So You Want To Be A Cop!

Chip Greene By Chip Greene, 30th Sep 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Essays

A guide to becoming a police officer and what to expect on and from the job.

Becoming a cop

You or someone you know is thinking of going into the field of law enforcement. Having some experience myself as a police officer I thought you might like to know what to expect if you pursue this endeavor. I also offer some advice.
This is a profession for the young. I'd recommend you take some college courses in the subject or avail yourself of any programs offered through your local law enforcement agencies. You can do this either pre or post graduation from high school. The minimum age for someone who wants to wear a badge is 21 in America. A lot of agencies offer cadet programs for those younger than this. Educate yourself on the subject. Talk to some cops; tell them of your interest. A great alternative is to join the armed services and become a military policeman.

Educate yourself

If you're still interested after that join a Police Department. Small town or big city, it doesn't matter so much at first. Just get some experience under your belt. Always continue your education while performing the duties of a police officer. There is a lot of financial aid available for college studies in law enforcement and in the field of law in general. Shoot, (pun intended), for a college degree. Try to move up the ladder in whatever Police Department you join. Small town agencies are a good start but, if you want more opportunities go for the big city police departments. You can always transfer to one of these later.


You may be satisfied by what these police departments offer you. It could be patrol officer, sergeant, lieutenant or even higher rank. Consider other agencies also. The FBI, DEA and the ATF are alternatives to the small town/big city Police Department. Most of the agents for those organizations started off as police officers. It depends upon how ambitious you are! No matter where you go remember that you'll never get rich. You can earn a comfortable living and be well taken care of in retirement. Some police offices through their education become attorneys. Lots of money to be made there.

Dirty, thankless job

Now for what to expect.
Get yourself in the best physical shape possible. Stay that way throughout your career!
I have to warn you right at the start that being a police officer is a dirty, thankless job! Pay no attention to cop shows on TV or movies about cops. They're almost all fictional fantasy. They don't portray what life as a cop is really like. I only saw one TV show that got it right, Barney Miller, starring Hal Linden. That is exactly what it's like inside a police station. Barney Miller was a comedy show with just a smattering of the serious stuff. What does that tell you about police work?
You'll make plenty of new friends. But, they will all be fellow officers. Good luck holding onto your old friends.

What were you thinking?

I hope you can handle stress well. It will be a constant companion.
Don't think you're going to save society. If that were possible we wouldn't need police officer's would we? Just be satisfied with helping a fellow human being once in a while. Society generally looks upon police officers as a necessary evil. Few will actually like you when you have to do your duty. Many people will despise you. Don't think you'll be remembered either. Need proof? Just tell me the name of the last police officer killed in the line of duty near where you live! I'll bet you can't.
You will be tempted with bribes. It comes with the territory. You'll also be tempted by the stationhouse groupies. These little honeys will follow you around while you're on patrol. They are everywhere.
Don't get married or go into this profession already married. Often, the job is tougher on the spouse. Marry after you get off the street. Expected it to be tough on your kids too.

A cop's authority

If it's true that we learn from our mistakes, then you'll be one smart individual. Because, you'll make a lot of them. Keeping your cool will cut down on the mistakes. Show some compassion. Remember, you're an authority figure. Do you know where a police officer's authority comes from? It's not from any law book or some courthouse. When someone sees a police officer what's the first thing they notice? Watch their eyes. They're looking at your side arm! There's your authority!
I hope you have a strong stomach. This is not a job for the squeamish.
Now that I've thoroughly discouraged you I just want to wish you luck at the police academy.

True stories

To see the true stories of my experiences as a police officer click the link here, Wikinut Home Page
Type into the Try a Wikinut Search bar: The Adventures of Officer Will I. Ketchum

The names have been changed to protect the innocent... and the guilty.

Photo credits

Law enforcement

Getting educated


Barney Miller




Authority, Education, Law Enforcement, Police, Stress, The Job, Training

Meet the author

author avatar Chip Greene
I am a retired police officer, baseball enthusiast, political junkie, and published writer.
My articles will focus on crime, politics, and baseball.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
30th Sep 2014 (#)

My son had given law enforcement some thought when he was younger.

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author avatar GV Rama Rao
2nd Oct 2014 (#)

Fine informative article. A you said it is a thankless job. I hope they are paid well.

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