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. It's never too late to apply! 


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.

  • Half of the hiring incentive will be paid in the first paycheck and the second half upon completion of any probationary period established by the Public Safety Civil Service Rules.
  • Hiring incentives paid to new recruits, lateral transfers, and reinstated officers who leave Seattle Police Department employment before five years of completed service must be paid back to the City.



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.


All certified law enforcement officers from outside of the State of Washington must take and pass the 2 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: 04:00 - 14:00 (4 a.m.- 2 p.m.)
  • Second Watch: 11:00 - 21:00 (11 a.m.- 9 p.m.)
  • Third Watch: 19:00 - 05:00 (7 p.m. - 5 a.m.) 

Officers work four days in a row, and then have three days off.

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.

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.

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 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.


Sue Rahr, Interim Chief of Police
Address: 610 5th Avenue, Seattle, WA, 98104-1900
Mailing Address: PO Box 34986, Seattle, WA, 98124-4986
Phone: (206) 625-5011
Contact Us

Newsletter Updates


Sign up for the latest updates from Police

The Seattle Police Department (SPD) prevents crime, enforces laws, and supports quality public safety by delivering respectful, professional, and dependable police services. SPD operates within a framework that divides the city into five geographical areas called "precincts".