Hi Diandre' B.-
Depending on where you live, it can be very competitive to get into the law enforcement profession. While you do not need to have a past job as a security officer, community service officer, communications operator, etc. it does help. Here's why- while it does give you a more well rounded background for your application, it gives you experience interacting with people. I was both a security officer for a retail chain catching shoplifters, as well as a community service officer. In both cases, they helped me learn how to compose myself, as well as deal with certain situations. Nothing can fully prepare you to be a police officer, but it certainly gave me a foundation to start from. Make sure you have a good balance between schooling and work experience.
Hopefully this helps!
Lt Jeff Adam 199
Elgin Police Dept
Hello, The short answer to your question is that it depends. I took the route of being in the military. Although I was in the US Army, the Air force and Navy both have excellent LE jobs that will quickly prepare you for the real world. Once I came out of the military, I was in security while my applications were being processed. Coming from the military you have 21 days from separation where the fed has to take your application, even if there are no current openings.
If you do not want to do the military route, then security is not bad, as along as it is a known and reputable company. The one I was involved with had a good working relationship with the local LE community.
Whichever way you decide to go, in today's world there is a strong focus on academic abilities and physical fitness. Get ahead of the curve and be good at both.
Scott D.’s Answer
Most people entering our training academy do not have any background in security or law enforcement. About 25% have some college up to a masters degree in criminal justice. While have a degree in criminal justice or experience in some form of law enforcement may not make you a better law enforcement or correctional officer, it may serve to get you noticed in the hiring process. In some areas, as few as 1 out of 100 applicants are offered a job.
Wow, you posed a very challenging question! What would make someone a good cop??? As mentioned above a college degree certainly helps - the one side movies and television don't show you about law enforcement is the amount of paperwork involved! Learning proper grammar usage, sentence structure, and spelling are essential. Report writing is critical, as this lays out the foundation for the criminal charge - which brings about another area of benefit: organization skills. Your investigation, as well as reports, need to be well organized so you're not repeating yourself, or overlooking a critical area. Before you start your investigation you're already thinking about the direction and desired outcome you're seeking, who you would like to interview, what information you're seeking from each person, what evidence you need to collect, etc... In your report, you want your readers (mainly lawyers and judges) to have a very clear understanding of the events - if you bounce back and forth or all around from one topic to the next, you may create some confusion and possibly a way for the defendant to beat the charges! Although the worst part about a poorly written report is the amount of time you'll be on the stand at court as you try to explain what happened to the defense attorney, who are often relentless in their cross examination of your testimony.
Education and organization are a great start to a career in law enforcement, or any other field. Another good skill is observation - be aware of your surroundings. You don't have to remember each and every little detail, but learning to "size-up" a particular location is very helpful. It allows you to see what may be out of place, what may be missing, or what may be there that shouldn't. It'll also help when interviewing witnesses or offenders - can't count the number of times where I've had offenders backed into a corner, and finally confessing simply because I was able to call them on their lies based on statements they made that were inconsistent to prior statements or the situation itself. For example - if you walked into someone's home that was rather plain and simple, and you know they didn't work and didn't have much money, but there on the wall is an 80" flat screen television - hmmm, what do you think you would want to ask about?
The last thing I would suggest is to take as many psychology classes as possible. The more you learn and understand about human behavior, the better you'll be at figuring out what people are capable of doing. Volunteer or work at a summer camp, or anything having to do with children - this is where we start learning about pure unfiltered human behaviors - a lot of children do not have a "mental filter," and will tend to say the quiet part out loud. By speaking with the kids you can also understand why some may be shy, how others are more outgoing, how some are risk takers, while others focus on school rather than play. You can see how they are forming simply from their upbringing (and it's easier trying to figure out a six year old than a sixty year old).
Working in law enforcement you job is to protect the laws of the town, city, state, country. But there's also an obligation to try and help guide people in the right direction to make better choices, and become productive members of society. If you can understand where they're coming from, you may be able to help them try a new behavior, to see that there's hope, that they don't have to live the life their living. Have you ever played a game, made a mistake, and yelled out "do over!" I use that analogy a lot with the people I supervise - I tell them that at any point in their lives they can yell "do over," and start to create a new life, the one they wanted rather than the one they were given. There's much more to it than that, such as learning how difficult it'll be to make the changes, how they'll have to work harder than they've ever done before, but how the outcome is worth it. Teaching people to create and focus on long term goals, rather than the here and now, gives them direction, something to motivate and drive them! Again, it's all tied in with being organized, presenting your concerns in a well thought out manner that's clear and concise for all to follow, and basing it on your observations of their conduct (as we have sooooo many frequent fliers in this field, we often say someone is doing life in the installment plan), and your understanding of human behavior.
Like I said earlier, fantastic question! There's so much more as well, but I'll stop before I start to ramble on. Good luck!!!