FAQs

1. Why does WCC have a more extensive prescreening process than some other academies?

While all academies are required to meet the screening standards of the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES), our process ensures that applicants do not waste time or money if they are not qualified to apply.

2. What kind of questions will I be asked?

Questions will concern your health, moral character, driving record, past education, work record and general background. This is to determine that you are qualified to apply.

3. What happens if I have problems with my past or present background?

The director will discuss whether or not you can overcome the problem(s). You will be advised on how best to proceed with the application process or informed of other career options.

4. What if I don’t agree with the director’s analysis of my background and I wish to appeal his/her denial of my application?

You have the right to contact MCOLES at 517-322-1417 and discuss an appeal process on the day that your enrollment is denied. In order to meet an enrollment deadline, you will have 72 hours to submit your appeal in writing to the MCOLES executive director detailing your reasons for the appeal.

5. I can’t decide if I should go to college or the police academy. Which is better?

A college degree and graduation from the police academy are both valuable in law enforcement. MCOLES requires pre-service recruits to exit the academy with a two-year degree. Many police departments are increasing their entry requirements to include some college or even a two- or four-year degree. However, to be employed as a police officer in Michigan, you must graduate from an approved police academy.

One of the first steps in your criminal justice career is to decide what you want to do in law enforcement. If your goal is to be a prosecuting attorney, a bachelor’s degree is required for admission to law school. If your goal is to be a police officer, your efforts are probably best spent entering and completing an academy. Graduation from a police academy is not a substitute for a college degree.

6. I want to be a profiler like on TV. Should I start by applying to the police academy?

No. Many profilers have advanced degrees in behavioral sciences. Also remember that real-life profilers have much less exciting jobs than the actors who portray them on TV. Real-life profilers spend most of their time in the office dealing with research and reports.

7. What if I want to be a state trooper?

The state police does not hire graduates of other academies to be troopers. All Michigan state troopers are required to attend the Michigan State Police Training Academy in Lansing. If your goal is to become a state trooper, you should contact the Michigan Civil Service Commission.

8. What if I want to be an FBI agent?

The FBI requires that all applicants for law enforcement positions have a four-year degree. Being a graduate of a police academy may be a point in your favor during the application and interview process, but graduation from a police academy in Michigan will not give you a substantial advantage over the thousands of other people who apply to the FBI each year. If you plan on becoming an FBI agent, contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation for specific information on their application process.

9. How do I become a CSI?

In real life, CSIs (crime scene investigators as they are called on TV) are drawn from the ranks of police officers within an agency. In Michigan, most crime scene specialists are uniformed evidence technicians. These are sworn police officers who receive training in evidence collection and crime scene processing. They spend most of their time working a normal uniformed assignment. When needed, they go to a crime scene, process it for evidence and then go back to writing traffic tickets.

Forensic and laboratory personnel are sometimes employed by large organizations such as the FBI and state law enforcement agencies. They work in the lab and are normally not police officers. The first step toward these positions is to earn a Ph.D. in a relevant scientific field (chemistry, biology, physics, etc.). The next step (since they don’t have to go to the police academy) is to simply apply for jobs as they become available.

10. I don’t want to just ride around in a police car. I really want to be a detective, motorcycle officer or school liaison officer. Can’t I just skip the police academy?

No. Detectives, investigators, school resource officers, snipers, motorcycle officers and other specialized law enforcement positions are filled from within a department by police officers. Getting one of these prized positions requires working first as a patrol officer. Then after several years of experience on the job, testing and evaluation, you may be considered for promotion or assignment to one of these specialties.

11. What if I want to be a corrections officer?

Corrections officers are employed by either a local sheriff’s department, the Michigan Department of Corrections or the Federal Bureau of Prisons .The training required for these jobs is similar to police training but by law, corrections officers must attend an approved corrections academy as well as their department in-house training. For more information on corrections officer positions, click on the corrections links above or contact the Michigan Sheriff’s Association in Lansing.

12. How much education or schooling do I need to get into the police academy?

If you’re hired by a police department that sends you to the police academy, you are what MCOLES terms an in-service recruit. In-service recruits are required to meet their department’s educational standards. By state law, police departments cannot hire an officer unless they have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED. However, police educational requirements are increasing. More and more departments are requiring applicants to have a two- or four-year degree. If you enroll yourself in the academy, you are classified by MCOLES as a pre-service recruit. Every pre-service recruit must have 45 college credits (and the proper core classes to graduate from WCC) to be admitted to the academy. This, when combined with the 16 credits awarded for the academy, must fulfill a two-year degree requirement. When pre-service recruits graduate from the academy, they receive a two-year degree from the college. Naturally, applicants who already have a two-year, four-year or master’s degree meet this standard.

13. What type of tests do I need to take before I can apply to the police academy?

To be admitted to any police academy you must first pass both MCOLES pre-employment physical fitness test and the reading and writing test. The MCOLES pre-employment physical test requires applicants to perform specific physical activities for a timed or measured score. WCC administers this test one Sunday each month at Ypsilanti High School. The results of this test are valid for 180 days. After the test results expire, it must be retaken to establish an applicant’s fitness for the application process.

The MCOLES reading and writing test is a computer-based test which measures your reading and writing skills. It is administered by MCOLES-authorized testing sites/academies around the state. WCC offers this test one Sunday each month at the Morris Lawrence building on the main campus. The results of this test are good for life.

For a list of all test dates, including tests administered by WCC, see the MCOLES website.

14. How do I sign up for these tests?

To pre-register for the pre-employment physical fitness test, you should refer to the MCOLES website, click the link to the test schedule and follow the instructions. In order to take the physical fitness test you will need to present a properly completed Physician’s Health Screening Form, valid picture ID and $45 cash or money order (no personal checks will be accepted – money orders should be made out to Washtenaw Community College). To register at the test site on the day of the test, you must bring the above documents and fee to the Ypsilanti High School gym by 8:45am.

You can also take the MCOLES reading and writing test at WCC but you must pre-register with MCOLES first. The cost of this test is $68. Contact MCOLES online or call them at 877-422-4092. WCC cannot register you for this test! 

15. What medical problems might keep me out of the academy?

MCOLES has set standards for admission to police academies and for police employment. You can view them at MCOLES Employment Standards. If you are concerned about meeting the standards for performing the essential job functions of a police officer, please contact an MCOLES representative at 517-322-1417.

16. Will glasses/contacts prevent me from being a police officer?

To enter the academy, MCOLES requires applicants to possess 20/20 corrected vision in each eye. See MCOLES Employment Standards for additional information.

17. I take several medications for stress. Is that a problem?

Some medications are prohibited by MCOLES during academy training. These medications constitute a potential safety risk in a police-training environment. Your medications will be evaluated based on the MCOLES standards and policies. If you have a medication issue, it must be discussed with the director of the police academy during your first contact. Part of the application process is a drug test. If you fail to disclose medications during your interview with the director or on your medical history form, your application will be rejected. It’s important to realize that law enforcement training, and law enforcement itself, is a high-risk and high-stress profession. Many medications in common use by the general public cannot be used by police officers. All medications will be evaluated in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on a case-by-case basis and related medical or psychological condition. A medical review or further information may be required by MCOLES prior to being admitted.

18. Why do I have to be investigated before I get into the police academy?

MCOLES requires that academies verify and confirm the information supplied by applicants. This is done to ensure that unqualified or prohibited applicants are not admitted into an academy class or a police department.

19. Does it matter if I have a criminal record?

Law enforcement requires a high degree of integrity. There are several types of convictions that disqualify applicants from entrance to the academy. Any felony conviction will prevent an applicant from entering the police academy.

20. What type of things in my background will keep me out of the police academy?

Most of the standards are self-explanatory. However, MCOLES has a good moral character standard that must be met. Things which may impact this standard include excessive debt, past drug use and many other things not normally part of a job interview process. These are all issues that may impact an applicant’s ability to perform the law enforcement function in a fair, effective and professional fashion. For more information on this, you can find MCOLES Administrative Rule 28.1402(e) on the MCOLES website.

21. What’s the WCC Police Academy like?

The WCC Police Academy is a highly structured, academically rigorous 21-week training program. Students are required to attend daytime classes and several evening sessions. Classes are held on at least half of the weekends. The dates and times of class are subject to change. WCC, like all academies, demands a high degree of discipline and self-control from recruits. No allowances can be made for personality clashes, negative attitudes or personal likes or dislikes. Personal work or family schedules cannot be accommodated. All of this is necessary and universal to police academies around the world and these conditions accurately reflect the realities of the law enforcement profession.

A normal recruit’s day at the WCC Police Academy runs: physical training 6:15 to 7:45am, class 8:30am to 12:30pm, lunch 12:30 to 1:30pm and class 1:30 to 5:30pm. This does not reflect the time needed for dinner, travel and homework.

22. Where are classes held?

All WCC police academy classes are held at the main campus in the Morris Lawrence building at 4800 E. Huron River Dr. in Ann Arbor, MI.

23. How do I pick an academy?

Some of the factors students should consider when selecting an academy include:

  • The reputation of the academy: What do graduates of an academy say? Were they satisfied with the program? Did they feel they received a good education? Would they recommend that academy to other prospective recruits?
  • The style of academy: Training schools or academies are built on one of two models: paramilitary or adult learning. The paramilitary model involves uniform inspections, marching and other paramilitary activities. People who like a very structured, competitive environment often enjoy this type of environment. At first glance, the adult learning model may appear more relaxed and less structured. The uniforms and daily operations seem more low-key. The focus is more on academics than on marching. More emphasis is placed on problem solving than on shining shoes. Adult learning academies often appeal to students with a strong academic orientation. WCC is an adult learning academy. Whether attending a paramilitary model academy or an adult learning model academy, students must meet the exact same state-mandated standards to graduate.
  • The staff: Part of any educational process is the interaction between the students and the instructors. If you feel comfortable with the way you’re treated during the application process, that’s a good sign. If you’re uncomfortable when dealing with staff, you may want to reconsider.
  • The timing of the academy: When does the academy start and when does it end? For some people this is an important consideration. If the timing of the program is important to you, look at several other academies to see if they fit your situation.
  • Openings in the academy: Every academy has a specific capacity. You may choose an academy based on the availability of space. This is another reason to complete the process in an efficient and timely manner.

24. Can I work while attending the police academy?

It is not recommended. The police academy is very intense, demanding and expensive. Past students have found it almost impossible to work and be successful in the police academy. Recruits must be available from 6:00am until 7:00pm five to six days a week. Schedules change based on the curriculum, instructors, weather, facilities and other factors. In addition to this, students have an average of two to six hours of serious study and homework each night.

25. Do I get college credit for the police academy?

Yes. The police academy is an academic class. Students who successfully graduate from the academy at WCC receive 16 credits.

26. What type of gun do I need for the police academy?

In-service recruits (employees of a police department) have their firearms supplied by their employer. Pre-service recruits use firearms supplied by the college.

27. I’ve got a gun already. Can’t I just use mine in the academy?

No. Only department- or college-issued firearms are approved for recruit training. The use of personal handguns is not allowed.

28. Does everybody who goes to the academy get a job?

Graduation from a police academy does not guarantee a job. The most recent MCOLES statistics indicate 70 percent of the students who graduate from police academies across the state secure jobs in law enforcement. In recent year the Police Academy at WCC has had a 75 percent employment rate for its graduates.

29. If I graduate from the police academy, where can I get a job?

Graduates of the WCC police academy will have the basic qualifications required by the state to be hired by a Michigan police department or sheriff’s department. The Michigan State Police and the DNR Conservation Law Enforcement Division both require their employees to attend and graduate from their own proprietary academies. In addition to this, some other states accept Michigan’s police academy training. More information on individual state requirements and standards is available at International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training.

30. Will the police academy help me find a job?

The academy and staff do not offer job placement services. Students are responsible for their own employment search. However, issues such as job searches, resumes and application procedures are addressed during the academy. The director maintains current job postings in the academy office for recruits and past students. Invariably, during each academy class, several agencies come to recruit applicants and discuss opportunities in their organization. MCOLES, the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police and the Michigan Municipal League all post job postings on their web sites.