How To Become a Police Officer in Cook County Illinois

If your dream job involves wearing a badge, fighting crime in Cook County, Illinois, it’s best to know what the process is like before you apply. Cook County has a Sheriff’s Department as its main law enforcement body. The requirements are the same as those of a city police officer. Unlike police officers, however, deputy sheriff’s  serving under the sheriff department umbrella have varied duties that sometimes include highway patrol and even acting as a coroner. Officers may also assist in other legal matters, such as evictions or foreclosures.

Job Description & Qualifications

To do a job correctly, a police officer must have analytic skills as well as the mental and emotional capacity to handle heavy stress. In order to assess this, Cook County requires that recruits pass a written test, a physical, medical and psychological evaluations in order to even apply for police academy.

This is pretty much standard throughout the country. All police officer candidates should be at least 21 years of age during the time of application, with a valid high school diploma or GED, college degree or at least 36 months of military service. The initial written test will be administered first. A study guide like the National Police Officer Selection Test can help you prepare if you feel nervous. If you pass the test, the process will then segue into a background check.

Criminal Background Check

The background check investigates your past, your school and financial records, your insurance, even your credit score. This is because candidates with violent histories, felony convictions or drug or alcohol issues may be disqualified from the process. (However, this depends on the frequency and severity of the misdemeanor/felony issue). The background test can take up to a few months or take as little as a few weeks.

Physical Fitness Test

While your background test is going on, you should make sure you are in the best physical shape of your life. In Illinois, you cannot enter a police academy without passing the Peace Officer Wellness Evaluation Report (POWER). The physical exam will test your agility, strength and endurance. One of the tests is a 1 repetition bench press to measure your upper body strength. Male candidates between the ages of 21-29 must at least be able to bench press 98% of their body weight. Female candidates should be able to bench press at least 58%.

Psychological Exam

Once you sweat through the physical, the county will administer a grueling mental and psychological exam, as mentioned previously. This is to test your mental fortitude and ability to handle the stress that comes with law enforcement. The tests also look for physical factors or mental disabilities that could potentially interfere with your job performance.

Illinois Police Academy Requirements

After that, if you are luckily enough to be selected and hired your next step is the police academy. But the work isn’t over yet. Entering a police academy means subjecting yourself to daily mental and physical training to acquire the necessary skills to become a cop. This includes daily training, car handling, firearm training and more. Graduating from academy means applying for certification — and that’s the only time you can really don that coveted badge.