Becoming a Police Officer
An Insider's Guide
to a Career in Law Enforcement
A no holds barred discussion of
issues which will most affect
a new police officer's career
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.
There are Five Indispensable Truths
for a Successful Police Career:
Self-evaluation for a police career
Recognizing and ignoring bad advice
Rapid advancement toward
The immeasurable importance of integrity
Matters of life and death
A Most Honorable
Important Profession
The New Police Officer
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

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.
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

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.
The Best Education on Earth
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 also indispensable for a
successful police career.
Copyright © 2015  Barry M. Baker
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 of experience.

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