More Things I Wish I Knew Before I Became a Police Officer

This feature is part two. See part one: THINGS I WISH I KNEW BEFORE I BECAME A POLICE OFFICER

Brown-nosing . . .

I never knew the influential stance that brown-nosing would take in the law enforcement world. I have always concluded that hard work and results should be the indicative factor in determining an officer’s position within the department.

What I learned after getting hired was that it is not always the hard work of the officer, but the hard work of the officer’s ability to work his/her way into an inner circle based simply upon their ability to stroke the ego of an appointed official.

Again, there is no single remedy for this issue. However, as an officer, you should try to fit in with your co-workers. You do not have to participate in the same mannerisms as everyone else. Rather, simply be courteous to your supervisors and your elected officials. Hard work may not always determine your character as an officer in the eyes of those previously mentioned officials, however, it will define your character to yourself. At the end of the day, you only sleep with yourself and your own conscience. Therefore, that is all that should matter.

If you’re married, then your spouse is married to the job . . .

Being married to a police officer is not easy. We work weird hours, every weekend (almost) and most holidays. We work swing shifts or get assigned shifts that consume our family life. As hard as it may be to balance your family life with your work life, as an officer, it is just as hard for your family to balance their life around your work schedule.

Spouses, try to understand that this job is not easy. On the other hand, officers, try to be understanding that your spouses are balancing being both mom and dad when you are at work. On either end of the spectrum, it is not an easy lifestyle to adapt to and can challenge even the strongest of people to stay true to the original reason they married their spouse in the first place.

Co-worker relationships . . .

Law enforcement is one of the most diverse professions in the world. Officers come from different cultural backgrounds as well as different lifestyles. One of the biggest challenges I face, even to this day, in my job is fitting in with my co-workers. My interests are different from almost everyone that I work with. As a result, I often find myself feeling awkward when I converse with other officers or simply not saying much at all.

Diversity is one of the beauties of this world. Many people in small cities are not as acquainted with diversity, as opposed to those who have traveled outside of the small cities or live in larger areas. Luckily, throughout my military career, I have been able to travel and meet a diverse range of people. If you are working in an organization that you find yourself facing the same issues, simply remember that it is not like that in all organizations. Larger organizations have a wide range of diversity. As such, I would encourage you to reach out to officers that work with other law enforcement agencies if you find yourself having trouble relating to the officers that work at your respective department.

In closing . . .

I do no regret my decision to become a police officer. I love my job and the ability to interact with others and help them. However, I wish I would have been less naïve and knew what to expect. The job is tough on the inside and outside of the department. It is difficult on you and hard on your family. The most helpful piece of advice I can give you in dealing with issues within your own agency is this.

Remember why you are doing the job in the first place. There is no blueprint to being a police officer that will make the job any easier. I only hope that after reading this someone will find better ways to cope with the stress they feel in their job. Stay strong!

James Neal