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Say your teen's dream is to become a police officer (in the U.S.)


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Living it right now. 
We’re encouraging him to pursue a four-year degree before joining a police force. 
Maybe he’ll see other opportunities while he’s learning? 
Meanwhile, we’re talking a lot about current events. And I’m praying. 
The truth is we need good cops, and my son would be one. He cares about people. The motto of “serve and protect” suits him so well. 

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We need good law enforcement officers. I would direct dc to process that choice with a wide variety of people to gain valuable perspective. I would ask for a four-year degree first as a path to better pay and nifty job positions within the force. And I would trust God to guide that awesome launching adult in his passion.

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2nd Gen,

I agree with every part of your post. My husband is in his 21st year. He is beaten up in more ways than one and can’t wait to retire. Multiple injuries, multiple surgeries, attacks by the public, both physical and mental. 

 

Edited by AbcdeDooDah
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I would absolutely encourage getting a 4-year degree first.  I have a relative who earned a B.S in computer science before joining a big city police force and that background has served him very well.  He rose quickly within the department and gets to do interesting work.  

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I would encourage him to research departments with the best pay and retirement. There are some agencies that treat their force well in that way.

I would not discourage my kids from pursuing their dreams.

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I would do everything I could to interest them in something else that might have some overlap with the aspects they are interested in.  I would be very distressed if my child still decided to go ahead with policing...for all the reasons 2nd gen listed.  The highly publicized actions of the bad cops affect them all, and even good cops are gleefully tossed under the bus these days.  I don't see that changing any time soon.

Edited by Syllieann
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This is solid advice. I graduate with my AA in June in Criminal Justice. The bulk of my coursework is Constitution-related. 

 

oops, meant to quote Katie and others that suggested a degree first.

Edited by AbcdeDooDah
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One of my older kids briefly considered becoming a police officer. I think he would have been good at it because he loves people and all types of people respond well to him. I talked to a recently retired cop I know about it and he said, "Encourage him to be a firefighter instead. People like firefighters."  Honestly, I was relieved when ds decided to do something else.

I agree about getting a degree and avoiding big cities. It's not like there's not danger in smaller areas. My small city had two officers shot two months ago (saved by vests), but there seems to be less risk and a greater likelihood of a supportive community.

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Have they considered federal law enforcement opportunities? A degree is required but there's a good pension and a lot of opportunities to move into other jobs down the line.  I know several people in different federal law enforcement agencies and they are all pretty pleased with their jobs.  

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I live outside of Portland Oregon. I would discourage working for the police force currently in our area. I appreciate what the police do for us, but I would hate to see my child caught up in it. 

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A lot of people join the military if they know their desired police department values that.  
 

If they join the military and find out they don’t think they like it (from being an MP), then they have got the Montgomery Bill to pay for college.  
 

I would tend that way, but also want to investigate what people said locally.  
 

I have heard that some places, that barely hire anyone, will have a preference for one thing or another (college or prior service military or specifically military police).  Some people live in rural areas and know the hiring is extremely limited!

If there is volunteer EMT for his age I think that is something that is also good experience and desirable.  
 

But I think it is worth finding out locally. 
 

In some places it is really hard to get into just because there are so few spots coming open.  
 

I have met several people who joined the military because they knew it was their path to join the police department.  Some would know there was a preferred branch in the military as well.  Some would be doing that plus taking college classes towards a criminal justice AA or BA.  
 

But in some places there might be one police officer hired every 3 or 4 years, and they might expect to do this and then work as an EMT (? — something like that) while they wait for a spot to come open.  (Edit — and keep taking classes)
 

If you happen to live in a very small town or rural area I think it can be competitive this way.  
 

 

As far as discouraging — I think it is fine to say thoughts and opinions.

But into active discouraging, there are people who do this for the military and their kids remember it for years and it can effect relationships in a bad way.  

Edited by Lecka
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The smaller law enforcement agencies here (police in small towns and rural county sheriff's departments) seem to be absolutely desperate for officers. The larger cities pay a lot more and have more opportunities for advancement, so it's hard for smaller organizations to compete.

I don't think I'd discourage him, but I also wouldn't hesitate to point out the possible cons of being a LEO. But I'd do that for any profession. We do need all the good LEOs we can get, so I applaud anyone considering that career path who really wants to do it for the right reasons.

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It really depends on the sheriff, much like a school’s culture and atmosphere can depend on the principle. 

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Can your teen talk to people currently in law enforcement?  Some places will allow limited ride alongs as well.

I would also encourage a wide range of experiences with people of other cultures, languages, races, social/economic status, etc from you as that would be important for understanding the people and area they would be working with.

Also, police handle a great many mental health crisis situations so classes in psychology, mental health concerns, wrx would also be helpful.

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I have heard that also about it being very easy some places.  
 

We knew someone who looked into it in another location, and found out that the city he was interested in wanted either prior experience or a CC program.  
 

People wanting to work there could get a job in a small town, work there 2-3 years, and then use that as experience to apply to the city department.  But the pay etc for the small towns were really not going to be very good.  
 

I think it really depends.


 

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If it were my son, I would be supportive if the goal were to get a position in a small suburban, exurban, or rural area and live in the community he polices. Usually these areas have lower crime plus the calls they go on would be more diverse (river rescues, cows in the road, along with the drug situations, etc.) I would also be on the lookout for academies that are actively changing with the times and trying to train "peace officers" rather than "police officers," such as our Academy up here in Vassalboro, Maine (I am friends with the person in charge of training there). In Maine, applicants must have their bachelors degree before attending the academy, so that would be something I would encourage. They really need officers that are fluent in foreign languages. From what my friend has said the number one problem with potential recruits recently has been fitness. A huge number of applicants fail the fitness test, which is extremely rigorous and required for entry. So advise your son to get into an intense daily fitness regime (that includes climbing over barriers!) to prepare and to maintain close to his ideal weight. My friend also said that the recent and justified criticism of police that has extended to become a blanket hatred of all police from some segments is very discouraging and morale crushing to his recruits, so your son should think through how he will handle the mental health demands of his profession and be open to and not afraid of therapy if he ever needs it. It would also be good to cultivate activities now that will serve him later to maintain an inner calm, for some that might be yoga, for others fly fishing, or whatever brings him peace. I also agree with a previous poster that martial arts training is an excellent thing to start or continue now. 

Edited to add: My MIL saw many police officers in her family therapy psychology practice in Staten Island, NY (pre 9-11). She would definitely warn your son that the toll on marriages is extremely high. Being a wife (or husband) of a police officer means living in constant fear. Also, she said male police officers (she didn't see any female police officers) often came into counseling with her because their marriages were breaking up because the officers had been cheating or drinking. 

Here is a profile of a Bangor, Maine police officer that is working to integrate humor into his community policing. 

https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2016/08/30/meet-officer-behind-the-bangor-maine-police-departments-viral-facebook-page

Here is the FB page he blogs on be aware that his most recent spring post is about the return of the um... exhibitionists in town, but hey, if your kid is going to be a police officer, soon enough he will have seen it all: https://www.facebook.com/bangormainepolice

Edited by Kalmia
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13 hours ago, Syllieann said:

I would do everything I could to interest them in something else that might have some overlap with the aspects they are interested in.  I would be very distressed if my child still decided to go ahead with policing...for all the reasons 2nd gen listed.  The highly publicized actions of the bad cops affect them all, and even good cops are gleefully tossed under the bus these days.  I don't see that changing any time soon.

This! My dh has been a police officer for more than twenty years, In today's climate he would absolutely try to sway our child to pursue another career path.

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I’m pretty sure we’d be supportive. I mean, we’ve supported music ambitions, firefighting, EMS, undertaking... we’ll support just about anything. And dh intended to be a cop. He got his degree in criminal justice, then life just kinda took over.

Like we do with all the others, we’d have lots of conversations about the pros and cons, the paths to take, and reminders that people don’t have to stick with career choices they make as teenagers.

And I’d be a nervous wreck.

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My 20 yo son had wanted to be a police officer since he was 10.  When he was 16 the officer that was shot and killed in Boulder, Officer Eric Talley, was his counselor at a boy's camp he attended.  He had many lengthy conversations with Officer Talley at camp the next 3 years.  Officer Talley offered to be his mentor and they kept in touch on a regular basis.  He encouraged him to get a criminal justice degree first before entering the police academy, which he was doing.  During the summer last year, Officer Talley suggested he pursue a different degree to have something to fall back on if he decided not enter the police academy given the current environment.  My ds switched his degree to Cyber Security.  Even up until this year, he did still intend to join the police academy.  He no longer has that desire.  I think years down the road, we will all be paying for this demonizing of all LEO.  That is not to say that there are not bad police officers that really should not be wearing the badge. Training of police officers definitely needs to be changed, but that will take time. But there are also bad doctors, who make deadly mistakes.  I will never forget the look on my ds's face when he came into my room the night he realized it was his friend and mentor, Officer Talley, that had been killed.  I had not seen that look since his father passed away unexpectedly when he was 16.

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2 minutes ago, Teresa in MO said:

My 20 yo son had wanted to be a police officer since he was 10.  When he was 16 the officer that was shot and killed in Boulder, Officer Eric Talley, was his counselor at a boy's camp he attended.  He had many lengthy conversations with Officer Talley at camp the next 3 years.  Officer Talley offered to be his mentor and they kept in touch on a regular basis.  He encouraged him to get a criminal justice degree first before entering the police academy, which he was doing.  During the summer last year, Officer Talley suggested he pursue a different degree to have something to fall back on if he decided not enter the police academy given the current environment.  My ds switched his degree to Cyber Security.  Even up until this year, he did still intend to join the police academy.  He no longer has that desire.  I think years down the road, we will all be paying for this demonizing of all LEO.  That is not to say that there are not bad police officers that really should not be wearing the badge. Training of police officers definitely needs to be changed, but that will take time. But there are also bad doctors, who make deadly mistakes.  I will never forget the look on my ds's face when he came into my room the night he realized it was his friend and mentor, Officer Talley, that had been killed.  I had not seen that look since his father passed away unexpectedly when he was 16.

I think you are exactly right.    It may not be that many years from now either.   

That said, I still say I'd discourage it.   But my father is retired LEO and that definitely factors in to my vote.   I've seen the good, bad, and ugly.  
 

But, op, if your dc is set on it, try to provide them with lots of opportunities to learn more.  Someone mentioned ride-alongs, mentoring, etc. I'd really look into those types of opportunities now, rather than later.    Encourage him to get a degree.    Research different departments.    Once he has committed to going into that profession, be a big supporter and cheerleader.  

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A city near me with a population of 200,000 is looking to hire "at least 25 new recruits" and as many as 50 right now, so there are jobs out there. They seem desperate and the only requirements they are putting out are ages 21-40 and no felony convictions.

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I think an issue is that it is one thing for someone in a certain job to tell a young person the bad sides.  
 

But it can be another thing to hear the same thing from parents.  
 

I think having a chance to talk to other people who are likely to have a range of opinions and know the pros and cons ——— is something with no negatives towards parents.


But I think for a parent to go too close to being unsupportive or discouraging, is possibly really negative.

 

 

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5 hours ago, Katy said:

I think the FBI requires a graduate degree. 

No, it just requires undergrad, but the graduate degree can substitute for some (not all) of the required professional experience. Starting with the FBI is never an option, and it's extremely competitive. 

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When I was a teen, my dream was to marry a police officer!   And even better if his partner was a police dog!   My childhood home was across the street from a school, and the police sometimes did late-night training sessions with the dogs in the field.  It was fascinating to watch!

I would just avoid cities where the city council members are talking about defunding the police at the same time that the community/businesses are begging for more help.   

Does your son already have some experience with firearms?  If not, I'd find a shooting range that offers training.   

 

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27 minutes ago, katilac said:

No, it just requires undergrad, but the graduate degree can substitute for some (not all) of the required professional experience. Starting with the FBI is never an option, and it's extremely competitive. 

Are you sure this is true? My son graduated from a top engineering school and several of his roommates interviewed with the FBI just after getting their undergrad degree. As a roommate, he was interviewed about them. I don't know if he's in contact with any of them, so I don't know if they got FBI jobs.

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6 hours ago, Katy said:

I think the FBI requires a graduate degree. 

I've long heard that the hot ticket to the FBI was studying accounting. Clashes with the G-man image, but...

I guess cyber security gives accounting a run for its money these days?

Bill

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17 hours ago, bibiche said:

If it were my child I would absolutely encourage a degree first and then try to steer towards the FBI rather than PD.

This. 100%!

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53 minutes ago, mom2scouts said:

Are you sure this is true? My son graduated from a top engineering school and several of his roommates interviewed with the FBI just after getting their undergrad degree. As a roommate, he was interviewed about them. I don't know if he's in contact with any of them, so I don't know if they got FBI jobs.

I think on paper she's right, but in real life you're extremely unlikely to get hired there without a graduate degree.  Like all federal jobs, it probably involves a point system.  I know many people who applied there, 2 hired, both with graduate degrees.

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4 hours ago, mom2scouts said:

Are you sure this is true? My son graduated from a top engineering school and several of his roommates interviewed with the FBI just after getting their undergrad degree. As a roommate, he was interviewed about them. I don't know if he's in contact with any of them, so I don't know if they got FBI jobs.

I have never heard of anyone getting hired straight out of undergrad, not even with extremely in-demand skills (like fluency in critical languages), and their site still says it:

Have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from a U.S.-accredited college or university.

Have at least two years of full-time professional work experience; or one year if you have earned an advanced degree (master’s or higher).

https://www.fbijobs.gov/career-paths/special-agents/eligibility

I would find it really unusual for several people in the same circle to score interviews with the FBI at the same time, even if they did have experience. Was it maybe a special program or a different alphabet agency? 

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1 hour ago, katilac said:

I have never heard of anyone getting hired straight out of undergrad, not even with extremely in-demand skills (like fluency in critical languages), and their site still says it:

Have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from a U.S.-accredited college or university.

Have at least two years of full-time professional work experience; or one year if you have earned an advanced degree (master’s or higher).

https://www.fbijobs.gov/career-paths/special-agents/eligibility

I would find it really unusual for several people in the same circle to score interviews with the FBI at the same time, even if they did have experience. Was it maybe a special program or a different alphabet agency? 

I wonder if they had co-op experience that would have been considered for the work experience. Also, there is a FBI branch (I'm not sure if that's what they're called) in the same city as the university so maybe it is a special program. DS1 now has a job that puts him in frequent contact with the FBI, so I'll try to remember to ask him when I see him.

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I haven’t read the replies, however, I think there are many “I want to be a x when I grow up” jobs that kids pick without knowing the details of what the job entails. 
 

Does your area have a police explorer program where he can see the job up close before making a decision?

 

 

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2 hours ago, katilac said:

I have never heard of anyone getting hired straight out of undergrad, not even with extremely in-demand skills (like fluency in critical languages), and their site still says it:

Have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from a U.S.-accredited college or university.

Have at least two years of full-time professional work experience; or one year if you have earned an advanced degree (master’s or higher).

https://www.fbijobs.gov/career-paths/special-agents/eligibility

I would find it really unusual for several people in the same circle to score interviews with the FBI at the same time, even if they did have experience. Was it maybe a special program or a different alphabet agency? 

Ivy league schools, multiple political & family connections.

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I would have them follow Patrick Skinner on Twitter. He also has a few pieces published in the Washington Post (one April 21). 
 

He is a police officer in Savannah, Ga and I think he has lots of good ideas on policing. 

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I will add that while the idea of small town policing seems nice, the thought of starting small and moving to a bigger department isn’t as easy as it sounds.

My husband advises young people to do the exact opposite. A person starting out policing in a rural area can take years to get the same on the job experiences as working in a city. Where we live, the pay is very low for officers. In fact the only reason we could afford for my DH to have left his big city police job to move here was because he was able to retire and start collecting his first pension. Many of the officers in this area are retired from other agencies or retired military.

 

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I am wondering if maybe there were other law enforcement jobs I knew people were trying to get, not necessarily police officer?  Or if there are just pockets where it does pay well in a rural area?

I think it might depend on what the benefits are, if there are places that still have old-fashioned pension benefits, or things like that.  

Edit:  because I have met people saying it is competitive this way in their hometown, in the past 10 years.  Edit:  and I do think it is a job where in a lot of places, new hires do not get the same benefits of people hired before a certain year — but that is more my impression.... and I have heard the same for firefighter actually, but I really don’t know — it’s more like a gossip level.  

For the FBI — I know it is seen as a career path for some people to start as a military officer and then apply for the FBI in their late 20s.  I can’t say if it’s better or worse than any other thing — but it is a thing some people do as their plan from the time they are in high school.  I personally know two people who got accepted into the FBI from being an Army officer.  And I really do not know a lot of officers.  
 

My husband is also friends with someone who retired from the military and became a State Trooper, and we know someone who was in the Army about 6 years and is doing well as a police officer in a mid-size city — but he never planned on it, it was something his girlfriend suggested and then it worked out and they are married now.  She did not want to move around so she wanted him to get out of the Army.  
 

 

Edited by Lecka
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Oh separately — one of the people we know is NOT an FBI agent.  He works for the FBI but is not an agent.  The other person is an agent.  
 

I just checked with my husband.  I think at the building where he works, most of the people work for the FBI but are not agents.  I don’t know if that makes a difference for looking at numbers or requirements.  

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