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Should You Get LASIK as a Member of the Police?

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Refractive errors like astigmatism, farsightedness, or nearsightedness have traditionally been corrected with glasses or contact lenses. Nowadays, more people choose LASIK, including police officers, because it accommodates a hectic job and an active lifestyle.

With more police officers and recruits choosing LASIK, training manuals and state requirements have been updated to include laser eye surgery as an effective and safe way to correct a refractive error. While there are some side effects associated with LASIK, most people get the results they want.

Many Jobs Require Good Vision

The cornea is a clear layer of tissue on the surface of your eye that helps to focus light onto your retina, located at the back of your eye. The retina takes this light and sends it to the brain through your optic nerve, where the image is processed.

If you have good visual acuity, your brain interprets these signals as a clear image. If you have a refractive error, part of that image may be blurry. For example, if you are nearsighted, you will not be able to see far distances very clearly. If you have astigmatism, your overall vision may be blurry.

Glasses and contact lenses are the most common methods for correcting a refractive error. However, some people may find these options too unwieldy, and this is often because their jobs require a fast pace with good eyesight. More professionals are turning to laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) so they can see clearly.

Police Work Vision Requirements

Police officers require good vision for much of their work. This is a fast-paced, high-stress job for most officers, often requiring quick reactions to tense situations.

Part of the job may involve being in the field monitoring safety, and part may involve sitting at a desk and filling out paperwork. This breadth of work requires officers to use both near and far vision, and switch between both quickly.

While glasses work fine for most desk jobs, they can be difficult when out in the field. They can slip, fall, or even break. In an intense situation, officers don’t have the time to deal with these issues.

Contact lenses don’t present the same problems as glasses, but they aren’t an ideal solution. They can make eyes dry, resulting in an itchy feeling that can be distracting on the job.

As a result of issues with both glasses and contacts, police officers are turning to LASIK. This allows for corrected vision without wearing any corrective device. Police training programs are finding ways to ensure LASIK leads to good visual acuity for the job.

Police Officers Have Active Careers & Often Benefit From LASIK

With LASIK, programmed lasers remove a few layers off your cornea to reshape it, so the organ refracts light clearly onto your retina. Instead of wearing glasses or contact lenses to adjust the refraction of light, your eyes can do this on their own after LASIK.

The surgery has a high success rate, and millions of people around the world report being happy with the results of this procedure. More people are choosing LASIK over glasses or contact lenses, especially if they have the type of job that benefits from high visual acuity.

Police officers perform many services for the communities they serve. These may include:

  • Protecting lives that might be in danger from criminal activity.
  • Protecting property by enforcing laws and regulations.
  • Patrolling all areas of a community to ensure safety.
  • Conducting interviews with potential witnesses or those under arrest.
  • Conducting preliminary and follow-up traffic investigations or criminal investigations.
  • Testifying in court to the response after an arrest.
  • Emergency duties during natural disasters or adverse weather conditions.
  • Commanding emergency personnel during disasters or other major hazardous events.

Officers need clear vision to perform these activities, so cities, states, and counties have requirements that their police or patrol officers must meet for vision or corrective wear. For example, some general standards include the following:

  • The better eye must be at least 20/20 and the worse eye must be at least 20/40 if the officer or trainee does not wear glasses or contact lenses.
  • If the officer or trainee decides not to wear glasses or contact lenses consistently on the job, they must have at least 20/40 vision.
  • Officers and trainees are allowed to wear glasses or contact lenses, as long as the correction provides vision that is at least 20/40.

Although officers and trainees can wear glasses or contact lenses, these can get in the way of comfort or quick response times. Glasses that are not securely attached to the head can fly off, and contact lenses can irritate the eyes. If an officer is arresting a suspect, the person may attack the police officer’s eyes and knock off their glasses, or force the contacts out of alignment. This is dangerous not only to the police officer, but to the public as the person might not be effectively detained.

More police officers choose LASIK to improve their vision because 99 percent of people who undergo this procedure achieve at least 20/40 vision. This means officers would meet the vision requirements set out for officers and recruits.

To keep up with the demand for LASIK, police recruiting and training agencies have issued standards based on medical research about symptoms, complications, and surgery regression rates. For the most part, outcomes are good, but many states require that officers submit their LASIK records and undergo an annual exam to ensure their vision is still good.

While LASIK corrects vision, it does not ensure against future vision issues. Some people need later vision correction, particularly that related to age-related vision declines.

Most People Who Undergo LASIK Are Satisfied With The Results

Not everyone is a good candidate for LASIK. Since the procedure removes some tissue from the cornea, people who have naturally thin corneas or a high refractive error may not qualify.

There are rare side effects associated with the procedure, like developing halos or glares in your vision around lights, having trouble seeing in the dark or in low light, or having dry eyes. For most people, these side effects go away in six months or less, but in rare instances, they become permanent.

Overall, LASIK has a very high success rate. If you are a police officer and want to get rid of your glasses or contacts because they are hindering your ability to work, talk to your optometrist or ophthalmologist about whether you qualify for LASIK. If you do, chances are you will be very satisfied with the results of the procedure.


  1. What Is LASIK? (July 2018). United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  2. How Does LASIK Work? Everything You Need to Know About LASIK Eye Surgery. (June 2017). American Refractive Surgery Council.
  3. Officer Expectations and Duties. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  4. Police Recruit/Officer Vision Standards. (December 2016). San Jose Police Department (SJPD).
  5. Deputy Shot in December to Receive LASIK Surgery. (February 2016). TCPalm.
  6. What Is the LASIK Success Rate? (October 2017). American Refractive Surgery Council (ARSC).
  7. Vision Guidelines. (June 2015). Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, California.gov.

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