|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 - 2013 - 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
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|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
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 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.
|Never forget the
Indispensable Truths for a Successful Police Career
|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
|A Most Honorable and Important Profession
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
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.
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 fate.
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 indispensable for a successful police career.
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.