What is a Narcotics Officer?

A narcotics officer is a type of law enforcement official who works for a police department or government agency. The men and women working in this field are the ones responsible for stopping the trade, manufacturing and distribution of illegal drugs. They often run special programs that teach children and adults in certain communities about the dangers of drugs and why they should stop taking or using those drugs. Though you may see actors playing officers of this type on television or in film, there is more to their lives than what you see on the screen.

What Officers Do

If you watch a lot of TV shows and movies, you might think that these officers spend all of their time working undercover and busting bad guys. While a small number of officers may work in undercover positions, most work in the narcotics divisions of local police departments. They gather the evidence necessary to put drug manufacturers and dealers behind bars, which may include working with the crime lab or visiting multiple sites every day. As a narcotics officer, you can also expect to spend time doing paperwork and filing evidence daily as well as appearing in court when needed.

Where They Work

Agencies and departments at all level hire officers to work in narcotics every year. The lowest level is often the local police department, but you may also work for the sheriff’s department or for the state law enforcement of the state where you live. Some officers work at the federal level as well. Homeland security has a need for narcotic officers who can find evidence of dealers and manufacturers using drugs to fund terrorist organizations, and Border Patrol needs officers who can help stop the transport of drugs across American borders.

How to Become One

You may need an associate’s degree to work as a drug officer at the local level, but many of these departments will accept military service in lieu of that degree. Before you can work as an officer though, you may need to go through the military academy first. You’ll also need to spend some time proving your worth and working your way up through lower level jobs before finding a spot in the narcotics division. If you want to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigations or another federal agency, you’ll need to obtain a bachelor’s degree and pass all the tests administered by that agency.

Other Things to Know

Keith Graves, who works as a police officer in the narcotics division, recommends that all potential officers go through specialized training in their states before applying for a job as a narcotics officer. Graves points out that you can check with the National Narcotics Officers Association to see if your state has any of these training programs available. You also need to know how to network within your agency or department. You never know when the friendship that you have with a detective may lead to your friend recommending you for an open position.

Related Resource: Become a Crime Lab Analyst

Officers working in narcotics divisions help stop the spread of illegal substances and keep drug dealers and manufacturers off the streets. Working as a narcotics officer often requires that you have a college degree or come from a military background and train at the police academy in your city.