) is approximately 4.5-months (720 hours). Recruits are NOT housed at the academy and will be responsible for their own housing.

Upon graduation from the Basic Law Enforcement Academy (BLEA) you will become a Student Officer. You will spend approximately 4 weeks at the Seattle Police Department Advanced Training Unit in Post-BLEA. You will learn the laws specific to the City of Seattle, department policy and procedures and services specific to Seattle.

After completing advanced training, you will enter the Field Training Program, with an experienced officer who will evaluate your performance in the patrol division.

LATERAL-ENTRY

All certified law enforcement officers from outside of the State of Washington must take and pass the 10 week Police Officer Equivalency Academy administered by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission.

While attending the equivalency academy, you will also learn Seattle Municipal Laws, policies, procedures, and services specific to Seattle. This will be followed by Field Training for Lateral Officers.

The only way to fast-track some of your training is if you meet the criteria of a lateral or exceptional entry candidate.

Prior military or military police training does not count as prior law enforcement training, and you will be considered an Entry Level candidate. However, please note that the Seattle Police Department is an approved agency for G.I. Bill Benefits.

Note: Having a secret military clearance does not help our backgrounding process.

No. You will probably find that some of your skills from prior careers are useful when working as a police officer, however, the only career that is applicable to this job is as a current certified law enforcement officer with a different agency.

Patrol Work, Hours & Assignments

Patrol Officers work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week year round. Patrol officers work on a rotating schedule that includes weekends and holidays, and officers are assigned to one of three watches:

  • First Watch: 0300-1200 or 0330 - 1230
  • Second Watch: 1100-2000 or 1130 - 2030
  • Third Watch: 1900-0400 or 1930 - 0430

Officers work 4 days in a row, and then have 2 days off. As a result, our officers work a little more than 40 hours in an average work week. Those extra hours are tracked and then scheduled as additional paid time off throughout the year, similar to paid vacation.

Yes, on a very limited basis. Once you have been a patrol officer for at least three years, the Department offers a voluntary part-time work schedule for sworn officers working uniformed patrol, for a period of one-year, (with some one-year extensions).

Patrol officers are assigned to one of our five precincts. Because of the way the city is laid out, each precinct serves a distinct area of the city and often has completely different crime issues, density and terrain.

Learn more about our precincts.
There is no mandatory watch rotation. Once assigned to a watch, you will normally remain on that shift until you choose to change.

You will be issued a Glock 9 mm, or .40 caliber duty weapon and take home portable police radio. We also have Tasers available for officers who go through Taser training. There are no take-home patrol cars.

Before you are assigned, you will be able to give your top three choices of the shift and precinct you prefer. While there are no guarantees, in most cases at least one of your preferences can be accommodated.

Most patrol officers work in one-person or two person patrol cars. In high-density areas, patrol officers often walk their beats. In urban areas with a lot of traffic, bike patrols are often used as a more flexible way to cover ground. As a patrol officer, you can also work on a Community Policing Team, an Anti-Crime Team or undercover.

As first responders, a big part of patrol is responding to 9-1-1 calls, which can range from the mundane to the truly extraordinary. Patrol officers also respond to "on-view" incidents, or a situation they see occurring. In addition, Patrol Officers get to know the area they are assigned to and the community members they serve within their beat. When not responding directly to calls, or providing backup to other officers, patrol officers use proactive time to combat on-going crime problems in specific neighborhoods.

The Seattle Police Department takes a lot of pride in our officers. Patrol officers are the most visible representatives of our Department to the community. That is why training is so rigorous - by the time you are assigned to patrol you are ready to work independently. With the confidence of knowing that your co-workers are there for backup, and a solid foundation of laws, policies and tactics, your response to each call is ultimately up to you.

No. Both entry-level and lateral candidates must have 3-5 years as a patrol officer before transfers or promotions. Having experience with the unpredictable and diverse nature of events that come with patrol work is absolutely vital background knowledge before making a transition to any other type of police work. Modern policing is very complex and every city is very different so it is also important that you learn the specifics of this department and this city before any transfers.

People choose to go into policing because they love the job. In fact, many patrol officers find that they love the work so much that they choose to stay in patrol for their entire career. If you are not interested in patrol work at all and only want to be part of an advanced specialty unit, you are probably not ready to realistically consider a career in policing.

The Seattle Police Department is an equal opportunity employer that values diversity in its workforce. At SPD we acknowledge and honor the fundamental value and dignity of all individuals and pledge ourselves to creating and maintaining an environment that respects diverse traditions, heritages, and experiences.