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10 Tricks For Picking the Right Department

Dr. Richard Weinblatt

One of the most common questions I get overseeing criminal justice and police academies is from students who want to know what law enforcement agency they should apply to. The answer is not so simple. There have long been a variety of factors to consider when deciding where to apply. This has only become more complicated by the downturn in the economy that has turned the justice job arena from a sellers market to a buyers market.

Job opportunities have become tougher to find as the law of supply and demand has reversed from a few years ago. There used to be more slots than applicants, now there are more applicants than slots. While finding the best-qualified folks is still a challenge for police chiefs and sheriffs, it certainly is easier than it has been before.

Police work is now looked upon as a steady occupation with good benefits. That is something that has become scarce for many people in this challenging economy. The numbers of those applying for police posts has skyrocketed, particularly for destination agencies that are desirable due to their reputation or location (such as Florida).

Much like the private sector, governmental entities have been impacted with shrinking revenue bases upon which to build their police personnel pools. Worse yet for those contemplating a career move into the five-0 biz is the way governmental funding cycles work. Despite what may seem to be a gradual improvement in the economy, many see the next few years as being even rougher than 2010 as one-time federal stimulus funds from the Obama administration will dry up. Tax and other governmental revenue cycles for state and local public agencies also almost always trail that of the private sector.

There are some folks I have spoken with that advocate what I’ll call the shotgun approach to law enforcement applications. This has been especially true due to the desperation caused by the above factors. I do not advocate that approach. I liken that approach to applying for credit. If you get turned down a bunch of times, any prospective creditors will see all the rejections and wonder why and if they should dig further.

It is the same principle behind gas station clerks parking their own car at a gas pump later at night to simulate other potential customers comfortable pulling up. If too many folks bypass the gas station (and no one is there) or you are turned down by many agencies, any prospective target is going to want to go where others would want to go.

So, the idea is to pick wisely.

Here are 10 things to help you narrow the field >>>

  • Newtcmbadge_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Well done. Doing one's homework is vital and the ride-alongs give the prospective employee a chance to view the culture, ask questions (ASK about leadership -- true servant-leaders or the all-too-common non-leader supervisors), and see how things are done.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    Allen705- first of all thank you for your service to your community. At the same time I happen to be one of those veterans that will actually receive 10 points on the exam. I was a C5 loadmaster, so I shouldn't receive my points because I wasn't a military cop or civilian officer? With all due respect sir, our military veterans bring to the table what many civilians lack and that is leadership. Regardless of rank or job for that matter. I joined out of high school just separated with four years of active service and receiving masters in the next 2-3 years. Will it not be fair that a 25 yr old with a masters degree, military veteran, and 10 points on the test get a leg up over you. I'm sure I will be more than qualified to work at any level of law enforcement. Our veterans have made an incredible sacrifice in defense of our nation. Don't get upset over points you cannot receive but be a little more appreciative of what veterans have done. Good day sir. (and stay safe as well)

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago

    I liked this article because this is what I'm going through at the moment. I get my associates degree spring 2011. and I cant decide between State Police or the PD in my town. This was pretty helpful.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago

    I fully support military personnel being given 5 extra points with civil service agencies and preferential hiring with at will agencies. Its the least the nation can do for those who volunteer for its defense and then the safety of their communities, states, and with federal LE jobs.
    Governement jobs will always favor veterans.

  • Fidel_pd_uniform_shot_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    I would suggest to anyone looking to enter the police profession to look for departments that are not heavy on "Community Policing." Community Policing or "May I " policing will only get you assaulted or possibly killed at a higher rate. If you ask 100 police chiefs what Community Policing is, you'll get 100 different answers for this liberal nonsense that came to the forefront in the Clinton Justice Department. You want to be part of a department where its officers treat the general public with respect and where the criminal fears the officer.

  • Jack_bauer_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    I have five years of police experience under my belt, and i think the military points are total crap. When or if I want to move to civil service, i'm out of luck. Why don't state licensed peace officers get those as well???? IA cook or mechanic in the military who has a leg up over me??? Sorry, but I don't think fixing hummers gives anybody a leg up over me.

  • Jack_bauer_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    Number 3 and 4 are probable the biggest ones to pay attention to here, overall moral and equipment. That's what I'm gonna look at with my next department.

  • Sf_max50


    about 4 years ago


    There are many reasons we get preference points not only the sacrifice I have made. For instance I have to leave my wife and daughter for 8 months in less than 2weeks because of my military obligation, it kills me. Besides that the Military has already put thousands of dollars into my LE training and Security training. Why not give us a few more points...Someone else has already invested money and time.

  • 1051193310_l_max50


    about 4 years ago


    clobster, quit your whining about Military preference points... I challenge you to walk a mile in the shoes of those that serve or have served! And I am glad that those that seek advice from me are getting the same answer from me as the good Dr has put to paper here.

  • White_shirt_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Well written. I did a ride along prior to making application. I asked lots of questions. I then joined the reserves of this same agency. The chief mentioned to me that I seem to put in a lot of time as a reserve and suggested I apply for fulll time. I did and was accepted. This was in 1972 and I had just turned 21. There was not that many people seeking a law enforcement career at that time and I felt so fortunate being appointed at the first agency I applied at. It was rare to find an applicant with a college degree at the time. I would hate to be seeking a position now days. Best to all.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago

    @clobster. I know this may seem unfair, but there is a great sacrifice we soldiers, sailors. airmen, and marines, so willingly face to ensure that your freedom is in fact that, free. A lot of agencies choose us because of the self-discipline we obtain in a regimented environment, and the high level of training we also obtain. Because of our sacrifice which comes from the price of war we deserve those points for our dedication, and willingness to stand up and defend this country and keeping it free in the face of adversity!!!
    I have been in the same boat as you, being knocked out, so this does not strictly happen to those who have not served their country.

    If you have not already, obtain a college degree in this field, join as a reserve somewhere. A lot of agencies will hire from within and then open it to the general population. Volunteering is smiled upon by many. It is a way really for the upper chain to see who you are, and how well you are doing, and will review your performance in the end.

  • Justice-400_max50


    about 4 years ago


    I have to wholeheartedly disagree with his rejection of the shotgun approach. Putting all your eggs in one (or even just a few baskets) for only a few positions sets you up for possible failure, especially for those of us without military preference points. If there are two openings in a department and there are five guys claiming military preference and getting the extra 10%, you better believe the best I'll get is #6, knocking me out of the rule of five.

  • 21122007861_max50


    about 4 years ago



  • Academy_231_max50


    about 4 years ago


    This article was kind of a waste of time... Am I the only one getting frustrated with the format of the "lists" where you have to click to the next page for every new piece of information. On a positive note, the #1 Trick is great and really is the reason a lot of Officers end up unhappy. Take the time during your interviews to pick everyones brain and get an idea of what policing is to that department, it could be worlds away from your own ideas.

  • Sammie6_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Very helpful, great article. Hope to get some more from him.

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