How to Determine If Working as a Cop Is Right For You

For those with the right reasons and motivation behind them, becoming a police officer can be a highly rewarding career path. But, a career in law enforcement isn't for everybody, which is why most police departments will encourage potential new recruits to get a realistic view of what the job is like by shadowing officers for a while.

If you're thinking about pursuing a career as a cop, it's a good idea to visit departments and meet with recruiters to get some useful insights into what to expect. After all, real life isn't anything like how cops are often portrayed in the media. And, experienced officers who've served for a long time recommend speaking to the family members, friends and other people in your life who are most likely to be affected by your choice of career.

Basic Questions to Ask:

As an aspiring police officer, it's a wise idea to conduct an honest self-assessment and discover why you want to be a part of one of the most stressful, yet highly rewarding professions in the world. Some ways to do this include:

  • Asking friends and family members how they feel about your career choice and getting insight from the people who know you best
  • Speaking to law enforcement professionals who you already know; they will be able to give you an honest and informed opinion as to whether or not they think you would be a good fit or even enjoy the job
  • Bear in mind that police officers face much greater public scrutiny than most other professions; consider how putting on the badge will affect your current relationships with family and friends

Visit a Police Department:

The culture in every police agency or department is different. Visiting a department is a good way of getting acquainted with the type of police culture you can expect and figuring out whether or not you are going to fit in, according to ‘CopJobs' magazine. And, seeing the appearance of the equipment or police buildings will show you whether or not the agency takes pride in its work.

If you like what you see and feel that it would be a workplace you'd easily fit into, the next step is contacting a recruiter. They will be able to provide you with crucial details that'll help you get into the police, such as educational and physical requirements that recruits will need to meet.

Shadowing a Police Officer:

If you have the opportunity to shadow or ride along with a police officer on the job, you should most definitely take it. Doing this offers you one of the most realistic exposures to the reality of what it's like to work as a cop. Most departments will offer ride-along programs to potential and new recruits for that purpose.

Ride along with officers from several different departments and agencies if you can:

  • It'll allow you to see if your skills fit the department that you plan to apply to
  • You'll get a better view of the kind of challenges that the officers from your chosen department face
  • You may even be surprised that the department you thought you'd be a good fit for isn't as appealing to you any longer, and that you'd prefer to work in another one
  • Overall, you will have experiences that will go a long way in helping you determine whether or not a law enforcement career is the best fit for you

Consider and Review Your Own Background:

As a potential police officer, it's a smart idea to check and review your own background to find any information that could be damaging to your application. Bear in mind that many police departments now check credit histories, which often contain information that you can easily clear up yourself. You should check for:

  • Any credit anomalies or incorrect details on your credit reports
  • Driving records transcripts to check for any errors that can be corrected

Most of the time, if you have a clean record, any errors found can be cleared up and rectified easily. On the other hand, if you have any serious convictions, such as for reckless or drunken driving, these will usually prove hard to overcome. If you're going into applying to be a police officer with something on your record that you cannot correct and may hurt your application, it's best to be upfront about it from the start.

Consider Your Motivations:

What's making you think about becoming a cop? For most police officers, it's the motivations behind doing the job in the first place that keeps them going even through the most stressful, tiring and dangerous of days. A career in law enforcement is a future serving others, a commitment to justice and serving the greater good. As a police officer you will need to:

  • Protect those around you
  • Develop the skills, knowledge, training, and expertise to do this effectively
  • Be a trusted member of the community when comes to maintaining the law, fighting crime, and protecting justice ideals

To get a better idea, check out this article by Wilfrid Laurier University on what Canada can do to reduce crime rates.

Law enforcement jobs can certainly be stressful and risky, but for most cops, it's all worth it because of just how rewarding the career can be. As a police officer, you'll have the chance to touch many lives and make a real difference to the people that you work with on a day to day basis, whether you're supporting your colleagues, helping victims of crime, or even helping the criminals themselves to rehabilitate and become better members of the community.

If you've done all of the above and decided that a career in law enforcement is right for you, you are on your way to an exciting and rewarding future. Working as a cop isn't easy, but there are plenty of benefits, from great insurance packages to the friends that you'll make.

There are many routes to go down – you could choose to join a recruitment program at your local police department or get started with a degree in criminal justice or criminology.

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