Print

Become a Cop >> Browse Articles >> So You Wanna Be a Cop...

+78

Part 1 - So You Wanna Be a Cop...

Deputy Bob Cooley

My goal in posting this information is to help those reading these lines to realize the dream they have about becoming a Law Enforcement Officer. I do not claim to be an expert, but after thirty years on the job I believe that at least some of the ideas and suggestions I’m passing along may be helpful in your quest. I’ve experienced first hand everything I’m passing along to you so I speak from experience. Constructive criticism is welcome and sought after, so future revisions can incorporate your ideas and suggestions.

About me

A little of my background is in order I started my law enforcement career by joining the reserve officer program of the Metropolitan Police Department, Washington, D.C. in 1975. DC was hiring at that time, but I was not ready to make a commitment to a law enforcement career until I had a “taste” of what police work was all about. After a year as a reserve it became clear that this was indeed what I wanted to do for the rest of my working life and my quest to realize that goal began. I am currently a Deputy Sheriff III (senior deputy) in northwestern Virginia and I am celebrating 22 years with this agency in 2007.

Disclaimer

I can’t possibly anticipate or elaborate on all possible aspects of the hiring process because of the variations you will encounter. My goal is to help you avoid some of the pitfalls and mistakes I made in the early years that I believe will apply to just about anyone who sets out to become a Law Enforcement Officer.

Part One-Questions you need to ask yourself and others.

First, you need to ask yourself why you want to become a Law Enforcement Officer. If it’s just to wear a nice uniform badge and gun then seek another profession! This is a job that is not all fun and games; it is not cops and robbers. It is without doubt one of the most stressful professions anywhere in the world. I know of no other profession other than the military where you literally carry the responsibility of life and death by the weapon carried on your side.

Second, you need to ask yourself will I be able to handle the stresses of the job as well as the physical aspects. With that you need to ask how will my becoming a Law Enforcement Officer affect me, my family and even my friends. Talk to Law Enforcement Officers you may already be acquainted with and ask them “what’s it really like?” Most will answer you truthfully and can give you great insight as to their experiences. You need to talk to family members as to how they feel about your goal. My own parents hated the idea of my becoming a lawman because of the risks involved and the chance I might be killed. Your spouse will have thoughts and feelings that you need to know beforehand. Don’t just walk through the door one day and announce “hey honey I’ve just joined our local police department.” That’s a sure fire way of heading for divorce court. You also need input from your friends about how they will feel towards you if you “put on the blue” someday.

Third, before going any farther contact your local law enforcement agency and ask if they have a “ride along” program that you could participate in. To me this is crucial because it will at least give you some insight through your own senses as to what a Law Enforcement Officer really does on the job. And don’t just ride one time tell the person in charge of the program why you want to ride more than once. Tell them that you’re really interested in the job and you would like to be able to ride again on different shifts with different officers to get at least a feel for what the job is all about.

Fourth, you need to ask yourself what type of lawman do you want to become. Federal, state, and local agencies all have benefits and drawbacks and you need to decide what’s right for you and what kind of agency you want to go to work for. Ask or research through the Internet salaries, benefits, retirement and disability programs the prospective agency has to offer. Then ask yourself if you can support yourself and your family (or prospective family) on what is offered. I’ve always told prospective LEO’s don’t come into this profession expecting to make huge salaries! Sure, you can make big salaries as you advance through the ranks in the larger agencies, but are you willing to commit to the study and hard work necessary to achieve those high ranks? You must decide this for yourself and work to achieve those goals.

Fifth, contact the agencies you’re interested in to find out what they require as qualifications for their department. Some require a college degree; some require college credit hours equivalent to an Associate of Arts degree and others only require a high school diploma. There may be height and weight restrictions and some have an eyesight standard. Check into the requirements and if you find yourself deficient in some area work toward meeting those requirements. Many agencies have a no smoking policy in effect so if you smoke and your goal is to work for a particular agency that has this policy, quit smoking!

Continue To Part 2: Starting The Process


+78
  • M_087e3b88afdb448fbb74200308a3ece9_max50

    kaoskonfetti

    over 4 years ago

    2 Comments

    I wanna be a cop, Something I always looked up to other police for their their when you need them and their their to help keep us safe. reason why I would like to become a police officer is their are a lot of people out their that I could help with my actions, say someone is speeding and i pulled him over if i havnt have been a cop what if a few mins later the person crashed killing or hurting people in a accident that mabey could have been prevented.

  • Oryx_antelope_max50

    mhajinoor

    over 4 years ago

    2 Comments

    the reason is,i alweys want to help my community. so its more much to helping my community,and than you deputy, you gave same nace advice.

  • 100_0216_max50

    swann

    over 4 years ago

    2 Comments

    Thank you Deputy Cooley,
    You gave some wonderful advice! I will consider it, and hope to meet you in the force eventually!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    almost 5 years ago

    I get butterflies when I think of why I want to be an officer. There is a void in my life right now, that will only be fulfilled when my dream is fulfilled, my dream of being an officer. Being an officer gives one the ability to help others more than a regular civilian can.

    The standard reason is, I want to help my community. See it's so much more to me than just helping my community. It's deeper than that. Officers have so many functions, one of my favorites is crime prevention. Patrolling a neighborhood, their presence.

    I don't just want to be a cop. I want to grow within the law enforcement community. I'm so intrigued by LE, I want to learn all it has to teach and more.

    The power of the badge is nothing, if you don't have a good person behind it. To me the badge is a resource to assist, and gives the authority to use your better judgement. The badge is something to be so proud of, it signifies your determination to fight for what you want. Your ability to not give up on your dream.

    I will not give up on my dream. That is why I want to be an officer. Gosh I have the butterflies now.

    -Sasha

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Mihail_Lazarov

    almost 5 years ago

    4 Comments

    I am a Police Officer, but I want to transfer in the USA. I thing in Bulgaria I get the max from the Police Force and I need to take my experience in high level. I think that is possible in the school or University in the USA, and more specifically in field of investigation. I hope to find here someone to help me with information how I can make this happen.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    leamlak

    almost 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    I really would like to be a cop to serve this great community and I need someone to help me. I live in DeKalb County. Thanks

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    deechamp

    almost 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    I'm definitely interested, I've already stated school majoring in criminal justice to get more education about a career in law enforcement.

  • Nite15_max50

    NicholasSellers

    almost 5 years ago

    4 Comments

    I am 20 and would love to protect my community and its a dream for me to become a police officer. I dont know really how bout going to be one. It would be nice if you or someone else reading this could really help. thanks and have a great day.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 5 years ago

    Hello guys! I have been working in Ukraine's Law Enforcement for 7 years (this is corruption agencies in Police).I am captain,older officer.My name is Sasha,30 years old.I enrolled to International Police Association (section of Ukraine).But I have a dream to work in any of the USA Police Departments.Please help me!Give me advices!I don't know how will do it.

  • Dscn0118_max50

    Adladle

    over 5 years ago

    604 Comments

    My goal is to be a federal agent. Because of that, I am going on to complete my Masters. I just received my Associate of Arts.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Bradley1992

    over 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    I am 17 and would enjoy protecting those around me,if you could get back to me and talk a little more about it would be helpful. thank you

  • Img004_max50

    Salem

    over 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    I want to be a cop

  • Picture_006_max50

    gillstephen

    over 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    i am up to the task to serve and protect those around me and thanks for your information its been so helpfull.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    america_health

    over 5 years ago

    252 Comments

    Thank you so very much Deputy Cooley for this valuable information.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    lis7223

    over 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    hi,
    i'm 34 years old and would like to become a police officer, i'm worried that i'm not physically qualified since i'm about 5'5" 123lbs male....the police officers that i have always seen are pretty big.
    is there some kind minimum physical requirement?

PoliceLink School Finder

Save time in your search for a criminal justice degree program. Use PoliceLink's School Finder to locate schools online and in your area.

Get Info

* In the event that we cannot find a program from one of our partner schools that matches your specific area of interest, we may show schools with similar or unrelated programs.