Glossary & Terms

The law enforcement community uses a number of terms and abbreviations that are not used in other industries. This can be confusing to people looking for information on their application status or when talking to others.

Below is a list gathered by other members of the law enforcement community to help serve those individuals that are new to law enforcement and want to understand the terms and abbreviations given by others.

If you would like to contribute to this list, please contact us.


  • Applicant Physical Abilities Test (APAT)

    A step in the application process that includes various tests. This may include a run, sprint, agility test, pushups, situps, and more.

  • Approved Remote Location (ARL)

    This refers to locations that are hard to fill (border towns or big cities such as New York City or Los Angeles).

  • Background Investigation (BI)

    A background investigation normally occurs after the initial testing and interviews with a potential law enforcement candidate. The investigation scope depends on the agency and clearance (if necessary) that the candidate will need to hold the position.

    The time frame of an investigation can range anywhere from a month or over a year depending on multiple factors.

    BI can also stand for "Background Investigator".

  • Best Qualified Applicant (BQA)

    A step in some agencies, getting a notification you are a highly qualified applicant. Usually this indicates that you have made it into the next part of the application process.

    In some agencies this also means "Better Qualified Applicants" and indicates that you are no longer in the application process.

  • Career Transition Assistance Program (CTAP)

    The Career Transition Assistance Program assists current federal employees find new opportunities inside their agency. This program gives eligible employees selection priority.

  • Conditional Offer of Employment (COE)

    A COE is given during the application process after initial steps have been cleared. At this point the more intensive application steps begin (Polygraph, Medical, etc).

  • Electronic Questionnaire for Investigation Processing (eQIP)

    eQIP is an online system for filling out background information when processing for a security clearance.

  • Entry on Duty (EOD)

    This is the date that an officer is cleared to begin work at an agency.

  • Federal Employment Retirement System (FERS)

    This is the retirement system used for the federal government and also applies to federal agents and police.

  • Federal Law Enforcement Officer (FLEO)

    FLEO is short for Federal Law Enforcement Officer. This applies to, and is not limited to, the following U.S. OPM Pay Classifications: 1811 (Criminal Investigators), 0083 (Police Officers), and some 1810 (General Investigation) and 1801 (General Inspection, Investigation, Enforcement, and Compliance).

  • Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy (FLETC)

    FLETC is an academy in Glynco, GA where many agencies send new law enforcement officers/agents to be trained.

    Visit FLETC's website

  • Field Office (FO)
    FO refers to Field Office. These are the offices where agencies staff agents and officers.

    There can be many field offices in a single state.
  • General Schedule (GS)

    The OPM term for payroll in the federal government.

  • Law Enforcement Officer (LEO)

    This is a general term relating to all law enforcement officers. This includes federal, state, county, and city police officers and special agents.

  • Notification of Results (NOR)

    This term normally pertains to federal agencies after applying via USA Jobs. The NOR is a letter that (usually) will give you the score that a candidate received after processing their application, including any veteran's preference points.

    This score will be used to determine how competitive a candidate is and how quickly they may be selected for further steps in the hiring process.

  • Permanent Change of Station (PCS)

    A PCS is the transfer from one office to another in the federal government. This is what happens at most federal agencies after graduating from the academy. You will process out of a field office close to your home, but will likely transfer soon after being hired.

  • Physical Training (PT)

    This terms refers to training for health or also to prepare for tests at the academy or during application steps.

  • Police Officer Selection Test (POST)

    The POST is a nationally used exam to test the competency of applicants for police officer skills. This is generally the first step in the application process after your resume has been accepted.

  • Special Agent (SA)

    Special Agent. Generally speaking this is a federal law enforcement officer who conducts criminal investigations.

  • Special Agent Entrance Exam (SAEE)

    This is the written test Special Agent applicants for the U.S. Secret Service take.

  • Structured Panel Interview (SPI)

    This is a step in the interview process at some agencies. Generally speaking this includes multiple interviewers asking situational and historical questions to the applicant.

  • Task Force Officer (TFO)

    TFO refers to officers that are on a task force.

  • Time in Grade (TIG)

    Some job vacancies have time in grade requirements before one can apply.

  • Uniform Division (UD)

    UD refers to the police/patrol/force protection division at a federal agency where there are also Special Agents.

  • Veteran's Employment Opportunities Act (VEOA)

    Veterans Employment Opportunity Act of 1998, as amended (VEOA) is a competitive service appointing authority that can only be used when filling permanent, competitive service positions. It can not be used to fill excepted service positions. It allows veterans to apply to announcements that are only open to so called "status" candidates, which means "current competitive service employees."

  • Veterans' Recruitment Appointment (VRA)

    Veterans' Recruitment Appointment (VRA) is an excepted authority that allows agencies, to appoint eligible veterans without competition.