Police: 2nd jobs, training, screening, and numbers

11 mins read
Larry Dandridge

By Larry Dandridge

Why do many police officers have second jobs? Police officer pay is often too low to support a family and sometimes the benefits are sparce too, which is one reason there is a large turn-over of police officers. The majority of officers in every police department that the author served in had to hold second and sometimes a third job (called secondary work) to make ends meet. 

Many police departments control how much secondary work a COP does. When an officer has to work too many hours at a part-time job or two part-time jobs, it can hurt the officer’s performance at the full-time job. These secondary jobs also keep officers from their families and puts significant strain on the officer’s family. 

How much training does a police officer get? The five and one-half month police academy that the author graduated from in 1998 was ahead of the times in providing detailed, high quality, and realistic police recruit training. Most police departments are quite small, the level of training given by each state is non-standardized, and many times too little training is given to police recruits and police officers. 

The duration of the training in the Police Academy varies for different agencies. It usually takes about 13 to 19 weeks on average but can last up to six months. The first police academy the author graduated from in Alabama was only six weeks long, which is far too little training to prepare someone to be a good COP. The last police academy the author attended in Missouri was a model training program and was five months long (about 24 weeks and over 800 hours of instruction). 

The SC Police Academy is (only) 12 weeks long. See https://sccja.sc.gov/training/basic-law-enforcement for more information. Experts believe that it takes at least five-to-six months to properly train a new municipal, county, or state police officer. Any amount of training less than 800 hours is risky, may result in officers and departments getting repeatedly sued, hurt efforts to win the hearts and minds of those the police serve, and may not properly prepare an individual to safely serve as a police officer, deputy sheriff, or highway patrolman. 

After graduating from a police academy, rookies must then go through three or more months of training with a Police Department Training Officer before being released to work alone. Officers are also required to complete continuing education training each year. The best departments provide frequent, realistic, hands-on, and demanding training. Outstanding law enforcement agencies also have detailed and written policies and procedures, with each work process and step within the work process being process mapped in detail. 

How many police departments are there and how many COPS are on the job per 1,000 citizens? The Bureau of Justice (BJS) web site at https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=6706 provides personnel information on the approximately 12,300 local police departments in the United States. It describes the number of sworn and civilian staff, demographic characteristics of sworn officers, and personnel assigned to specialized functions. 

A local police department is a law enforcement agency, other than a sheriffs’ office, that is operated by a unit of local government, such as a town, city, township, or county. The BJS website shows: 

Local police departments employed about 468,000 full-time sworn officers. 

Of the 50 largest local police departments, about two-thirds (33) had fewer full-time sworn officers per 10,000 residents in 2016 than in 1997.

About 3% of all local police departments served populations of 100,000 or more, and they employed about 52% of all full-time sworn police officers.

More than two-thirds (71%) of local police departments served populations of less than 10,000 residents.

About 1 in 8 local police officers, and about 1 in 10 first-line supervisors, were female.

About 1 in 4 local police officers, and about 1 in 5 first-line supervisors, were black or Hispanic.

According to the US Department of Justice, FBI, Criminal Justice Service Information Division 2016 report, Table 25, https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/topic-pages/police-employees the nationwide rate of sworn officers was 2.4 per 1,000 inhabitants. The rate of full-time law enforcement employees (civilian and sworn) per 1,000 inhabitants was 3.4. 

How thorough are the background checking, screening, testing, and interviewing, of police recruits and officers transferring from one department to another? Perhaps the most important goal of screening, background checking, IQ testing, psychological testing, lie detector testing, physical fitness testing, interviewing, training, evaluating, and supervising is to catch early anyone who is not compatible with managing the tremendous authority and challenges that police officers have. 

Officers being screened for his or her first police job or transfer from another police department should go through extensive screening. Normally, the police department’s detectives interview neighbors, employers, co-workers, supervisors, clergy, and references. The detectives attempt to ensure the applicant has the education, character, mental health, wisdom, driving record, physical fitness, discipline, and psychological profile to make a good police officer. Any hint of discrimination, criminal record, mental instability, dishonesty, lewd or lascivious behavior, unethical or immoral behavior, or other such adverse history should disqualify the applicant for police academy training or employment as a COP. 

Larry Dandridge is an honors graduate of three police academies and a DoD Counter Terrorism course graduate. He served as a police officer and deputy sheriff in AL and MO. He has also worked as a consultant with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in GA and SC, and the Military Police and Customs operations in TX. An accomplished writer and motivational speaker, the owner of TVV Publishing, a retired Army Test Pilot, the author of the award-winning BLADES OF THUNDER (book One), a retired Aerospace Industry Region Manager, a past University Business, Writing, and Aeronautics Instructor, and volunteer Patient Adviser at the RHJ VA Medical Center, he writes two columns, as a free-lance writer, for the ISLAND NEWS, the Veterans Benefits Column and the What Citizens Should Know About Policing Column. You can contact Larry at his email, LDandridge@earthlink.net. 


This is column 8 of a 12-column series on what citizens should know about police officers, use of force, and challenges the police and citizens face. Columns 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 6, and 7 introduced the series by answering the questions:

What are the risks involved in police work? 

How does a COP (Constable on Patrol) decide on what level of force to use? 

When can a police officer use deadly force? 

When can deadly force be used on a fleeing felon?

Do life and death decisions made by police really have to be made so quickly?

What does the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office do for Beaufort County?

Do police officers take care to avoid hurting innocent bystanders? 

Do police officers have to retreat when facing a dangerous person? 

Can a police officer be unfit to serve, even if they do not break the law? 

Do police officers have to retreat when facing a dangerous person? 

Can a police officer be unfit to serve, even if they do not break the law or violate department written policies? 

Why do police officers not hot pursue and chase down every person who runs from them in a vehicle?

Why do police officers sometimes use choke holds on people?

Why do the police not shoot guns and other weapons out of people’s hands?

Why do police sometimes use deadly force on people brandishing a Fake Gun?

Why do the police not read everyone their Miranda rights? 

How does a police officer deal with a person with a knife or other edged weapon?

Why do police departments need armored cars and other military types of equipment? 

These columns are not meant to replace carefully reading local, county, state, and federal law or the need for a lawyer when seeking legal advice.

Larry Dandridge is not an employee of THE ISLAND NEWS and his opinions are his alone. Readers should rely on their local police and sheriff’s departments, federal law enforcement agencies, and their attorneys for all law enforcement information and legal advice. Although every precaution has been taken in the preparation of these articles, the publisher and author assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. Neither is any liability assumed by the author or THE ISLAND NEWS for damages resulting from the use of information contained herein. 

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