People entering law enforcement face numerous risks and challenges on the job, but for many, a sense of duty outweighs those issues. If you are considering becoming a police officer in your community, you may have a number of concerns. You can address these concerns by asking the recruiter a series of questions. Before entering the interview, research and compile a list of inquiries about a law enforcement career.
A Day in the Life
A printed job description is never as good as hearing a first-hand account of a job. Candidates who are seriously motivated and want the job will ask the recruiter for a detailed description of what a day is like for a police officer in that area. Ask to attend a ride-along with an officer, or talk with one, to get a better sense of the day-to-day duties and challenges. This information will help you decide if this is the job for you.
Asking the recruiter how soon you can apply for a promotion is not advisable because it makes it seem as though you are not interested in the important work of an entry-level officer. However, it's fine to ask general questions about advancement opportunities within the department. Ask the recruiter what opportunities exist to advance into higher ranking positions such as detective, and what is required to move up in the department. This information helps you plan the trajectory of your career. For example, if making detective requires a postsecondary degree and successful completion of an exam, then you can start taking courses now to achieve that goal. Knowing if there are chances to advance will help you decide if this is the department for you.
Ask the recruiter what duty you will be assigned to so you have a better idea of the hours and work environment. In smaller departments, the recruiter might even know the officer you will be paired with and can give you some background on him. Also, ask what area of the community your first assignment will be in to get a better idea of the people you will serve. If you are interested in being a patrol officer, knowing whether your first assignment will be in an area with high rates of violent crime vs. low rates might influence your decision about joining the department.
Police departments can be tough to navigate when you are new. Knowing who to go to for advice, counsel and information can help ensure a successful career. Candidates should ask the recruiter what resources are available for help in adjusting to the job, and where should they go if they need career information. Given the stress of the job, it may also be beneficial to ask if the department offers an Employee Assistance Program. EAPs often offer free counseling services for law enforcement personnel. Also, ask about classes or programs that are available to help with advancement to demonstrate your ambition and initiative.