Working in the criminal justice sector can seem like an exciting career choice. This is thanks to the countless TV shows, dramas and movies that have depicted a career in law enforcement to have enough danger to be exhilarating, but also an air of whimsical charm that eliminates the hard work officers and agents put into their jobs. Yes, Brooklyn Nine-Nine may be a funny comedy that follows the personal and professional lives of New York’s finest detectives and police officers. But it doesn’t paint an accurate representation on real workers within the criminal justice sector.
You need to ensure that you are suited to a job in law enforcement. A career in law enforcement is not easy and is most certainly not for everyone. It takes a lot of training and exams. What’s more, jobs in law enforcement can be dangerous, time-consuming but also not as wildly interesting as many movies portray it to be. It’s not all car chases and bank robberies 24/7.
Is law enforcement the right career for you? Let’s find out!
Ask Yourself, “Why Do I Want a Job in Law Enforcement?”
It is important to ask yourself why you want a job in law enforcement. This is because certain reasons behind your interest in a career in law may not make complete sense once you contemplate them on a greater level. For instance, are you fond of a job in law enforcement because you have romanticized the idea after watching certain films or reading books? Or is it simply because you have family members who work as a police officer and it is expected that you follow in their footsteps?
Just with any job, you need to ensure it is the right role for you. Entering a field for the wrong reasons can not only impact your happiness and quality of life, but it can also impact those you serve. A police officer who is not completely interested in protecting their citizens can cause harm to the public.
Do You Have the Right Qualities?
Certain qualities will make you a better police officer, detective or agent. While you may not have all these desired qualities at the start of your studies or career, having the drive and dedication to learn them can help you have a successful career in law enforcement.
Good communication skills are essential. You must be able to listen to your superiors and the general public as well as communicate your thoughts concisely and clearly. What’s more, being able to read a person’s body language and recognize and understand nonverbal ques and facial expressions can be exceptionally helpful, especially in high-stress situations such as a burglary or a hostage situation. If someone is, for example, held against their will and being forced to answer the door to you and tell you that they are okay, they may be expressing that they are a hostage through their eyes or facial expressions instead.
Working in law enforcement isn’t always exciting. You won’t be interviewing criminals or chasing down offenders in the streets 24/7. In fact, office work and admin are expected, and you may find yourself working at your desk more often than not. Having the patience to complete the most mundane of tasks is needed when it comes to law enforcement.
On the other hand, you will also need to practice patience when interviewing a witness or suspect. This is because witnesses and suspects may refuse to talk or provide you with the information you need. Learning how to patiently extract the information from them and gain their trust is a skill you will want to attain.
You Enjoy a Variety of Work
Your job may differ on a day to day, week to week or monthly basis. Therefore, you will want to learn to enjoy a variety of work when working as an officer or agent. One day, you could be patrolling the streets and issuing parking tickets, and the next you may be answering the phones and taking charge of emergency calls. There is a sense of the unknown in the law enforcement sector and being open to new challenges and the potential of doing something different each day can make this the perfect field for you.
You Like Working with Others
Police officers will typically have an assigned partner. While you may have some say in who you work with, as you will be spending a lot of time with your partner and unit, learning to communicate and work with others can be beneficial for your own team. If you enjoy working with people and having company, then this can be a great profession for you to consider. You may be expected to spend hours in a police car with your partner as you keep an eye out for any speeding cars, for example.
You Understand the Dangers
A career in law enforcement can be dangerous. Firearms and other dangerous equipment can be used within this field, and learning how to use it correctly and diffuse dangerous situations can be essential. You will be sent into dangerous situations in order to bring peace. This can lead to injury and death for you, a colleague or a member of the public.
Good Critical Thinking Skills
Some cases will require you to think outside the box and problem solve. Figuring out how an event happened and who is behind it can be taxing and difficult, but good critical thinking skills can help you piece together the events that unfolded and make an arrest.
Do You Have the Right Credentials?
Earning a degree in criminology or undergoing training to become a police officer is required. You will be expected to study for examinations that are both physical and mental in order to become a fully-fledged officer or agent. What’s more, certain careers require intensive, specialized training or on-the-job experience. If you want to learn more about the history of policing in Canada and how an online course in criminology could kickstart your career in law enforcement, click here for more information.
Which Career in Law Enforcement are You Interested in?
Unsure which career in law enforcement suits you best? Here is a list of the most popular and sought-after jobs within the field.
Probably one of the most recognized and famous job in law enforcement, an FBI Agent can be a dream job for many aspiring police officers. Typically, an FBI Agent will investigate crimes within the domestic security sphere, such as kidnapping, computer crimes, financial crimes, and terrorist threats. FBI Agents are placed within offices across the United States and the world. It is typical that you will need a bachelor’s degree as a minimum; however, a master’s degree as well as relevant work experience is preferred and can make you a much more favorable candidate.
Secret Service Agents
Secret Service Agents are usually tasked with the job of protecting the US president. However, they can also be responsible for protecting the US treasury and to safeguard the US currency. Specialized training is essential if you want to be a Secret Service Agent.
A police officer serves to protect the public and to reduce crime within certain areas within their jurisdiction. The role of a police officer is extensive, with every day bringing new opportunities and responsibilities. You may be patrolling an area one morning and answering emergency calls in the afternoon. Police officers are usually on the move and are the first responders to a crime that may need investigating. You will be expected to write reports detailing investigations.
The police chief is in charge of their own team of police officers and acts as the face of their police department. They will decide on the day-to-day operations of their police officers, have the final say in what certain officers do, and also oversee the department’s finances. Chiefs may spend more time in their office than patrolling the streets, but they have huge amounts of responsibility and stress.
Police detectives will spend their time piecing together a crime scene to determine what happened and who is behind the crime. They will usually put together a case filled with both witness testimonials and physical evidence before handing it over to a prosecutor. Detectives can be placed in a lot of danger as they investigate crimes of all types from kidnappings to murder. Some cases can also be hard to digest and cause mental and physical distress.
The role of a victim advocate is to help victims of a crime cope with trauma that they may have developed and help them navigate through the criminal courts and criminal justice system. They will provide support for victims. For example, you will be expected to attend court with victims, lend a hand with paperwork and arrange for help or services that the victim may require. After a trial, you will also keep the victim up to date.
There are many things you need to consider before pursuing a career in law enforcement. Firstly, you need to ensure that you are doing it for the right reasons and are truly passionate about making a difference. Secondly, you will want to possess some of the qualities that make a good member of law enforcement. And lastly, you will want to choose the ideal career in law enforcement for you.