okay here's the deal with law enforcement.
1) depending on the specific department you are going in, it differs but some things are constant. I'll tell you where you can get your info, but double check for specific requirements for your area.
2) most departments, especially city police, require you to actually be hired on before you go to the police academy. So you may have to win the interview before school. Sometimes they polygraph you in academy, sometimes they do it seperate. But every cop goes through full background check, yes they will call/hunt down your refrences as well as other people you may not have refrenced. So be nice to people.
3) look up the physical reqs for that department. None of them are universal. You have to take a written exam and a PT test to graduate. Some departments have annual PT you have to pass, some have every three years, some are department specific. So make sure you know what is expected of you and start gradually training for it beforehand.
4) look up the affirmative action ratios for your department. Everyone has them. It'll help you know if you're wasting your time trying to get in the wrong city/district. They hold to them by law.
5) it takes 3 years of patrol before you can transfer to another area or department. If someone says they didn't have to do their 3 years, they did something shady or it was done for them. I don't care if you're a senior FBI encoder or a Delta Force member. 3 years.
6) you will get the shit shifts until you get seniority. That means 3 am to 11 pm, 5pm to 3 am, that kind of stuff. And I've never heard of anyone anywhere getting weekends off regardless of shift time without almost 15-20 years under them. You'll probably get Tuesday/Thursdays or something gritty like that.
7) be prepared to do a ton of paperwork. Never cut corners on your paperwork. Ever. It's the only thing that will save your butt in a he said/political drama both on the streets and in the department.
8) you will be maced. It sucks, but it's not that bad. Just don't rub your eyes even if you've washed your hands 100 times. To carry pepper spray, you have to be pepper sprayed. Now a taser is different. Sometimes you have to be inflicted, sometimes you don't. My local department won't taze patrols, but SWAT maybe. If your city has riot gear then you may have to be hit with an electric shield, but that's not bad. I rather take a shield than a stun gun.
9) most departments have cut loan forgiveness due to budget cuts, but all departments consider college credit in pay rates and promotion potential. You have to test to up rank anywhere. So nothing is gaurenteed.
10) you can find all the information you need including applications and requirements at city hall. If you are considering sherrif or state, go to city hall anyway and ask them where to go because those offices are sometimes grouped funny depending where you live. They'll also tell you how you'll have to apply for those positions because that differs too.
11) park rangers apply through the federal sites such as usajobs.gov. however, I would go talk to the actual rangers to be sure. I know nothing else about them.
I'm sorry for the wall of text, but if I haven't covered something or you want me to answer something else, feel free to ask and I'll help as I can. The Military thread is really good here. Those guys can help you with that route. I know a touch, but not near as much as law enforcement. But yeah, just lemme know if I can help!
"Psssh. Even if you could catch a miracle on a picture any person would probably delete it to make space for more porn." - Aszur