Becoming a police officer

Alright. I am a final-year business student in Vancouver. I’ll be graduating this spring with an honours in HR from a good university. I’m athletic, social, smart, and I’ve traveled (and lived abroad) extensively.

For a while now I’ve been considering becoming a police officer. I’m not sure how long I’d follow this kind of a career for, perhaps 3-5 years, maybe more if it really is something that I feel I want to keep doing. I’m going to outline some of what I know about the job in the Greater Vancouver area, and ask for some questions to anyone who knows anything about the job or the application process. If necessary, I’ll reply with some details relevant to my own application.

In the area there are a number of different agencies. I’d like to work either in Vancouver, at the Greater Vancouver Transit Authority Police, or in one of the regions directly adjacent to Vancouver (in that order of priority, also). I understand the pay grades listed on websites, but I’ve heard conflicting information from recruiters and it’s likely I will soon be writing to one of them to get a copy of the Police Union pay regulations so I can get it without the chocolate-sprinkled filter they like to add.

I understand that it involves training at the Justice Institute, and that it requires a large fee that the department will help you finance through the Police credit union (is this true?). I’ve also been looking at the work hours, vacation, etc and I’m quite impressed with the packages most departments offer. I’ve been told by one recruiter that business degrees are looked on as especially beneficial due to the later managerial positions in departments.

The main things that concern me are a) police recruiters not being entirely honest, and b) the polygraph test. The first is easy to explain: I’ve talked to a few recruiters, and I seem to get conflicting information. One example of this is wages, where websites say one thing, recruiters say another, and everyone makes references to different “time estimates” on a police force or overtime. The latter issue, the polygraph, is a bit more of a direct problem. Rumour has it that in the Vancouver area, the cut off for last pot-smoked is 2 years. At the moment, I’m sitting at 1 year and about 8-10 months (I don’t really remember the date). On the other hand, pot (or any drug) has never been a big factor; I’ve smoked a total of maybe 5 times ever. I’ve also tried 1/4 of a tab of E 2 years ago. How bad will this affect me? Is there really a strict 2 years line? These are undoubtedly the two worst things I can think of telling the interviewer.

So here are some of my questions for those of you who have been cops or are cops or aren’t cops and want to give me advice anyway:

How much IS a common salary? With overtime, how much are we talking about roughly?

How worried should I be about the polygraph? Given that I’m only 4 months away from being absolutely 100% that I’m over the 2 year mark, should I apply now or in a few months? How worried should I be that I’ve tried a 1/4 tab of E?

What is the job like? What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it?

What kind of interview questions do they ask? What else should I be prepared for? Any other tips?

For those of you who just want to comment anyway, what do you think about the position relative to more normal jobs I’d be able to get?

I realize I’m asking a lot of questions relevant to the Vancouver area, but even understanding how other agencies outside of the region work would be very beneficial to understanding how I should be dealing with the situation.