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Why are you a Police Officer or Detective?

I am am 23 year old female with a background in Security and I am interested in perusing a career as a law enforcement. I desire to serve and help others also to inspire people to change. I enjoy problem solving and creative thinking. #law-enforcement #police-officer #criminal-justice #detective #law

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Paladin "Pj"’s Answer

The reason most pursue a law enforcement career is to help others. Some choose law enforcement because they assume the job comes with a lot of power (wrong). Some choose law enforcement because they have a view of law enforcement, and law enforcement officers, that is based on images seen in movies, tv, and other sources.

I became more interested in law enforcement after watching cop shows like: Adam-12, Police Story, Chips, and Dragnet. But this wan't my only reason. I wanted to become a police officer ever since I was bullied in the first and second grade. A big kid used to take my lunch money every day (32 cents) because I was afraid of what would happen if I refused to give it to him. In those days you could buy a school lunch; or go to a store and buy a can of pop, a bag of chips, and a couple pieces of candy for 32 cents.

I had no big brothers or sisters to protect me. The bully had a large family. I never told my parents or the teachers because I assumed they couldn't help me. The bullying went on for a long time. Anyway, I promised myself that once I grew up I would become a cop and protect people from bullies and criminals.

When I became a teenager I wanted to be a Chicago Police officer, or an astronaut, or play for the Chicago Cubs. One day in 1978, a burglar broke in to our garage and stole expensive tools my father had borrowed to replace the transmission in his car.

On my way back to work after meeting with the Chicago Police to make out a report, I heard an ad on my car radio from the Illinois State Police. The advertisement said the Illinois State Police were hiring minority officers. I made a quick detour to the local State Police District to get more information and an application card.

It took me 1 whole year to go through the hiring, testing and evaluation process. In July 1979, I became an Illinois State Police Trooper. I worked as a trooper for 33 years. During that time, I worked in patrol, investigations, training, and as a supervisor. I worked all over the state; from Chicago, to the suburbs, as well as Central and Southern Illinois.

Most of the cops I worked with loved being a cop. The reasons include: It's exciting (sometimes), dangerous (sometimes), emotionally and spiritually rewarding (sometimes), it's an important job, pay and benefits are above average, you meet and work with interesting people, people appreciate the work you do, it's outside, you learn special skills (shooting, self-defense, first aid, how to write and speak and listen (cops need more of this training), how to influence others, how to lead and inspire others, how to work with others, and more.

Now, on the other hand, there are significant challenges being a cop. There are lots of rules and regulations. Being a cop is almost like being in the military. Cops MUST follow orders. Because cops have the authority to physically restrain, detain and arrest others, there are strict rules, laws, and procedures they MUST follow.

Here are some examples:
- Cops must obey lawful orders from superior officers.
- Cops must obey all traffic laws and drive safely.
- Cops may disobey traffic laws in certain emergency situations. HOWEVER, if the cop causes a crash he or she will be held accountable.
- Cops shall not reveal or access another person's private information-unless it is related to an authorized investigation.
- Cops may not engage in improper conduct that reflects negatively on the officer, the Police Department or the Government agency they work for.
- Cops can only live in areas authorized by their police department.
- Cops cannot discharge their firearm unless their life or the lives of others are in danger.
- If a cop is arrested by another police department, he or she MUST report the incident to their supervisor ASAP.
- Cops must maintain their equipment in good working order. If the equipment malfunctions, it must be reported to their supervisor ASAP.

These are just some of the rules. There are hundreds more rules on how to wear uniforms, facial hair, jewelry, transporting prisons, searching people, handling evidence, testifying in court, calling in sick, and more.

These days it's very tough to be a good police officer. Because of the public's reaction to the actions of bad police officers, good officers are feeling pressure, stressed out, over-worked and more.

Once you become a police officer you discover the reality of law enforcement is far different than what is seen on tv and in the movies. However, some shows, like: Adam-12, The Wire, Barney Miller, and Homicide-Life on the Street, are really close in showing what police life and work are like.

Police officers who stay for a whole career (20+ years or more) do it because they love it, are committed to it, and they get a lot of self-satisfaction from the work. They also know there are few other careers that provide the same type of job satisfaction as law enforcement. Hope this is helpful!
Thank you comment icon Hi PJ! This is a fantastic piece of advice. I enjoyed reading your backstory and experiences that led to your career journey. Thank you for sharing! Alexandra Carpenter, Admin
Thank you comment icon Great response PJ! This one could use your wisdom as well: Zahid Iqbal
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for taking the time out to really share why you & some others enjoy doing what you do. Zaria
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Jan’s Answer

I spent 35 years in law enforcement. I started as a patrol officer, promoted to detective, then to sergeant. I was later elected Sheriff. Went on to become chief of police.
The greatest achievement was going to the FBI National Academy.
I loved my career as it was something I always wanted to do. Make a difference.

Jan recommends the following next steps:

Get as much training as possible
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James’s Answer

Like most officers, I wanted serve others in need, but also, I was the victim of a robbery and wanted to prevent others from victimization.