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How to Become a Police Officer in South Africa

This article is basically for the police officer aspirers cant wait to gain the necessary knowledge on the steps of becoming a Police Officer in South Africa in 2021.

Police Officer

The role of Police officers in every country cannot be overemphasized. They play a very important role and serve their communities by protecting lives and property. Police officers perform various duties. Though, their job responsibilities may vary by function and employer. However,  daily activities of a police officer may include testifying in court against criminals, collecting criminal evidence, patrolling assigned areas, conducting traffic stops, observing a suspect’s activity, making arrests, and preparing cases.

Unlike other professionals, most police officers carry equipment for arrests and defense, such as guns or handcuffs. They regularly work scenes of crimes and accidents. Specific types of police officers. If you’re passionate about protecting lives and property as a South African citizen, this article is for you. It contains information on how to become a police officer in South Africa.

The South African Police Service otherwise referred to as SAPS  is the national police force of South Africa. The country has a total of 1,138 police stations  which is divided amongst the nine provinces of South Africa. The competition to join SAPS is higher than ever before, and this means that candidates will need to be at the top of their game.

Generally, if you join the South African Police Service, you’ll either join as a police official, or as a civilian employee. Police officials are employed under the terms of the South African Police Service Act. If you’re applying to work as a police official, then your work will be largely focused around the prevention and combating of crime. Police officials are mostly front line – they are out there on the streets fighting criminals and investigating incidents.

On the other hand, civilian employees are employed under the terms of the Public Service Act. If you’re applying to work in this capacity, then you will be working in a supporting function. Instead of being in the  forefront of police work, you will be working behind  the scenes. Civilian’s work centers around tasks such as administration, clerical responsibility, procurement, and even keeping things clean and tidy at police HQ.


A lot of people desire to join the arm force as police officers but have been restrained as a result of not knowing the proper  steps to follow. If this is your wish, below are the necessary steps involved in becoming a police officer in South Africa.

1. Earn A High School Diploma Or Ged

With the level of corruption in  Africa, many people who did not see the four walls of  a classroom have infiltrated the police force and this is not meant to be so. The importance of education can not be overemphasized.

Therefore as an intending police officer, bear in mind that you must earn a high school diploma or GED  or an  equivalent. Some federal agencies and police departments require candidates to complete some college coursework or a degree.

2. Complete Other Requirements

In order to join SAPS as a police officer, under the terms of the South African Police Service Act, you will need to meet the following eligibility criteria:

Applicants must also complete basic requirements, including:

  • You must have permanent residency in South Africa.
  • You must be at least 18 years of age, but under the age of 30.
  • You must be able to pass the psychological assessment administered by SAPS, which determines that you fit the profile of a police official.
  • You must have a National Senior Certificate (NSC) at Grade 12, or an equivalent.
  • You must be fluent in English, and at least one other language.
  • You must not have any past criminal convictions or records.
  • You must not have any visible tattoos.
  • Due to the nature of the profession, you must also possess physical strength and stamina. for instance, you may be apprehend suspects, and pass required physical tests for entry into the field,
  • Moreoso, police officers must possess good written and oral communication skills to effectively give detailed incident reports and speak with the public during fact-gathering.
  • Officers holding higher positions, such as detectives and fish and game wardens, may need critical thinking skills and perception to determine in advance why suspects act in certain ways. Since the public looks to officers for assistance in emergency situations, these professionals become highly visible community members. In their public roles, officers often serve as role models and must possess leadership skills.
  • You must not have any past criminal convictions or history.

For the majority of these rules, you will need to supply SAPS with documented proof that you meet the criteria.


Meeting up with the above  requirements is not a guarantee that you will become a police officer. You will equally go through the selection process which also comes with a few steps to be followed. As it is known, obtaining a position with SAPS is no easy task, thus, you will face a stringent set of selection tests and processes.

So, the selection process involves the following steps:

1. Filling Application Form

This form is very complex and will be required as such, two days could be set aside in order to fill the form correctly. The type of application form you’ll fill in will very much depend on the role you’re applying for. For example, applicants for civilian employee roles will face a slightly different type of form to applicants applying for police official roles. However, the broad strokes of the application are the same:

The application form will assess you based on the eligibility criteria and ensure that you meet the standards and prerequisites of SAPS. This will include questions related to your professional background, your financial history, and your employment history.

Your inability to complete the form correctly leads to rejection. Failure to complete the form correctly is likely to lead rejection.

As part of the selection process, SAPS usually conduct investigation on the background of applicants. Thus, it is very important for you to remain honest while filling the form because if the information provided is contrary to the findings, you will be disqualified from the selection process.

2. Assessment Centre

This is the second stage once you successfully pass the application form stage. The SAPS assessment centre will put you through a series of  rigorous tests. These tests are designed to ascertain whether you have the critical thinking skills,  aptitude and competency to work with the South African Police Service. All of the tests are carried out with strict time conditions. Therefore, you will be judged according to your efficiency and  accuracy.

During your assessment centre, you are likely to face tests in aspects including:

  • Numerical Reasoning: Numerical reasoning is done to assess your ability to work with numbers and calculations such as addition, subtraction, fractions, statistics, percentages, ratios, data, graphs and chart, etc.
  • Verbal Reasoning: Verbal reasoning is an important aspect of the assessment. Verbal reasoning tests is carried out to assess the applicants understanding of words, grammar, phrases, statement, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Comprehension: As a police officer, you will be faced with daily reading of statements from suspects. Therefore, this test is done to check you well you’re able to understand written information. So, the test is done in such a way that the exercise will require you to read a passage of text, after which you will be required to answer questions based on said text. Mind you, your reading speed skills will be very important as you are under strict timed conditions, and must be able to prove that you can absorb information from a written passage quickly and efficiently.
  • Psychometric Assessment: The final testing stage of the assessment centre is a series of psychometric tests, including spatial reasoning and non-verbal reasoning. This is perhaps the hardest part of the assessment centre because you might also be asked to take a concentration test. In general, the psychometric assessment  involves looking at shapes, differences between different shapes,identifying patterns and completing shape-based sequences. All these are required to be done at a rapid speed.


While the SAPS already has requirements in place for physical fitness, mental fitness and education,  recently  a number of additional requirements were  proposed and approved. These additional requirements are focused on the applicant’s background. The include:

1. Integrity Test

The draft bill defines an integrity test as a personality test designed to verify whether a candidate is honest and reliable. Under the proposed changes, every person that is newly recruited or considered for appointment to the SAPS as a police officer will be subjected to an integrity test before appointment.

This test may entail:

  • The taking of fingerprints;
  • A polygraph test also known as lie detector test.
  • Taking a buccal sample (cheek swab) to be analysed for a DNA profile;
  • Financial disclosures;
  • Disclosure of income and expenses;
  • Determination of contracts with the state.

The draft bill however states that no person under consideration can be appointed in the SAPS unless an integrity test has been successfully completed.

To ascertain the authenticity of the integrity  test, it must be carried out by the SAPS division responsible for Human Resources.

2. Lifestyle Audit

Lifestyle audit is also one of the requirements that needs to be met before one can become a police officer. This is done before and while in service. For this, the bill also proposes that a lifestyle audit be performed on any member where there are  grounds to suspect that they are living above their income.

The bill defines a “lifestyle audit” as a comparison of known income of a person with his or her standard of living.

This assessment is done to determine whether:

  • There are gaps and indicators that a person is living above his or her means; or
  • The person is abusing power or influence for personal gain at that time or a later stage.

This lifestyle audit would entail the disclosure of income and expenses, membership of entities such as boards, directorships and institutions, and determination of contracts with the state. With this, a corrupt officer can easily be spotted out.

In addition to the above, the bill states that a comparative search may be made into any official database in the SAPS in respect of the person whose integrity test or lifestyle audit is being performed.

3. Attend A Training Academy

Before becoming a police officer, applicants usually attend training academies. Academy students complete coursework and practical exercises in first aid, firearm usage, and emergency response. The training academy may require an entrance exam or a physical fitness test before admittance.

4. Police Officer Job Training

This is not compulsory but law enforcement careers usually require some on-the-job training. So, after graduating from the training academy, trainees usually undergo a probationary period under the supervision of a superior officer. During this probationary period, inexperienced police officers are subjected to learning how to apply techniques in the real world.


Police officers are very respected people in society  ; the safety and protection of lives and property is their responsibility. For this reason, becoming a police officer is never an easy task. The Calibre of people in this profession is very essential. Any mistake in recruiting a person of questionable character will certainly rub off on the integrity of others.

Also, having to admit just anybody is a way of risking the lives of citizens that ought to be secured. As a result of these lapses in some parts of the world, lots of innocent civilians have been gunned down by the same police officers who were supposed to be protecting lives.

To avoid these ugly incidents, this is why the process to become a police officer in South Africa has become stricter than ever.

Thus, as an intending police officer, you need to ensure you’re a person of integrity, humble, slow to anger, observant, sensitive, critical in thinking, a good analyzer,  and above all, a patriotic citizen. So, are you passionate about protecting lives and property and you also possess the basic qualities of a police officer? Why not consider joining the South African police force?

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