Vets to Cops: Bridging the gap between law enforcement and military veterans

close up image of soldier shoulder in fatigues and american flag patchOur military service members represent only 1 percent of our population, but they shoulder the responsibility of protecting our entire nation. When they return from their service in foreign lands, many need a new direction. The COPS Office is committed to supporting military veterans as they seek to transition into careers as law enforcement officers.

The 2012 COPS Hiring Program will make available $111 million directly to law enforcement agencies to hire, retain, and/or rehire career law enforcement officers in an effort to create and preserve jobs and increase their community policing capacity and crime prevention efforts. This year, any applicant requesting new hire positions will be required to hire a new officer who is a post-9/11 military veteran.

It’s their ability to work in teams, the capacity to adapt to challenging tasks and responsibilities, attention to detail, the drive to succeed, and a host of other skills and trainings that make transitioning service members and military veterans ideal for police departments. While veterans may come from different military occupational specialties, the skills acquired through service often complement the requirements needed to ensure a successful law enforcement career.

Where to start your search?

Many departments have been successful in recruiting military veterans, while others are unaware of the marketing and recruiting tools available to employers. There are many employment resources available to law enforcement agencies that offer dependable and up-to-date information to help recruit and hire veterans. While many of these resources do have a “service member first” approach, most at least provide employer tools to help police departments develop a targeted recruitment plan. It is recommended that multiple sources be used.

Discover Policing is a nationwide initiative to market the benefits of careers in law enforcement to a broad and diverse audience, including military service members transitioning from active duty. Discover Policing offers a true-to-life view of policing and provides an effective means for candidates and hiring agencies to connect. For more information, visit Discover Policing at

The Department of Labor’s Career One-Stop Centers, partner of the American Job Center Network, offers the Gold Card to unemployed post-9/11 era veterans that includes intensive one-on-one and follow-up employment services needed to succeed in today’s job market. For more information, please contact the One-Stop Career Centers at 1.877.US2.JOBS (1.877.872.5627) or visit their website at

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Vet Success programs equip veterans with the tools to succeed in the transition from military to civilian employment. With military skill translators and job skills preparation, Vet Success helps veterans find a job that matches their abilities and ambitions. To register and post job descriptions, please visit the employer page of the Vet Success website at

Hero 2 Hired is a Yellow Ribbon-funded project helping Reserve Component service members find jobs with military-friendly employers who are looking to connect with individuals that have the training and skills found in today’s military veterans. With H2H you get free, direct access to qualified candidates who already have background checks and security clearances, which also helps reduce recruiting and hiring costs. For more information, please visit the employer page at

The Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces was created as a way to provide service members and their families with a direct link to America’s employers and, in return, to provide the employers access to some of America’s finest employees. Through the partnership, service members can leverage their military training and experience for career opportunities in today’s civilian job market with national, regional, and local employer partners. For more information, please visit the employer page at

While there are many job search websites devoted to connecting military veterans with employment, organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes initiative and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ VA for Vets program host career fairs around the country. Whether you are looking to hire multiple people or just a single person, career fairs provide the opportunity to meet face to face with candidates and conduct on-the-spot interviews. For more information on when there will be a career fair in your area, be sure to visit and

Things to consider

Recognizing and rewarding the value of military experience through targeted military veteran recruitment, and providing minor accommodations to military service and training in your hiring process, may provide further incentives for veterans and transitioning service members to explore a law enforcement career.

The following are just a few examples of incentives offered by police departments throughout the country:

  • Streamlining or fast-tracking applications submitted by military veterans
  • Waiving education requirements based on training completed while in military service
  • Adding preference points to exam scores
  • Offering incentive pay for active members of the reserve or national guard components

Requesting a copy of a service member’s military transcript will help you in determining if you are able to waive some of the educational requirements. Additionally, veterans may be able to take advantage of law enforcement training through the Veterans Administration’s (VA) On-the-Job-Training (OJT) program. This program allows veterans to use their Montgomery or Post 9/11 G.I. Bill benefit as an income supplement while attending the academy. This can add hundreds of tax-free dollars on top of their trainee pay. For more information contact the Department of Veterans Affairs Officer at 1.888.GIBILL.1 (1.888.442.4551) or visit their website at

The COPS Office is committed to supporting the law enforcement community in its efforts to connect with transitioning service members and military veterans. The Vets to Cops webpage is a resource for police, providing information on recruitment websites and publications on recruitment and assisting employers with how to better accommodate service members into the civilian workforce. The webpage is being updated frequently with new information and best practices from the field. For more information, please visit the Vets to Cops webpage on our website at

John Wells
Grant Program Specialist
The COPS Office


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