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Helping Friends and Family Understand Your Desire to Serve

Helping Friends and Family Understand Your Desire to Serve

Sergeant Betsy Brantner Smith

I’ll never forget when I told my mom I wanted to be a cop. It was about 1973, very early in the history of women in patrol work, so when I said “I want to study law enforcement” she said “You want to be a lawyer?” “No Mom, I want to be a cop.” She looked at me sideways and replied “Why don’t you be a lawyer instead.” And that was the end of the discussion. Well, at age twenty one and just two weeks out of college I became a cop. I was fortunate enough to have parents who supported my career choice even if they didn’t truly understand it, but I know many crimefighters and police candidates who aren’t so lucky.

Many times our family members – parents, spouses, partners, close friends – are taken aback by our desire to serve as law enforcement officers. It’s our responsibility to help them understand and learn to accept our desire to wear a shield, carry a gun, and be that person who runs towards the shots when everyone else is running away.

Tell Them Why

Think hard about why you want to be a cop, and then communicate your reasons logically but passionately to your friends and family. Tell them that you want to serve the community, that you want to walk the Warrior’s Path, you want to be part of a profession with a proud history and real mission. Let them know that in today’s society, the world needs people like you, who have a true desire to help keep the rest of the community stay safe. Be positive, be upbeat, and leave the part about wanting to drive fast cars, shoot big guns, and arrest maggot dirtbags out of these conversations…at least for now.

Make and Keep Promises

One of the biggest concerns our friends and family have is our safety if we become police officers. Promise them you’ll do everything you can to keep yourself safe. Stay up to date with your research on officer survival issues and trends; read books like Street Survival and The Tactical Edge by Calibre Press, practice your tactics, your firearms skills, and your repetitions. Commit to staying in excellent physical condition long after you get hired. Get involved in martial arts; promise to always wear your vest. Study why and how people survive (read The Survivors Club by Ben Sherwood) and share this knowledge with those you love. Provide them with accurate information; in these days of tragic, multiple police killings it’s natural for our families to be worried. Let them know that police work usually doesn’t even make the top ten list of “most dangerous professions” in this country and that we’ve made great strides in the last 40 years on the officer survival front. Make those promises, and then keep them!

Show Them the Money!

Okay, nobody gets rich doing police work, but there are some definite financial perks. Generally speaking, law enforcement is pretty stable employment. The pay isn’t terrible (this varies largely by region and type of agency) and the benefits are usually pretty good; these are two very important advantages in today’s economically uncertain times. Let them know that shift work has its advantages too, like time off during the week and during times of day when most people are at work. If you have a spouse and kids, let your spouse know that you’ll take an active role in household chores and childrearing, and that shift work can often help you do that more easily. When you get hired, take out extra life, liability and disability insurance to help make them feel more secure financially.

Make Them Part of the Process

Keep them involved and informed. As you learn about the hiring and training process, share that information with family and friends. Say “Thank You” for their support frequently, and show your gratitude often. Buy them a copy of Dr. Ellen Kirshman’s book I Love a Cop and then read it yourself. Have an open discussion about how all your lives will undoubtedly change when you become a police officer, and commit to working through those changes in the best manner possible. Make the “emotional survival” of you and your family as big a priority as your officer survival.

Remember that you’re not the only one with dreams and ambitions. Let’s face it, as cops we can get a bit self-absorbed, especially when we’re initially involved in the hiring and training process. However, one of the best ways you can garner the support of your family and friends is to equally support them in their educational, career, and life ambitions. Resist the urge to talk constantly about becoming a cop; ask them questions about their career goals, find out how you can help them achieve their dreams and ambitions. And if you’re the spouse or partner of another crimefighter, resist the urge to “compete;” see yourself as a team, as allies, not as competitors.

Law enforcement is an honorable and exciting profession, but it’s also a way of life. Work hard to bring your family and friends into “our” world in a positive, responsible manner. The support of the people you love is absolutely necessary to have a meaningful and fulfilling career as a crimefighter. Good luck!

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    about 17 hours ago


  • Photo_user_banned_big


    about 4 years ago


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  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    Nice article. Many people I know do not understand why I want to be an LEO. Fortunately for me, the most important ones get it. Thanks for the article!

  • File0106_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Well said... I have been telling my family since I was 4yrs or younger that I wanted to be a cop... They have supported me 100%

  • Tigerstripe_002_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Many of my friends and family in the past shared the view that cops are just angry people looking for any way possible to ruin your day. In one's word "Cops are the kids that got beat up in school and now need a badge to get back at the world."
    Now that three of my cousins are LEO's and corrections officers "or have been." people tend to sing a new tune around us.

    Anyone in our family can look to our LEO's and say they are proud of them and the Job they do. I've formed my own opinnion of them and LEO's in general over the years. My cousin Chris wanted to stepstone his way into being high up in the FBI with a focus on working against narcotics on a Federal level. My female cousin grew up in a great small town and witnessed allot of crime once out of college. She joinned to clean up the streets because she believes change only happens through action. My cousin Geimar got into corrections because well I dont know why he did that. Maybe to many years crawling virtual stone corridors in video games.

    The life is hard, you put your life on the line and witness our worst in order to maintain our safety and ordered civilization. A moments relaxation could be interupted by unimaginable and instantanious stress. People you meet and run into range from cool calm and co-operative to nasty vindictive and down right violent. Of course you have to be safe secure vigilant and on edge when conducting a traffic stop. Is granny driving or is she tied up in the trunk theres no way of knowing. People dont know that they have to follow your orders and some have to be taught or just tollerated. It isn't however, a thankless job. Thank you, for everything you do.

  • Lion_cub__masai_mara__kenya_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Raised as part of a BIG FAMILY! I shared my intention to become a Law Enforcement Officer with them... Problem is that my family HATES Cops, my Brothers seem to be fine with it thankfully as does my dad, my sisters seem to think i'm going to get shot, stabbed, blown up or eaten by a zombie (That was literally one of their fears.) but my mom... claims to support me but takes every chance she can to shove the 'Bad Cop' stereotype into everything i'm learning... it's hard, but i have been called to serve.

  • Jen1_max50


    almost 6 years ago


    When I told my friends and family, I was SO happy to have their support 100%. In my past I had wanted to be a police officer, but was more concerned with what my family would think... Then I realized that it's my life, and I need to do what I want to do in order to be happy, to serve my community and help my fellow man! So I sucked it up and had the talk with them all. They're not only proud that I've finally chosen my path, but proud of the path itself!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 6 years ago

    Thank you!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 6 years ago

    Great article. I am still trying to figure out how to tell my parents. this definitely helped. thanks

  • Me_max50


    about 6 years ago


    I know what you went through girl! Great article! Although I'm still trying to convince my husband that when the phone rings, duty calls, and I'm out the door for God knows how long. He still gets agitated when I come home late. But I LOVE my job and when the phone rings the adrenaline pumps and I'm ready to go!

  • Policelinkbadge_max50


    about 6 years ago


    Very well said.

  • Fallenherobadge-3-1_max50


    about 6 years ago


    Ah...I see Betsy's smiling face here. I should have known she is behind yet another great article.

    As to the question the title to this article suggests, have friends and family go on a ride-along or two.

    Then, have them go to court to watch the crap coppers and prosecutors have to put up with from defense attorneys and some of the judges who don't get it.

    They'll understand...and, I predict, they'll also give their blessing...

  • Thi_seal_max50


    about 6 years ago


    Sgt Smith hits the nail on the head again.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 6 years ago


    Great information to be advised to any one wanting to join Law Enforcement. Letting your loved ones know is a wonderful way to being excepted to what you will be doing. No matter what line of carreer you are in they will still worry only more on you being an Officer. Remember to always do your best on any carreer.

  • New_picture_max50


    about 6 years ago


    This is incredibly valuable for newer and young officers with wives or husbands that are not in the business.

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