Law enforcement can seem like the most glamorous job in the world, or the last job anyone would ever want to do. The truth actually lies somewhere between these two ideals.
The reality of law enforcement is that there is no glamour, but the job can be very rewarding. The best way to succeed at this, or at any job, is to go in with eyes wide open. Here are some factors to consider:
1 Before you sign up,
do some research, so that you will have a better idea of what you’re getting yourself into. Join an Explorer’s Club, or take part in a law enforcement agency’s auxiliary officer training program. At the very least, visit a city police department or country sheriff’s office. Make an appointment and talk to the Police Chief or County Sheriff, and try to talk with one of the detectives, as well. They can give you realistic firsthand information about the job.
2 Get in the best possible shape.
Your physical abilities will affect the way you do your job, not to mention giving you a much better chance of protecting yourself or someone else.
3 Don’t get cocky! Check your attitude at the door on your way to work.
Even the best-intentioned officer can fall victim to a swelled head, if not careful. Remember the job isn’t about glamour, it’s just a job. Be yourself, but keep your personality on an even keel.
4 Guard family with great care.
A law enforcement officer can put his family at risk in two ways: reprisals from an angry convict, or losing a family by taking work home or by spending too much time working and not enough time at home with family. Revenge can be a threat, but that doesn’t mean an officer must, nor should be, always looking for some possible threat from behind. But it would be advisable to think of the potential threats before getting in too deeply, especially when becoming a detective.
Otherwise, the more likely threat to family well being would be how an officer’s work might affect the family. Try to leave work at the office, and concentrate on the family as much as possible when not working. This is a tough challenge, given the tremendous stress involved in law enforcement. But an officer’s own mental and emotional well being can be greatly improved if the family is carefully nurtured. This provides a much-needed break from the stresses of everyday life as a law enforcement officer.
5 Though most jobs have stress,
law enforcement comes with its own box of goodies. And, no matter how solid a person may be in a personal life, the job stresses can and will wear away at even the hardiest soul. Any time you live your life on the edge, never knowing when circumstances may force you to come face to face with a gun, the adrenaline is going to pump the stress to its limits. Just be aware that the stresses will come, and that they may take their toll, if you’re not prepared to deal with it.
6 Don’t take things personally. In a single day,
an officer may encounter any number of people who will direct their own anger and stresses of life directly at whoever comes their way. And the distinctive uniform of a law officer seems to draw these people like a magnet, making an officer a target. Just remember that you’re there doing your job, and it’s not usually personal. This is easier said than done, when the code of law enforcement makes an attack against a law officer very personal. But, remember, the attacks are generally directed toward the badge, rather than the person behind it.
7 Don’t get too involved, personally,
with the people in whose lives you may venture. It will be hard to walk into some family situations and see the depths to which some children are forced to live. But you can’t take them all home and protect them. This, in and of itself, can be a difficult stress to live with. As a police officer, you will have access to resource information of use to families in crisis. But sometimes, that’s all you can do. If you’re going to survive a life in law enforcement, you’ll have to learn to deal with it.
8 Beware the temptations of the job.
An officer will come into contact with money, drugs, alcohol, stolen property and other temptations. Now, if all of this appeals to you, and you can hardly wait to start, you might not be the right candidate for this job. But, even the stoutest of heart might have some difficulties, when faced with the temptation to just “take a little and no one will ever notice.”
9 Develop a life away from the office.
As has already been mentioned, the stress can be quite a load to carry. Having interests away from the office and work can help an officer come to terms with the daily stresses, providing an outlet for emotions about to explode. Work out at the gym, play sports with friends, take up a vigorous or quiet hobby, depending on what your personal needs are. But find something to do that can help take your mind away from the harsher realities of life.
10 Know when to ask for help.
Don’t feel like you have to go it alone. There are other officers to turn to, counselors specially trained to listen to law officers, and professional organizations that can help. It’s not an indication of weakness to reach out for help.
Law enforcement is both a challenge and a rewarding experience. It can be both and yet more of one than the other. Just take each day as it comes, one day at a time, and check into the law enforcement life before you commit yourself for the long haul.Law enforcement