Qualifications for LAPD Officers

LAPD officers learn to use firearms in the training academy.
i Denis Poroy/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Police Department protects life and property in the country’s second-largest metropolitan region. Officers must use good interpersonal skills, self-defense and the occasional firearm to enforce the law. Because the population within LAPD’s jurisdiction mixes many different races, genders, physical abilities and sexual orientations, the department encourages such diversity among its applicants.


    You can apply to the LAPD if you’re as young as 20-and-a-half years old, but you must be at least 21 when you enter the academy. You need a high-school diploma, GED or equivalent from a U.S. school, or a California High-School Proficiency Examination certificate. Also acceptable is a two-year or four-year degree from any accredited U.S. or foreign educational institution. You do not need to live within Los Angeles to apply. However, you must either be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident who has applied for citizenship.


    The LAPD likes its officers to set a good example for citizens, so prepare to have your past dug up, sifted through and evaluated. The background investigation includes a look at your previous employment, your financial and education record, and your military service, if applicable. It also includes interviews with family, friends and neighbors. The LAPD may ask you to fill out additional questionnaires based on its findings. A polygraph examination will then be given to confirm the accuracy of your answers. You can determine if your background is suitable with a document called a Preliminary Background Application, and by meeting with an LAPD case manager.


    Beyond the background investigations are several qualifiers you must pass to join the LAPD. You must get a passing score on a personal qualification essay that determines your decision-making skills, judgment and ability to communicate in writing. You must also pass a physical abilities test that measures your strength, agility, endurance and aerobic capacity. You will need to perform well in a department interview, where a panel assesses your motivation, interpersonal skills, learning orientation and oral communication abilities. A medical evaluation ensures that you are in excellent health.


    After you’re accepted, you will learn police skills by going through six months of training at the LAPD Academy. You receive your full salary from the beginning of this program. Much of your learning happens in the classroom with subjects such as report-writing, investigations, communications, community relations, stress management and dealing with the media. Physical fitness training is designed to build the strength and endurance you need to defend yourself and physically subdue suspects. During field training, you gain experience with driving, tactics, firearms, marksmanship and traffic enforcement. You may also train for specific LAPD jobs, such as K-9 operations, air support, bomb squad and community policing.

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