Posted: 8/9/2006 9:30:46 AM EST
I got some questions. How dangerous is most of your work? Is th pay "enough" for you to be happy? I also asked here so as not to start a flame war. Is state/county/city/federal the best to be? Is there anything I should be aware of Before looking into it further? I'd like th get onto Billings PD or Yellowstone County police. Can you tell me anything else about the job?
Each agency and part of the country is a little different. So I won't claim to know what it's like in MT.
Money sux. Compared to what corp America pays.
I haven't met a deputy, officer, or agent who does the job for money.
(if you think the job is like COPS tv show) It's only like that for a very small amount of time compared to hrs on the street.
Most of the work is writing short stories about how so and so got drunk and did (insert crime) or got high and (insert crime) or got mad at husband or wife and (insert crime)
Every once in a while you get to do something that really makes a difference. You get to help people out. (for every dozen BS things you get one good thing that erases all the rest)
If you like people and can write, listen and speak. (communication) You might actually enjoy this line of work.
Danger: Yes it is extremely dangerous. People can run over you while you are helping a motoist change a tire, or writing a ticket. You can crash your car while chasing a robber. (remember you are running towards danger, not away from it)
You can be beat on. stabbed, shot or a combination of all of the above. You use your training to help minimize and control the dangerous situations.
But you can be killed walking your doggie.
The job is fun with a capital "F".
It's nice to catch a bad guy who is victimizing your community. No one will say thanks, but at least someone else won't be the bad guys victim.
I would suggest a ridealong with your local agency. Best of luck. Hope that helps a little.
After my first ride along I knew what my calling was.
Money isn't great. Bigger counties you should get paid enough to be comfortable. That's not big house, jetski, boat, porsche, arsenal of multi thousand dollar guns. That's able to pay the bills, support a family and live somewhere decent if you handle yourself well and keep vices in check.
Overtime happens. Don't expect to always be home at a certain time. Does augment the pay nicely though.
I'm a big fan of county in Montana. Lots of different stuff, plus cities sit on the counties so you get to do city stuff sometimes too. Just a good mix between highway patrol and city.
Highway patrol gets good stuff and they are being paid well now. Not guarantee you'll be stationed in Billings though.
You'd serve yourself well to go on a ride along and see what things are like for yourself. Might want to see if you can ride with both departments and see which one you like better.
ETA: For those of you asking about degrees. Mine is in chemistry. I was told long ago that what degree doesn't matter. Kind of nice knowing how that CSI stuff works and what the crime lab can and can't do. Also a useful degree if I need to get out of law enforcement for whatever reason.
As was said, it really depends on what agency you're looking at. I'm in a 1000 member department, and I can't complain about the pay or working conditions. I would hazard a guess that 99% of police officers have gripes about internal politics and their departments relationship with whoever holds the purse-strings, but that's just the way it is. I certainly can't complain about pay, since as a top-step patrol salary here is nearly $66k/yr, and my health benefits (that I don't pay for) are well over $1k/month. I have quite a few friends that make near/over $100k because they work a lot of overtime, but even I can clear nearly $70k with minimal overtime (my free time is much too valuable!).
The same advice holds true for anyone thinking about an LE career: research where you want to live, who you want to work for, then do some ride alongs.
As far as the danger factor goes, I don't think it's that dangerous of a job in the grander scheme of things. It's much more hazardous to be a crab fisherman. Also, most 'in the line of duty deaths' are from car crashes. The many videos I've seen of police officers being shot/assaulted stem from poor safety skills and poor tactics.
There is a political dimension to the job that can be frustrating at times and you can see decisions being made, either by your chief or the city, state, etc., that seem to fly in the face of common sense.
For example, there's a department nearby that has some of its officers carrying one caliber of sidearm and some carrying another caliber. Hope they don't get pinned down in a firefight! "Hey throw me a mag!" "Oh, sorry you're screwed!"
When you do your ride along ask the officer how department morale is and how long he/she's been there. Some departments suffer from constant turnover and if you can't find a few people who've been there more than 5 years, then don't waste your time. Sometimes the guys with rank would rather be someplace else but are stuck there.
The right chief can make all the difference. I've seen some departments go from productive, thriving, enjoyable places to work and then a new chief comes in from Timbuktu and the beat cops can't leave fast enough.
The job IS satisfying in general but you have to be able to roll with the punches.
How does one make a chance at an LEO job?
Would it help if I got a degree in say, criminal justice? Will that have any advantages?
I'm not a believer in CJ degrees. I have some buddies who did that, and they regret it. Get a degree that you can use if you need to: business, economics and even "liberal arts," since that covers a lot of ground. Remember, when an agency requires a college degree, it doesn't matter what it's in, as long as it's from an accredited college/university.
What does it take? Check out your local department, look at their requirements and apply. I was 6+ years into a completely unrelated career when I did that. The process took me several months, but it was nothing painful. Be prepared to provide a lot of references that aren't family members, or related to each other. Be prepared to list a lot of background information, such as every job you've had for the past 10 years or since you were 18, all the places you've lived, etc.... That was the toughest part for me, since I was in my late 20s.
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