The process for becoming a police officer in Alabama is long and difficult. The application process can last 6 months to a year. New hires must complete police academy training, lasting up to 10 hours a day for 12 weeks. Police officers receive their regular pay while they attend the academy. Academies are open to new recruits, meaning it is not possible to attend the academy and receive pay unless the recruit is an employee of a police department in Alabama.
Individual cities hire police officers in Alabama, but the cities follow the same general guidelines in hiring and training. The City of Decatur, Alabama, notes on its website that police officer candidates begin receiving pay as city employees after hiring, but before training. Pay continues when the police officer cadet enrolls in the police academy.
Receiving pay during police academy training in Alabama is important to many of the participants. The grueling pace of the training makes it difficult or impossible for the cadets to hold other jobs during the three months of drills and classroom instruction. Moreover, cadets are not allowed to leave the training facility for the first 10 days of training, after which they continue to live and sleep at the academy throughout the training sessions.
Police academies charge cadets for training. For example, the Northeast Alabama Law Enforcement Academy – one of training facilities throughout the state – notes on its website that cadets are directly charged a flat fee of $1,200 for meals, housing, uniforms and other training materials necessary for the 12 weeks of instruction during 2011. However, individual police departments may reimburse the cadet or make other payment arrangements to prevent financial instability as they enter into their new careers.
Individual cities in Alabama set their own standards for police officer standards, but generally, the pay is modest. For example, the police department in Hoover, Alabama starts officers at a minimum of $20.29 per hour, which is an annual salary of $42,203, as of 2011. The maximum annual salary for a police officer in Hoover is $68,836.
Police officer training centers in Alabama are located in Montgomery, Selma, Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile and Jacksonville as well as on the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa.