Do you want to be a police officer? It is good to learn something about being a cop to help you know what to expect when you become one. Police officers have been there for generations since the beginning of civilization in all cultures. What is unique about the job is the transformation it has undergone over the decades. Laws change, and so do expectations. The role of the modern police force is to protect and serve. Police officers are commonly criticized and scrutinized more so in officer-involved shooting cases.
Unlike commonly depicted in the movies, rarely do officers fire their guns. Mostly, they spend long, dull hours patrolling neighborhoods and ticketing traffic and parking violators. Police officers have an admirable and stable profession that comes with good benefits. It is a difficult job to get between the lengthy process of hiring recruits and academy training.
Some people fail to make the cut, while others find out that it is not exactly what they expect. However, for those who come to the job with commitment and dedication to discharging their duties properly, they get some of the amazing years of their lives helping people through sticky situations and eliminating crime in neighborhoods.
10 Pros And Cons Of Being a Police Officer
1) A chance to build a strong relationship
Joining the fraternal family of approximately 800,000 strong in the US and millions more worldwide is a dream come true for many people. When called to serve and protect, it gives you a sense of worth. People put their trust in you and come to you for help, knowing that you are good and will help them out. When having personal problems, your colleagues will have your back, which is comforting. You stick together and learn to lean on each other to make it through the day every day.
2) A chance to shape your community
The community will always have those bad apples that people complain about. The role of law enforcement is to help solve problems in the community. Police officers go the extra mile for those they serve both on-duty and off-duty. Officers volunteer to shape the community and make a difference. Police officers talk to scouting groups, participate in community events, and make school presentations to make everyone proud of their work and to inspire new generations.
3) Job satisfaction
The diversity of work that police officers do is very dynamic. Each day comes with new problems and challenges. As a police officer, you can never tell what to expect from the dispatch or what is on the scene. Regardless of what problems you encounter, helping people gives you satisfaction. You work with partners and your department in a team environment that has clear set goals and the means to achieve those goals. You liaise with other jurisdictions to create a unique combination that is more fulfilling.
4) You learn to rise to the challenge in the competitive environment
The work environment is highly competitive, and you have to keep up, which helps you become a better person and a better officer. Police departments value competition as it pushes officers to give their best in whatever they do. Competition is part of performance standards, and officer exercises it through skill-based engagements and talent application. Law enforcement officers are naturally highly motivated and ambitious due to their willingness and desire to help the community, their families, and themselves. The officers give their all to ensure success.
5) Maintains a healthy lifestyle
As a police officer, you have to be healthy to be more effective in your work. The health aspect includes mental health besides physical requirements. It is common to see officers pursuing hobbies like fishing, hiking, hunting, and boating, among others, to help them maintain their healthy lifestyle. Officers take part in community events or teams like playing softball and serving on charity boards. The life structure helps the officers remain strong both physically and mentally.
6) Attractive perks
Some businesses offer police officers free coffee, and in other jurisdictions, there is free gym membership to help the officer stay fit. Communities give police officers home buying help as their presence in the neighborhood makes them feel safe. Law enforcement officers also get tuition assistance, shift differentials, scholarship programs, educational assistance, and paid community service time.
7) An opportunity to retire early
As a police officer, you can decide to retire early after servicing 20-years. The officers get their full pension and other benefits. If you started your law enforcement career at 21 years old, you can retire when you are in your 40s and choose to pursue something else without having to worry about the paycheck. In some states like California, you can retire after serving or 5-years and collect a partial pension when you are 50 years old. Retirees can become expats offering their insights to various agencies worldwide.
8) Growth potential
The Bureau Labor Statistics estimates that at least 46,000 police officers will meet community needs. The figure represents an increase of 7% in available positions. You can enroll in police training institutes or academies to help you prepare for the law enforcement profession option. A degree is not a requirement to be a police officer, and you get over $62,000 annual pay.
9) Recognition and promotion
A police officer can climb up the ladder from a patrol officer to lieutenant, captain, commander, detective, sergeant, or police chief depending on the titles in the department. Professionalism is highly regarded in this profession, and exceptional performance is acknowledged at local, national, or international levels and awards given.
10) Different types of specialization
As a police officer, you can choose an appealing option such as criminal justice, which includes SWAT, K-9 handlers, Park rangers, undercover detectives, or field training officers. There are different paths to follow that will suit your aspirations or talents to ensure that you serve the community in your preferred capacity. You can be an expat offering your experiences in law enforcement seminars or conferences.
10 Cons Of Being a Police Officer
1) Human misery
Law enforcement officers face the worst of human misery and divisive tendencies in communities every day at a personal level. Officers respond to situations where people are going through their worst moments. It is the work of police officers to provide security and safety to communities in their jurisdiction. Police officers come into contact with conflicts on a daily basis and have to maintain law and order. Sometimes police officers are cynical during first reactions.
2) Encounter extreme stressors
Law enforcement officers work long shifts and hardly get time to rest before duty calls. The work often leads to social isolation as the community sees them as cops even when they are not on duty. The threat of danger is constant, whether handling paperwork at the office or on patrol. The officers deal with constant exposure to the worst of humanity, which leaves officers coping with stress.
3) Risk of death or injury
Police officers face risks of getting killed on duty on a daily basis. Losing lives while protecting the community from crime and violence is regrettable, but it happens every year. There is always the threat of injury regardless of which state you work in, and you have to deal with it every day.
4) Frustrations with the job
According to the Pew Research Center, about 50% of law enforcement officers in the US find their job frustrating. The discontent is double the national average for people finding their jobs unfulfilling. Law enforcement officers constantly have to work longer and harder because of under-staffing or budget cuts in the community.
Few police officers have ended their careers without having to pull their service weapons. Some are not lucky as they get shot in the process of discharging their duty and suffer near-fatal injuries. Working as a law enforcement officer means getting into situations that may frighten you and seeing violent acts that may shock you. Police officers see deceased victims, horrendous things, and fatal accidents that an average person doesn’t see. According to mental health experts, police officers have a higher chance of experiencing anxiety, sleep disturbances, PTSD, and alcohol abuse at higher rates than other people in the community.
6) Dealing with stereotypes
Law enforcement officers are portrayed largely as unintelligible people, people who like to smash heads and eat lots of doughnuts. The stereotype affects how people see these officers in the community leading to misunderstandings. The officers simply want to make a positive impact in the community and are compassionate, smart, and caring individuals.
7) Face much scrutiny
Whatever a law enforcement officer does, whether off-duty or on-duty, is the subject to internal investigations and community complaints. An average citizen can call the captain to complain about a police officer when there is a dispute than happens, which doesn’t happen in other professions. The act means that police officers are never off-the-hook.
8) Emotional debilitation
Loss of partners or peers to crime can be emotionally oppressive. Police officers get killed while discharging their duties, and the departments are left traumatized by the experience and colleagues suffering a mental breakdown. Officers can struggle to cope and struggle with anger, but most prefer not to further burden their families or spouses. Most officers just bottle it up and move on.
Law enforcement officers deal with external and internal politics all the time, which is frustrating. The politics come with pressures when it comes to high-profile arrests, attracting extensive media coverage, and other special interest groups. Sometimes there are conflicts leading to low morale and even bad feelings concerning the job.
10) Difficulty connecting with loved ones
Police officers work long hours, nights, holidays, and irregular shifts that result in many missed opportunities to grow a stable relationship with their families or love ones. The difficulty in making connections is attributed to being emotionally unavailable or being overly negative because of the things they have seen while in doing their work. Some officers are unable to give up on cynicism, emotional self-control of desire to react to situations. Many law enforcement officers suffer from physical and mental health problems arising from injury, high stress, and diseases.
Police officers are the gate-keepers of criminal justice. The officers restore law and order and ensure that communities are well protected and live in a safe and secure environment. Before you choose a career as a police officer, go through the pros and cons of being a police officer and decide if law enforcement is still what you want.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.