|There are Five Indispensable Truths for
a Successful Police Career:
It's not just a job. As a police officer, you'll be
entrusted with enormous power . . . no other
government official has the breadth of
authority as does a police officer.
|Self-evaluation for a police career
Recognizing and ignoring bad advice
Rapid advancement toward self-sufficiency
The immeasurable importance of integrity
Matters of life and death
|Copyright © 2006 - 2015 - Barry M. Baker - CareerPoliceOfficer.com
|CareerPoliceOfficer.com is not responsible for the contents of any linked site or any link contained in a linked site, or
any changes or updates to such sites. Links are provided only as a convenience, and the inclusion of any link does
not imply endorsement by this site.
|Becoming a Police Officer
An Insider's Guide to a Career in Law Enforcement
Barry M. Baker
As a police officer, you'll see and experience things most people only read about.
It's the best education on Earth . . .
A police officer's career can end before it gets started . . . When young men
and women begin their law enforcement careers as police officers, they
have no idea just how many pitfalls lay before them. Too many new police
officers listen to bad advice, and they develop bad working habits. Those
bad habits can result in career ending consequences, sooner than later, for
a new police officer.
|A no holds barred discussion of issues which will most affect
a new police officer's career.
Detective Lieutenant Barry M. Baker retired from the Baltimore
Police Department in 2004. During his thirty-two year career,
Baker served as a patrol officer, sergeant, and lieutenant, as well
as a special operations lieutenant and detective lieutenant. Baker
spent the first twenty years of his career as a patrol officer,
making him uniquely qualified to speak from a breadth and depth
|About the Author of Becoming a Police Officer - the book,
and this website - CareerPoliceOfficer.com
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|A Most Honorable
New police officers usually begin their careers possessing one of
two psychological mind sets. The first will be based on idealism,
and the belief that people really aren't that bad. This view
dictates that the authority of a police officer should be exercised
rarely and sparingly since the police officer's ability to reason
with people will almost always resolve any situation. The second
mind set will rest solely on the authority and power conveyed by
the badge the police officer wears. In this mind set, the police
officer will make a quick and final determination for the solution
of any situation based upon the police officer's initial
understanding, or impression, of circumstances.
While the first mind set is naive, it's probably the best way to
start. You'll quickly learn that a lot of people are just simply
bad, and you'll soon start moving toward the middle of the mind
set scale. The second mind set isn't nearly as susceptible to
change as the first. Power can be as intoxicating as any drug and
just as difficult to control. Hopefully, whichever mind set, or
degree of mind set, you possess in the beginning, you'll learn
how to most effectively, and efficiently, find the right balance to
exercise reason with power and power with reason.
|Self-evaluation for a police career
|Recognizing and ignoring bad advice
|Rapid advancement toward self-sufficiency
|The immeasurable importance of integrity
|Matters of life and death
There are very few professions wherein any single individual can have a dramatic impact on anything on a relatively
frequent basis. While police officers are not immediately recognized for their importance to society, one needs only to
imagine even our supposedly enlightened society without police officers. Think about this…without the social order
ensured by police officers, no one, in any profession, could accomplish anything.
Okay…that's the big picture. The small picture is you, as an individual police officer, and how often you have a
dramatic impact on the lives of others. Your impact can be positive even when it's negative for an individual. If you
arrest a person for drunk driving, it's a negative impact for that person, but your impact is positive for society at
large. While the whole criminal justice system is geared toward negatively impacting some for the welfare of many, it
all begins with you. If you don't take the first, and sometimes dangerous, action on a face to face basis, nothing will
come afterward. Without police officers, the criminal justice system would be a totally impotent bureaucracy.
You might think that with such an important position and mission, your more important accomplishments would, from
time to time, be recognized and perhaps rewarded. It's true that, like the military, police departments have awards in
the form of medals and citations for exceptional performance. In a very well organized police department,
management realizes the importance of recognizing, and rewarding, exceptional performance. In a weakly organized
or dysfunctional police department, recognition of your good work is the last thing on anyone's mind.
You might join a police department that really has everything together. The department will demand a high level of
competence from you, and it will quickly recognize and reward you when you exceed that already high level. Then —
of course — there is the other side of that coin. You could join a police department where management considers your
paycheck as ample reward.
Here's the point…it's all about self-satisfaction. I'm sure people in other professions experience self-satisfaction, but
a police career provides you with so many ways, and opportunities, to experience self-satisfaction on a constant basis.
You have the ability to ensure that nearly everything you do results in a positive outcome. Once you realize that what
other people think of you is totally unimportant, you're well on your way to experience self-satisfaction in everything
you do. Recognition by others, in any form, is only a very temporary thing. How you recognize yourself, as you
constantly strive to better yourself, is all that really matters.
When I became a police officer in 1971, body armor was not part of a patrol officer's issued
equipment. Things started changing in the mid 1980s and today you will be the beneficiary of
fantastic advancements in body armor protection.
In this section, you'll find 17 articles written by Sergeant George Godoy, (Retired). Sergeant
Godoy is a 22 year police veteran. During his police career, Sergeant Godoy served for 5 years
as a police recruitment specialist where he personally tested over 1,000 potential police recruits.
Some years ago, a high school sophomore sent me some questions for his high school project. I
published his questions, and my answers; I thought it would be cool for him to have his
assignment on a web site. I’ve reposted that page realizing that his questions were really good
and timeless. I’ve also elaborated more regarding his question about police high speed pursuits.
Some police officers engage in the practice of stopping vehicles while in plain clothes and
operating unmarked police vehicles. In my opinion, this is not a wise practice. Some police
departments restrict this activity for what should be obvious reasons.
This is a very popular page on search results. Most people simply aren't that familiar with rank
insignias of any type. I think I've succeeded in making it very easy for anyone who is not
familiar with police rank insignias to understand how police departments utilize military rank
As you read this article, keep in mind that I and the suspect were evenly matched in age,
physical strength and stature. A lot of people believe that a police officer's use of deadly force is
never justified unless a suspect is armed with a deadly weapon. Many otherwise intelligent
people are so naive that they believe a suspect armed with a knife is no big deal. You'll learn
that the only justification for the use of deadly force is in the defense of your life or the life of
another, and that decision will always depend upon circumstances which may or may not include
No organization can function properly without a clear and strong chain of command. Like the military, a police department's mission can only be
accomplished efficiently when that chain is intact and functioning.
Without question, your service pistol will become part of you for your entire police career. This page will give you a good overview of training and
the wearing and carrying of your firearm.
Some police officers will go their entire careers confusing Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) crime classifications with their state criminal statutes.
Always remember that UCR is a classification system for uniformly reporting crime from across the nation, and it has nothing to do with how, or
for what, a person is charged under your state criminal code.
The Internet is loaded with stories about police departments downgrading crime. The important thing for you to realize is that most improper
downgrading of crime occurs when the crime is reported to you - the patrol officer.
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People often look back over their lives and think about what they would have done differently. I'm one of the lucky ones. I chose a police career,
and I've never regretted that decision. In fact, I'd do it all over again.
Your entire existence is about life and living, and there aren't that many careers you could consider that will touch the lives of others as much as
your decision to become a police officer.
I often refer to a police career as the best education on earth, because it simply is just that. You'll interact at every level of society, and you'll
exert your authority from minor to enormous effect.
I believe in one's destiny. I think it's a good belief for a police officer since a police career is inherently dangerous. However, only a fool tempts
Police work is a lot harder and more complicated than many people believe. Knowledge and courage will be your most important allies...did I
mention knowledge? While courage is an indispensable character trait for police work, your continuous pursuit of knowledge is also indispensable
for a successful police career.