This paper is an exploration into a career in law enforcement. It briefly summarizes the history of policemen in the United States. It will also convey different types of careers in law enforcement and provide salary information. There is information concerning requirements to become local, state and federal officers. Everyone has dreams and aspirations. For me, as a child, I always thought that I would have a law enforcement. Growing up, my great uncle was always some sort of law enforcement officer and was my idol.
In later years, there was a fascination with federal law enforcement. Most recently, my fascination has been in police forensics, no doubt inspired by the litany of television shows. There is a vast array of specialties in law enforcement and the criminal sciences. To start in this career field, it is important to understand its origins. Policing is an old and noble profession, predating the Norman conquest around 1066. As the colonies were settled, it was yet another British idea that was adopted by the colonists. Initially, policing was the job of a Justice Of the Peace.
With the organization of the colonies and growing cities and towns, there was an apparant need for an organized and paid police force. Boston founded a Night Watch in 1636. In 1651, New York City established the Shout and Rattle Watch. As the larger cities continued to grow, Philadelphia divided the city into ten patrol areas in 1705. Philadelphia also led the way by establishing a 24-hour police force in 1833. New York ran two separate police forces, a day and a night watch, in 1844. Police Chiefs typically had ties to politicians and corruption was commonplace.
Police departments today are highly specialized with Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Teams, internal crime labs, multiple departments such as vice and homicide, and even numerous sub stations or precincts. Many police departments rely heavily on community outreach as well. There are law enforcement explorer organizations and neighborhood crime watches in most major metropolitan areas. Some localities even have citizen police academies. This offers many opportunities to be something other than a “beat cop” and peaks public interest in law enforcement careers.
Many opportunities in the nation’s leading departments and most in federal law enforcement agencies require college degrees. Universities and colleges offer degrees in criminal and forensic science, computer crimes, and criminal justice, to name a few. This shows how law enforcement has evolved from simply deterring crime and chasing criminals. Competition in these jobs is hard and a degree could be just what puts you in the running for an open position. A law enforcement career is not for becoming rich. The national average salary is fifty thousand dollars.
That is actually a big part of the attraction. To know that you are putting yourself in harm’s way daily, protecting and serving your community for such little monetary benefit is very honorable. Wanting to be a cop starts with knowing what kind of cop you want to be. You could be a city policeman, a sheriff, a highway patrolman or a federal agent. Non-federal jobs, though hard, are easier to obtain. Typically to become a municipal officer, sheriff or highway patrol officer, you must be 21 years of age, possess a high school diploma, be physically fit, be a U.S. citizen and have clean driving and credit records (Smith, 2011).
After passing an examination, you would be enrolled in a law enforcement academy. Federal agencies normally require at least a bachelor’s degree. To join the FBI, you must have a four year-degree (FBI Careers, 2011) in addition to the requirements above. Also, you need three years of professional work experience and to have never defaulted on a student loan. A CSI (Crime Scene Investigator) is the profession that most of us are in love with at the moment.
Do you suppose kids play CSI and robbers instead of cops and robbers? Television shows like the CSI franchise have introduced us to this line of work which is often behind the scenes. It involves gathering, testing and analyzing evidence to help solve a crime and or build a case against a suspect. Some people in this line of work are not even sworn officers. Most are sworn officers but not all (International Crime Scene Investigators Association, 2006) The difference is arrest powers and most often salary. Salary ranges from twenty to fifty thousand dollars.
In a small rural police department you may or may not need a degree. Though steeped in history, being a public servant and protector of the people is quite noble, but not necessarily financially rewarding at the entry level, though a seasoned officer can make a decent living. One must know and understand the different types of law enforcement officer to make an informed choice so that they feel rewarded and satisfied with their decision. You also need to live a somewhat moral and virtuous life without any “skeletons” in your closet.
This is not an easy field to enter, much less the arduous task, both mentally and physically doing the job. You definitely have to weigh the pros and cons and know this is what you want to do. References International Crime Scene Investigators Association. (2006). Retrieved from ICSIA. ORG: http://www. icsia. org/faq. html FBI Careers. (2011). Retrieved from Federal Bureau of Investigation: http://www. fbijobs. gov/11. asp Smith, S. (2011, December 4). WiseGEEK. Retrieved from WiseGEEK: http://www. wisegeek. com/how-do-i-become-a-police-officer. htm.