How to Become an Undercover Cop

The life of an undercover cop certainly isn’t for everyone. As an undercover cop, you’re going to have to infiltrate the criminal world, gather evidence, and remain undetected throughout the course of your investigation. It takes a steely resolve, years of experience working in law enforcement, an understanding of how the criminal world works, and special training to be able to pull this off successfully.

Undercover cops start off their careers as patrol officers, which mean they must first attend a police academy. But before candidates can begin training at a police academy, the police department must first determine their suitability for the job. You can’t have just about anyone wielding a weapon while carrying the title, responsibilities, and powers of a police officer. So a police department will look for certain qualities in candidates, and the list of qualities is somewhat long.

Before you even submit an application there are things that will automatically disqualify you from pursuing a career in law enforcement, things like a criminal record and citizenship. Anyone who applies to become a police officer must be least 18 or 21 years old, depending on the policy of the department you’re applying to. You must also possess at minimum a high school diploma, a clean criminal record, and U.S. citizenship. You must submit an application at the police department you wish to work at, and if the department, after reading your application, expresses wishes to hire you, you’ll be called in for an interview. After the interview, the department will run a background check to verify that the information that you’ve given is accurate. The background check will also determine your character. You’re also required to submit yourself to a series of tests designed to determine whether or not you meet the department’s standards, like emotional stability for instance. You’ll need to take and pass a medical examination, a polygraph test, a drug test, a physical fitness test, and a psychological evaluation.

You’ll also need to take and pass the law enforcement entrance exam before you can move on to the next step. The contents of the test will vary from one police academy to another police academy and from one jurisdiction to another jurisdiction.

Once you’ve passed the entrance exam, you’ll need to complete a training program. Training can take anywhere between 19 weeks to six months and encompasses both physical training and tutelage about the law, your duties, and codes of conduct. During this time, you’ll carry the title of cadet, and you’ll learn self-defense techniques, how to properly handle a firearm, about the laws governing the state and civil rights, and proper police protocol and responses. After graduating from the academy, you’ll receive field training with a training officer. You’ll accompany him or her on routine patrols in different areas of the jurisdiction. On average, field training takes about eight weeks from start to completion, and on average the process of becoming a police officer takes about 27 weeks.

After a period of two to three years, some police departments will allow patrol officers to request undercover duties. Whereas, other police departments require patrol officers to spend more years patrolling the streets or years working as a detective in order to acquire familiarity with the local criminal network and undercover police procedures. So what if I’m applying to a police department that requires officers to serve as detectives as a prerequisite for the undercover cop role? How do I become a detective? It’s simple actually. To become a detective, patrol officers must have served at least 3 years on patrol. After this period, they are permitted to apply for a promotion to the rank of detective. Some departments may even require officers to write an exam before they can be considered for promotion. The time it’ll take to become an undercover cop will thus depend on the requirements of a department, but the process can take two or more years to accomplish.