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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


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    ValyCop

    over 5 years ago

    216 Comments

    Folks, thanks for the nice comments, they are appreciated very much. I must emphasize again if you have questions about becoming a law enforcement officer post your questions in the careers section of this website and I or others will try to help you.

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    jbrisnon

    over 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    Im a single female and mother of three. I have wanted to be law enforcement for many years Id like to help people and my community as well as my family. Im choosing the criminal justice program for several different reasons I want to show my children and myself that whatever dream or goal you have isnt to big you have to want it for it to come true. Im recently divorced from and abusive mentally and physically man which only made me stronger to be the best parent i can possibly be. Im struggling to get thru school but i will get thru I just want to know do enjoy your career?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    carlos8710

    over 5 years ago

    4 Comments

    I will do my best at being a Police Law Enforcement officer

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    andreshumberto

    over 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    Very nice piece of info, very usefull, i'm looking forward to join the force, I was waiting for my cititicenship, and a got it, i allready wait for seven years for this, let's hope is not too late, I'm 32 years old, i don't know if I am too old for this but anyway I'm goint to try.

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    owner22pc

    over 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    This article was very insightfull.. Nice work

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    chris_tiboni

    over 5 years ago

    184 Comments

    I have been a full time officer for about three years now, I was lucky, I had very little college and no military. I actually became a reserve first, then applied for full time after gaining experiance for free. But like I say, I am lucky for not have a degree or military.

  • K9image01_max50

    AceGunner

    over 5 years ago

    10 Comments

    I apreciate the useful information, but i have a question, Is it better to get 2 years of college or go into the army for 4-6 years and get my police training that way?

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    geruza

    over 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    thank you so much this has helped me alot sir. if you have any other info on becomig a police oficer be sure let me know i have thought about this for a long time geruza pereira

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    usafveteran

    almost 6 years ago

    86 Comments

    i have done all the research and i am enrolled in college to get my associates degree in criminal justice,but i lack the funds to get my P.O.S.T certification that is required by my state...there are some that will sponsor a candidate but they only sponsor one per year...i have also applied for the county departments to work in the jail..i have heard that is a good place to start.

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    JTAC2010

    almost 6 years ago

    84 Comments

    Great article, you really need to be well prepared for this career choice. This article gave some good insight.

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    CHPFantasy

    almost 6 years ago

    30 Comments

    Very good advice. Also, the agency you dream about may not be the one for you, so be really careful when you choose. Understand the places you would be patrolling really well! Some of the jurisdictions are weird.

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    Anonymous

    almost 6 years ago

    marcusokc- check your local campuses and local areas to see if they have a law enforcement intern programs, it is a great way to take step towards to training and other aspects of being a police officer. Start running and training like crazy so that when you hit the academy you only have to worry about passing all the mental games rather then the physical side and mental. Good luck

  • Photo_17_max50

    marcusokc

    almost 6 years ago

    10 Comments

    I really want to do this...I graduated From college with a degree in Mass Communications, but I took a lot of law and criminal justice classes too. What kind of education can I get to become a police man or do I have enough. Are there training classes I can take to get experience without having to pay to get another bachelors degree

  • British_columbia_max50

    majorTom

    almost 6 years ago

    2 Comments

    I don't know if you still look at this but thanks you gave me a lot of info .

  • Sniper_20good_20camo_max50

    cartwrhe

    almost 6 years ago

    8 Comments

    this is helpful thank you

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