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
  • 100_2041_max50

    blackrobe

    over 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    thank you so much, this has helped me alot, sir. if you have any other info on becoming a police oficer, be sure to let me know, i have thought about this for a long time and i want to go through with it. M.W.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    civicsijose

    over 5 years ago

    4 Comments

    great article

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    brandy5

    over 5 years ago

    60 Comments

    This is probably the best article I have read yet. It has answered all my questions and concerns. The one part I do differ on is the spouse support. I feel he/she should be supportive through any dream of a career you may have. If they don't maybe divorce court should be your first step.

  • Jessica_max50

    JessicaDeputy

    over 5 years ago

    68 Comments

    this really helps me on what i need to do.... thanks..

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    drinsinger

    over 5 years ago

    82 Comments

    this is a very execellent article. Which it doesnt scare me one bit as being in prelaw I know what it takes but the next step is deciding to change my schooling and going into criminal justice and then going for my attorney. The big question is getting the money also. For me going into the law was being in a domestic abuse marriage that is what got my passion in law.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    wildman8387

    over 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    i have wanted to be a cop sence i was a little boy it has been my dream but i dont have the money to go to scholl. if theres anybody that can help seen me to school to be a cop please help!!!!

  • 032107-1004_max50

    hunybyrd

    over 5 years ago

    88 Comments

    This is as clear cut as it can get. Extremely honest, down to earth. Just what someone really needs to know to start their research into a carrier in law enforcement.

  • 581313_553960001321224_133130557_n_max50

    vdangelo25

    over 5 years ago

    58 Comments

    Great info!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    jesus77

    over 5 years ago

    14 Comments

    wow..thank you so much for this information this will help me out thanks...

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Lori09

    over 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    wow thank you for all the information u put up. i can't lie i'm a bit nervouse for all u have written but i'am ready to take on all that

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    guarddog45

    over 5 years ago

    218 Comments

    Thanks for this article as it gives me some avenues to explore. I am finding that my age is a factor(1962) and am wondering besides private security , are there any law enforcement opportunities available to someone like me seeking a career change? I'm also still attending a community college (mostly nights) to receive eventually my Associate degree in Criminal Justice & working FT. Thank you once again. guarddog45

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    someshwar

    over 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    i also want to be a cop, an special cop

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    ROTO

    over 5 years ago

    4 Comments

    I WANTED TO BE A COP FOR A LONG TIME BUT HAD TO STOP GOING TO SCHOOL I COULD NOT AFFORD IT NO MORE AND HAD TO DROP OUT

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    samantha7582

    over 5 years ago

    4 Comments

    Thank you for the helpful advice about becoming a cop. I am interested in getting as much information as I can because it has been a dream for many years and I am interested in seeing if this is really something I want to make a reality for myself. Thank you very much!

  • Airsoft_new_157_max50

    MemoryDecay

    over 5 years ago

    42 Comments

    Thanks, it's nice to learn more about becoming a cop.

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.

Recent Activity

Snoopy_6_max30
Jonas submitted the article: "Corrections Department To Pay $50K in Sexual Harassment Suit", 6 minutes ago.
Photo_user_blank_big
mkm007 commented on: mkm007's photo: "MEXICAN LR", 6 minutes ago.
Img_0425_max30
MrsBristol commented on: "Arnita Bristol", 7 minutes ago.
Photo_user_blank_big
mkm007 commented on: "Kaye Mull", 8 minutes ago.
Me_max30
denise65 commented on: "Chad Pusey", 13 minutes ago.