Written By Adam Klimczak
Author Bio: I am a Police Officer who likes to write about law enforcement topics in a way that most other police officers do not. - Website: www.ep1cvision.com
When talking with millennials I hear from a lot of them that being a police officer is not a profession that they have ever even considered. Their reasons vary, but generally they have to do with misconceptions about what life is really like for a person who works in law enforcement. With so many millennials under or unemployed I think that taking a closer look at what our profession has to offer may change their mind. When I look at what millennials say they want, a career in law enforcement checks many of the boxes.
Studies say that quality of life and work/life balance are the issues at the top of the list for millennials, when they are looking for employment, and you can certainly have both of these as a police officer. The opportunities are many for career development and growing yourself as both a person and as a police officer. We have so many different training and specialty classes that you couldn’t possibly grow board in this profession. After over twenty years as a police officer, I still enjoy going to professional development courses that teach me something new. Because society develops new technology and methods at such a rapid pace, we enjoy almost constant growth as our career progresses.
As far as work/life balance goes, millennials would be hard pressed to find any privately owned business that allows you the paid time off that many law enforcement officers receive. At the department I work for officers can earn up to 35 vacation days, 5 personal days, and up to 13 holidays off each year. This doesn’t even include the ample sick time we receive and the fact that we get our birthday off each and every year. The patrol division works an 8 hour day with a schedule of 4 days and 2 days off, so the time off really stretches. We do have plenty of overtime available for those who like to work it, but unless a serious situation comes up officers are not required to work past their 8 hour shift.
It has been written over and over again that millennials care about reputation, culture, and location in regards to their place of work. Guess what? Almost every location needs police officers, so we can check that box as well. As far as reputation goes, law enforcement officers have been portrayed pretty poorly in the media for the last several years. However, I can tell you that these stories you read are the exception and not the rule. If you work for a law enforcement department that encourages community involvement and engagement, and if you work to foster relationships with the people in your area your reputation will be beyond reproach. Every police department has their own culture, but some similarities are found profession wide. You will find that most have a strong feeling of family and community. When your team is out working to help make your community a safer place for everyone to live, you form a special bond that you will not find in most other professions.
The opportunities for professional development and promotion are many when you look at a career in law enforcement. While everyone starts out on patrol, those who excel are oftentimes quickly given the chance to move up the ranks and/or explore other divisions of the department. While large agencies will offer you the opportunity to branch out into many more specialties, even small and medium sized departments have many to choose from. Some of the opportunities offered at various departments are detective, narcotics officer, crime scene technician, field training officer, school resource officer, gang officer, K-9 officer, SWAT, marine patrol, motorcycle patrol, and many more. To ensure that everyone is given the opportunity for promotions most law enforcement agencies have a system in place that doesn’t allow an officer to get promoted on seniority alone. Great work and performance matter, and can help you quickly move up the ladder.
Research indicates that millennials care less about money than they do about other factors, but even if that is the case they still want to be fairly compensated for the job they perform. In my opinion some law enforcement officers are grossly unpaid for the job they do and I see this more commonly in the southern states. However, a lot of law enforcement officers enjoy a very nice pay and benefit package. While they may never get rich from what they are making as a police officer, many of them can live quite nicely on the income this job provides. In my time as a police officer I have always had everything I needed and most of what I want. I have also always had a job even when a lot of people I know haven’t. My checks are always deposited on time and I never have to worry about being laid off because business was slow.
Millennials want to be challenged, want to make a difference in their world, and don’t want to be bored in their chosen profession. I can honestly say that all three of these are a daily occurrence for those of us in law enforcement. Each and every day new challenges await us and no two days are ever the same. We are out in our community helping make people's situations better for them and better for the community. You couldn’t possibly get bored, because we have so many opportunities each and every day to make a difference in our world. Some of the differences we make for people are life changing for them and they are forever grateful. If nothing else I can promise you that nobody, who is trying to really make a difference as a police officer, will ever get bored at work.
I feel that we are going to see some major changes in policing in the United States over the next several years. As a millennial you are in the prime position to effect positive change and can be part of something that is going to be cutting edge for our society. As communities shape what they want their law enforcement agencies to look like, you have the opportunity to be a catalyst for this change. These types of challenges need to be addressed by members of every generation, and millennials need to be properly represented. The opportunity to reshape your community is not often available in many professions, but with a career in law enforcement anything is possible.
You will hear a lot of people, who focus on the negative aspects of being a law enforcement officer, tell you why you shouldn’t get into the profession. Many of these naysayers don’t even work in law enforcement but are not shy in telling you why you shouldn’t be a police officer. I am here to tell you that it is 100% how you decide to look at things. If you focus on just the negative side of things it is easy to talk yourself out of a job in law enforcement. If you look at the positive side of things they far outweigh what some people perceive to be negatives. Do we have to deal with criminals? Yes, but getting them off the street so that others are safe if the positive side of that. Do we have to go to accidents/crime scenes? Yes, but helping someone through what may be the most difficult times of their lives is the positive. Do we occasionally have to work long hours? Yes, but helping find and return that missing child to their family makes a couple of extra hours worth it.
If millennials, or anyone for that matter, take a serious look at starting a career in law enforcement they will see that the benefits far outweigh the negatives. This vocation can check all of those boxes for what millennials want in a job, if you consider the positive side of things and don’t automatically look for the negatives. If you continue to stay positive throughout your years in law enforcement you will have a very rewarding career. If you want to focus on being a negative person you probably are not going to be happy anywhere you work. Just like anything else in life a career in law enforcement is all what you make if it. Millennials know what they want; I just don’t think many of them stopped to consider that getting into law enforcement offered them exactly that.