Becoming a Police Officer in Seattle, Washington

The Seattle police department strives to offer the city’s residents the best law enforcement service possible, and offers a wide variety of positions to its police officers. With everything from a forensics team and harbor patrol, to DUI squad and school resource officers, you will have plenty of opportunities to find your niche within the Seattle Police Department.

This guide will provide a step-by-step explanation of how to become a cop in Seattle if you’re interested in joining their distinguished ranks:

  1. Minimum requirements
  2. Application
  3. Tests
  4. Panel interview
  5. Background investigation
  6. Additional tests
  7. Final interview
  8. Training


Step 1. Minimum Requirements

First you should confirm you are capable of meeting police officer requirements in Seattle. These minimum qualifications are:

  • At least 20.5 years old when taking the exam to be hired
  • If military service you must have an honorable discharge
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Washington state driver’s license upon hire
  • U.S. citizen
  • Have a mostly clean drug record:
    • No marijuana use in the past year
    • No other illegal drug use or abuse of prescription drugs in the past 5-10 years
    • Have never manufactured or cultivated illegal drugs with the intent to sell
  • Have a mostly clean traffic record, to be assessed on a case by case basis
    • No DUIs
    • No suspensions within the past five years
    • Not have three or more moving violations in the past five years
    • No more than two “at-fault” accidents in the past five years
  • No felony or domestic violence convictions
  • Mostly clean financial history
    • No excessive debts
    • No failures to pay your income tax or child support

Step 2. Application

When you have checked that you meet the minimum requirements your next step will be to fill out an application with Seattle’s personnel office. You must wait until there is a vacancy with the Seattle police department, though you can fill out an online job notification card to receive an email when the position becomes open.

Once you submit your application you will need to register online for a civil service test and physical agility test.

Step 3. Tests

First comes the civil service examination, which is a written and video test. It evaluates:

  • Grammar and spelling
  • General knowledge
  • Reading comprehension
  • Common sense and multitasking
  • Memorization

You will begin the examination with a 1.5-hour study session to prepare for the memorization portion. Then you will have another 1.5 hours to complete the 125-question exam with a score of at least 80%.

Next you will need to complete a physical ability test. This consists of the following four events:

  • 300-meter run: to be completed in 71 seconds or less
  • Push-ups: must complete at least 21 with no time limit
  • Sit-ups: complete at least 30 in one minute
  • 1.5-mile run: to be completed in at least 14 minutes and 31 seconds

Note that these are the minimum passing requirements. If you exceed these you will also receive a higher score. Once you have successfully completed these tests, you will be scheduled for a panel interview and you must also turn in a completed personal history information packet, a copy of your driver’s license, social security card, DD 214 if prior military service, and notarized release of information and credit history release forms.

Step 4. Panel Interview

Your first interview will consist of a panel of two police officers and one Seattle community member. You will primarily be answering scenario-based questions.

Step 5. Background Investigation

Your application will be assigned to a detective who will conduct a thorough background investigation. Over the course of several weeks your detective will confirm the information you have provided in your application process. He or she will also conduct a thorough records check and complete a series of interviews with people who know or have observed you. This includes:

  • Criminal records check
  • Credit report check
  • Driving abstract and traffic violation history
  • Education, employment, and military history, if applicable
  • Interviews with:
    • Friends and family
    • Coworkers, classmates, teachers, supervisors
    • Neighbors

Step 6. Additional Tests

The police department will review your application at this point and decide whether or not to make you a conditional offer of employment. If you are chosen, becoming a police officer in Seattle will now require you to undergo the following additional examinations:

  • Polygraph Examination: This will be administered by a professional and may ask you details about instances raised in your background investigation
  • Psychological Evaluation: A licensed psychiatrist will assess your personality and if you have any traits or disorders that could interfere with a job as a Seattle cop. You will also be evaluated for stress tolerance
  • Medical Examination: You will receive a thorough medical physical examination, eyesight and hearing test, and a drug test. This doctor’s visit is to ensure you will have no physical or medical problems completing the job duties of a Seattle police officer

Step 7. Final Interview

After the successful and competitive completion of all steps up to this point, your entire application and test results will be reviewed. You will have a final interview with an assistant chief or representative and a decision will be made about your future with the Seattle police department. If you are selected you will receive written notification of a final job offer, the start date of your police academy, and a date and time for an employment orientation.

Step 8. Training

Your training will be completed in a process of three steps, beginning with the police academy. This is a 4.5-month full-time basic law enforcement academy to which you will commute, usually Monday through Friday. You will receive training and instruction in:

  • Firearms and non-lethal force
  • Report writing
  • Legal procedures
  • Investigation techniques
  • Interrogation methods

Next you will spend one month at the Seattle PD’s Advanced Training Unit. You will learn specific Seattle city laws and services, as well as department procedures and policies.

After completing this segment you will move on to a field training program where you will be placed with an experienced patrol officer who will evaluate you based on your performance. If you earn good marks here you will be assigned to the patrol division to begin your career as a police officer in Seattle, being on probation for your first year.

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