The Buddies star admitted kicking police constable Edward Gilmartin and repeatedly kicking police constable Tony Fitzpatrick in Airdrie and at Coatbridge Police Station on August 11.
The 26-year-old, who has a previous conviction for police assault, pleaded guilty to the double assault at Airdrie Sheriff Court last month and, on sentencing, Sheriff Pieri told him: "People who act in this way towards police officers can expect a prison sentence, especially with someone like your record.
"However, I am prepared to deal with you in this way as a direct alternative to custody."
Police had been called to Wheatholm Street after receiving a tip-off about an incident involving the former Celtic youth player.
After being detained and handcuffed, the footballer kicked out at PC Gilmartin, striking him on the knee. He was then held face down but kicked out again, catching PC Fitzpatrick on the inner thigh and groin area, causing him "severe pain".
McGowan's solicitor Mark Lutton told Sheriff Pieri that the incident was an "impulsive reaction by a young man that was drunk".
He said the handcuffs caused McGowan discomfort following a shoulder injury which required surgery and kept him out of football for three months at the tail end of 2012.
The solicitor added: "His behaviour was totally inappropriate and he totally accepts and recognises it as such.
"He fully accepts his wrongdoing. He is able to recognise the role excessive alcohol has played. He does not offer that as an excuse but to explain his behaviour. He is thoroughly ashamed.
"He is full of regret and remorse and offers his full apology to both the court and to the police officers concerned."
The sentence of 130 hours of unpaid work was reduced from 170 hours on account of his early guilty plea, but McGowan was told that as part of his community payback order he may have to meet with the Meridian Alcohol Counselling service.
Outside court, McGowan said: "I'm not allowed to say anything but I would have taken that if you'd have asked me."
After the sentencing, St Mirren released a statement which read: "Today's sentencing brings this deeply regrettable matter to a close.
"We have been very clear that we do not condone Paul's actions in any way.
"Everyone involved with St Mirren Football Club is fully aware that we expect them to act in accordance with our commitment to respect and tolerance in our community.
"Paul knows what he did was wrong and completely unacceptable.
"As a club, our long-term objective is to help him learn from his behaviour and move on with his life and career and, as such, we have no further comment to make."