Military veterans have a distinct background that people not connected to the military don’t have. It’s the experience of working in combat and facing situations that require extraordinary acts of bravery. However, police officers who put their lives on the line for everyday citizens share this component. Whether it's dealing with gang violence or domestic violence or whether it's putting your life on the line in combat. Military vets and police officers share a common bond – they care about the law and protecting American citizens. Therefore, it’s not unusual for a military vet to want to become a police officer, and police departments recognize this desire.  

The reasons for this stem from the fact that military vets share the same characteristics as police officers – They’re disciplined; they have integrity; they know how to use a firearm; they’re responsible; they are able to work as a team or as an individual; they can deal with stressful situations; they know how to problem solve, and they have an attention to detail.

Fast-Track Police Employment

That is why fast-track police employment programs exist for military vets. Jobs include not only patrolling, but SWAT detail, homicide work, narcotics work, helicopter detail, K9 squads, dive teams, gang detail, auto theft work, and more. Every department that is open to non-military background individuals who apply for police work is opened to someone with a military background.

When police departments offer programs to military vets to quickly transition them into police life, without the restrictions and requirements needed for those applying to become police officers without military backgrounds, the lessening of restrictions include not only a fast-tracking of the applications, but may also include a waiver of educational requirements, preference points to testing scores, an offer of incentive pay, service credit toward retirement, and more.  The specific aspects of any program are typically dictated by the state offering the program.

Some have complained that many vets are dealing with emotional issues from combat and are not suited to take on police roles. However, most states that offer these fast-track programs have screening processes to deal with any post-traumatic stress disorders and other issues that are a result of stressful combat.

However, others acknowledge that there are few viable options for vets in today’s job market, and that police work fills that void. In fact, the Community Oriented Policing Services, otherwise known as COPS, is a Department of Justice office that recognizes this problem. They offered over 200 cities over one million dollars in incentive grants to hire post 9/11 vets to fill at least 800 police positions.

One way to discover fast-track opportunities for vets is through job fairs that have titles such as “Hiring Our Heroes,” a title used at a San Francisco job fair. Another way is right on the police department’s websites.  

There are also programs developed by the Department of Public Safety, such as New Mexico’s Department of Safety, that gives vets a chance to take a free course that allows them to shift from military law enforcement to civilian law enforcement. After the course is completed, the vet takes the Law Enforcement Officer Certification Exam. This is a program that is open to vets, National Guard personnel, and reservists.

There are requirements to take advantage of these programs. For example, in Houston, a person must have 18 months of active duty military service and the person must have exited with an honorable discharge. Otherwise, you can have 48 semester hours of college credit with at least a 2.0-grade point average, or you can have five years of full-time police experience.  

In Tucson, for example, it has a Military Police Transition Training Program. In their police academy, it would typically take 17 weeks to complete the program. But their fast-track program takes only eight weeks for vets who quality. Qualification includes things like at least 2080 hours as a military police officer in a specific law enforcement occupational specialty, show proof of honorable discharge or be currently serving in the military, and more. The training is just as intensive as the 17-week program and covers all areas of relevant police work.  Those who are hired would start as officers and then move up the ranks like everyone else who applies who wishes to do so.

There is also something called the Veteran’s Administration, also known as VA, On-The-Job-Training, also known as OJT, program. With this program, vets can use G.I. Bill benefits to supplement their income while attending the police academy.  The VA office can also help with processing the application and other paperwork required.

Vets should seek out information on how to take advantage of fast-track programs offered by individual states and seek help from VA offices and other programs to complete applications and streamline enrollment. There is a lot of information available to facilitate this need. 

You may also enjoy reading about veteran home loans available through American Hero Mortgage.