It’s not for everyone.
If you are looking for exciting work with many dull moments, then cop work might be for you.
Due to shortages of applicants, departments are recruiting heavily across the United States. These shortages might be due to a bolstered economy or fear they do not possess necessary prerequisites in the hiring process, or related to rising police ambushes, and public scrutiny. Departments want you. But first, you might want to size up your abilities to be a cop.
You might not work out as a cop if you like to spend weekends lounging around, enjoying time with family, having holidays off, or rushing to watch your kids at school events. You know, like those families who drive minivans to sporting events, music recitals, or school functions.
Police officers often miss those moments because they exchange those pleasantries for responding to events such as neighbor disputes, family fights, talking to lonely old ladies, wrangling mentally ill persons, discussing solutions with those abandoned by their family and doctors about tin foil hats, or picking up troubled or defiant kids after curfew.
Things like that.
Don’t bother marking off on your calendar where you normally would place that weekend family camping trip. Call outs or city events requiring your presence at the station tend to interrupt such events. You might need to figure out when and where you can be spontaneous. Plans might not go according to plan.
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You can’t beat The Heat…
You are not able to be a cop if you want to keep your existing social lifestyle and maintain all your old friends. If you like to celebrate things with a night out at local bars with pals, it is not recommended you hang out at pubs. This is now a place of work, not play. If you are considering police work, make a list of friends and social events to sacrifice in prioritized order.
You might not work out as a cop if you are faint of hearts, cringe at the sight of blood, or get squeamish at dead bodies. If horror flicks intrigue you, you are in for a treat. You could watch a lot of graphic movies to get desensitized or get a part time gig as a local coroner. Considering it preparation for the job or training.
A favorite misconception of going into police work is the pay. You might see a number that is appealing, let’s say, in a big city department. Add up the cost of living, very competitive promotion, specialized assignments, the likelihood of physical confrontation on a daily basis, being in a fight, police shootings, gang problems, shootings, multiple community problems, high crime rates, big city politics, and you are making negative dollars.
It might be a fun ride, though. You just won’t get paid for your time.
On the flip side, smaller departments might pay you part time wages for sleepy time. However, you will need 2 other jobs to make a living. What about the pay attracts you to police work? It is a stable career choice if you like job security because crime will always be there. So, crime does pay in some respects. You might not be able to be cop if you are focused on a lavish lifestyle.
I was born this way.
If you got into police work because chicks or dudes dig the uniform, you won’t last long.
You are not able to be a cop if you go into police work for the wrong reasons. What are those wrong reasons? Anything that excludes public service motivation. You have to have it in you. You will live it. You need heart along with a bunch of grit. If you don’t you should seek a different career.
Consequently, this doesn’t even touch the surface.
You will see people in the worst positions of their lives. Human misery on a daily basis. And you have to find a solution to keep the peace or prevent loss of life. You might not be able to make it as a cop if you lack patience or empathy.
Deviant behavior out of the Twilight Zone will call you to a location. Child molestation is a common call. Predators seem to roam your safe city at alarming rates, but you keep that from your family.
Each day might shock the conscience, but you cannot tell those stories. Police work might not be for you if you cannot keep secrets. Besides, your family would get sick of hearing about it and a rift would build up about you and your work coming home.
If you hated dress up, Halloween, or drama class as a kid, then you are not able to be a cop. You will see many unusual characters, tons of drama, and plenty of costumes. Acting might become your forte. If fits well into your communication skills toolbox. You might be required to dress up yourself and pretend to be someone you are not.
Kiss your regular life goodbye. Normalcy-nevermore.
Even though you have days off, your mind might not rest. Things play over in your head while your kid tells you about the day at school.
Shift work will mess up your circadian rhythm and family plans. No one likes a parent who sleeps until 3 PM. The day is gone by then.
Health and fitness is key to keeping vigilance, contributing to emotional intelligence, and upping your game. You might be in great physical shape, but your stress related health problems show up over time and you are mentally exhausted. It seems like you never catch up on sleep.
Cop work is not for you if you like to be regimented in your personal life and have a routine or schedule. Forget anyone scheduling things for you.
Things like that.
It seems you are always fighting for credibility or some cause.
Often city councils or county commissioners vote against raises, vehicles, new equipment, uniform upkeep, and training. New policies have officer’s names on them and you cannot keep up with regulations. Case law dictates your life. Administration red tape frustrates you to no end. You fight for change and best practices, but get no support.
Things are awkward around outsiders. People ask to see your handcuffs or want to know how many people you have shot. You receive jabs. The public often dislikes you. Some even want you killed. You are demonized by the public just because of the badge and uniform.
The one time you are revered for saving that baby, it is forgotten the next day and you return to the bottom of the popularity pile.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
The sergeant calls you in to write you up for being rude to a citizen. You had another citizen complaint of going 3 over the speed limit and someone swears they saw you without your seat belt on. Your boots are dirty from chasing a bad guy, yet, the captain complains about your appearance.
Maybe you cannot even get your torn uniform replaced due to budget issues, so it had to come out of your pocket. Ouch.
Or, you go on looking frumpy on duty which causes your supervisors to frown on your lack of pride in uniform. You might get written up for that too.
Perhaps you have to buy some equipment because your department won’t do it or cannot because financial resources are stretched. So, you stretch your own financial resources.
Weekly tasks blend. Your kids need hockey equipment, track shoes, musical instruments. Tuesday was a fog. On Thursday, you forgot about your daughter’s play on your lunch break.
You are too broke for a vacation.
When you go home, you get the spousal business because you are never there. The phone rings. You have to leave again because duty calls.
Heart, grit, public service motivation.
Many days go by that you respond to problems you cannot fix. Over and over. Many times it is the same people over and over. People won’t listen. Police-citizen conflict is prevalent.
If you cannot handle politics and bottlenecks, police work is not for you.
The public watches you like a hawk. But more so does your administration and you are always judged by your peers. You have to be an independent thinker who works well as a team player. You might not fit police work if you like your privacy.
These things are the mild things. It gets more graphic and more violent. You have to go down some dark rabbit holes.
Politics and administration tensions get muddier. There are hard moments, graphic imagery, and smells that change you and never leave. You become jaded and calloused. You will experience times of burnout. However, there are many fun and exciting moments. The job is entertaining. Peer support and cop humor is the best. You help many people and are a necessary member of your community.
So do you have cop abilities? Are you able? And willing? Those must go hand in hand. If so, what are you waiting for? Oh, right. It’s easier to be an armchair quarterback.