Law enforcement is a challenging career choice that will make a positive difference to society. Law enforcement is a public service supplied to the community by the city, state and federal governments (Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia, 1986). Law enforcement officers are the front line of protection for the public within all of our communities. They protect us twenty four hours a day, everyday in every facet of our lives. Law enforcement is there to keep us safe in our travels as well as where we work and live. This is a very serious profession and at times dangerous but is a field that is absolutely imperative in order to keep society safe. This career is not for everyone. A successful law enforcement officer must have the desire to serve the public. Not many individuals would choose a career that has as one of its requirements having to run towards danger. This goes against all human instinct. Attempting to make the world a better place is very rewarding and noble mission. Those who elect such a career for the right reason of wanting to serve their community are very special individuals. They put their own safety on the line for all of us. There seems little doubt that law enforcement is a dignified career that should have the respect of everyone. For those who have future aspirations in this field, it takes education, hard work, courage and determination to be able to obtain this very rewarding career choice. A police officer can make a real difference in peoples lives. How many careers can make that statement?
All societies need law enforcement. Law enforcement has existed in the United States since the beginning of European immigration. J. Edgar Hoover famous founder of the Federal Bureau of Investigation once said justice is incidental to law and order. This comment gets to the root of why we have laws and the need to enforce them. Justice will be served when individuals rights and freedoms are protected. Law enforcement means ensuring obedience to laws (Websters New Edition Dictionary, 1997). American colonists brought with them the structure of the office of constable from the European system when they immigrated in the 1700 and 1800s. The first local modern police department established in the United States was the Boston Police Department in 1838, followed by the New York City Police Department in 1845 (Stinchcomb, 2003). As people immigrated to the United States and people moved westward towns and cities were built. The need for protection of the individual was necessary. In time law enforcement was installed in these new territories for without it there would be no civilized society. Law enforcement is a key component of criminal justice system and is necessary for a safe society. A career in law enforcement is something that many people pursue, however not all are suited for the career. My aspiration is to make my community safe from crime and society a better place to live. This has always been my dream. My paternal grandfather was a New York City police officer for nearly 30 years. My respect for him and others who carry on this difficult but truly meaningful work has inspired me.
There are basic requirements that must be met in order to pursue a professional law enforcement career. The first step an individual takes towards becoming a New York City police officer is to take a written civil service examination. The Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) administers these exams. DCAS is responsible for the actual administration of the exam as well as the compilation of the list of names of individuals who pass the exam. DCAS then provides the New York City Police Department with the list of candidates. The Applicant Processing Division then begins the selection process. The New York City Police Department requires completion of 60 credits of college work with a 2.0 grade point average. Two years of military service can be substituted for the educational requirement. Also required is a medical examination as well as a character background check (New York City Police department, 2011). Once these criteria have been met an individual can be considered for appointment. As far as the rest of the country and other jurisdictions, the educational requirement for a police officer varies state to state. Some require a college degree while others just high school (US Department of Labor, 2010-11 ed.). Successful officers require above average intelligence and good physical conditioning. They should have good interpersonal skills and strong willingness to learn. The police department will thoroughly investigate the background of all candidates prior to appointment to the police academy. Critical to the job is sound character. An applicant is disqualified for a prior conviction of a crime. Previous work experience will allow investigators the chance to obtain a positive reference which will enhance the chances of appointment to the police force.
What can one expect upon appointment to the New York City Police Department? The first five years on the department, an individual is designated as patrolman. Working conditions vary dependent on assignment. Upon graduation from the police academy the rookie officer is assigned to a training officer (Warners, 2011). The new officer was trained in text book cases while at the academy. The training officer is there to indoctrinate the new officer to the day to day work. This will help bolster the new officers experience by leveraging the knowledge of a veteran officer while also building the rookies confidence. Some assignments may be more difficult than others as crime varies in different parts of a city. The work week is 40 hours. The hours of the day worked will vary as there obviously must be 24 hour coverage. Shifts can be 8am to 4pm, 4pm to 12am and 12am to 8am. There may be some variation dependent on a specific assignment. NY City Police officers receive 28 paid days off a year and unlimited sickness time. Medical coverage is part of their compensation. At this present time an officer can retire after 20 years of service with half pay which is exempt from both New York City and New York State taxes. If an officer is permanently injured on the job they will receive three quarters pay exempt from all taxes including federal taxes. Police and Sheriffs patrol officers had a medium annual wages of $51,410 in May 2008. Police and detective supervisors medium income was $75,490 in May 2008 (US Department of Labor, 2010-11 ed) New York City police department salaries begin at $41,000 and will increase up to $60,000 within the first five years (New York City Police Department, 2011). Emotional stress is a great problem. For the patrolman working the street no two days may be alike. Police officers experience physical stress with working shift work as well as facing physical danger. This stress not only impacts the officer, but also affects their family. Many married officers get divorced. Managing the stress of job and family pressure is important to the officers mental well being. Severe stress has been shown to adversely affect an officers health, From a management view this will lead to absenteeism which in turn leads to decreased productivity. (Tang and Hammontree, (1992). Critical to the individual candidate for a law enforcement position is the ability to mitigate stress via the police department counseling programs as well as through outside interests. Also the candidate must understand their own self with regard to anxiety and how they deal with it. There is a broad range of ethnic diversity on the New York City Police force. In addition there is broad diversity in the community. Officers are constantly being evaluated by their supervision. The entire department is constantly being monitored by the civilian review board as well all the media that covers police activity daily.
As with any career choice there are both advantages and disadvantages with a law enforcement career. The advantage of the New York City Police Department is the ability to take and pass written examinations all the way up to the captains designation. The onus is on the individual to be motivated to prepare and pass these written examinations. A disadvantage is being subjected to New York City fiscal constraints which will impact pay scales along with other benefits. This is mitigated by the collective bargaining by the police union which generally has the police officers best interests in mind. There is a solid employment future as the city will always require law enforcement. Ideal career path is police officer for 5 years, then take the sergeants exam. A sergeant must wait 3 years prior to testing for lieutenant and then 2 years prior captains test. There are many specialties within the police department. There is the K-9 unit, detective, narcotics, scuba, aviation, marine, mounted horse division and various others. One of particular interest is forensics or the application of scientific analysis in process of criminal investigation (Websters New Edition Dictionary, 1997). The captain is the highest tested position before political appointments to inspector. Constant training and study in all of the police department rules and regulations as well as in human behavior is the best path to advancement. As previously discussed physical and mental stress can wear down the individual. Overall opportunities in local police departments will be favorable for individuals who meet the psychological, personal, and physical qualifications. In addition to openings from employment growth, many openings will be created by the need to replace workers who retire and those who leave local agencies for Federal jobs and private-sector security jobs. Jobs in local police departments that offer relatively low salaries, or those in urban communities in which the crime rate is relatively high, may be the easiest to get. Some smaller departments may have fewer opportunities as budgets limit the ability to hire additional officers. Bilingual applicants with military experience or college training in police science will have the best opportunities in local and State department (US Department of Labor, 2010-2011 ed.).
Law enforcement is a challenging career choice that will make a positive difference to a society. A police officer is entrusted with enormous power. No other government official has the same breadth of authority (Baker, 2006). A police officer is true public servant who must exhibit compassion, courage, sound judgment and constant alertness. Few professions have such an opportunity to help people so directly (Baker, 2006). A career in law enforcement would be very challenging as well as personally rewarding. I believe that I am well suited for a career in law enforcement. I am interested in helping others. Such a career can make a real difference to society. My personal temperament is generally understanding and I enjoy being out in the community. In order to attain my goal I must become college educated. I must prepare to the best of my ability for the rigors both physically and mentally of a law enforcement career.