Becoming a Police Officer
An Insider's Guide
to a Career in Law Enforcement
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 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.
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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A no holds barred discussion of
issues which will most affect
a new police officer's career