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JOHN DOUGLAS'S GUIDE TO LANDING A CAREER IN LAW ENFORCEMENT
By JOHN DOUGLAS
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2005The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Before you make the decision to go into law enforcement, it is not only useful but necessary to carefully evaluate yourself. On a larger scale, I think we should all undergo a personal assessment so we can make the right decisions for ourselves. Better, we should "update" our assessment as we age and the circumstances in our lives change.
You have probably never done a personal assessment. Don't feel bad. Most people haven't. We go through life making decisions that get us through the hour, the day, the week, and so on. We don't have much time to stop and size things up, especially once we're out of college, on our own, paying taxes, cutting the grass, getting the car fixed, raising kids, saving for their college—when the cycle starts all over.
But as you consider embarking on a new career, you have the perfect opportunity to size yourself up, and a real imperative as well. While I do not believe in fate or destiny, I do know that no one wants to make a dead-wrong decision for him- or herself. Taking a frank, thorough look at yourself will give you a big head start toward the right decision. In the coming pages, I'll supply you with some information about various agencies, from their missions to their recruiting requirements. When you investigate the specific agencies you find yourself interested in, they will provide you with a lot more information about who they are and what they want from you. The personal assessment is your half of the equation: It tells you who you are and what you want from them.
The truth is not just a good starting point—it's the only starting point. Your personal assessment will be worthless otherwise. The truth should be the starting point for a law enforcement career, and your guide throughout such a career. Telling the truth in your personal assessment will give you the right answers, not just the answers you want or those you think will enable you to please or impress others.
I know it's hard to be honest. There are two main reasons for that, which correlate with the two categories that answers to the questions we should ask ourselves fall into: the complimentary and the critical.
When it comes to acknowledging the good things about ourselves, from our strengths to our talents, most of us are limited by the rules of modesty and good manners. We are taught not to brag, not to boast, not to compete with or compare ourselves to others whom we know aren't as good as we are. For example, take that girl in high school who was able to pull people together to cheer for the football team or turn in a great group science project. Everyone who knew her in high school would say she was a natural leader, but she would probably have a hard time admitting that to herself or saying it aloud to others because those would be immodest things to do. As a natural leader, she might be a great candidate for law enforcement. But she would have to recognize that quality in herself to see it as something that would recommend her for the job. If she were unable to see any of the qualities she had that would make her a good candidate, she might never apply, even though it might be a dream of hers.
It's interesting to note that people who brag the loudest tend to be wrong about themselves. It's one of those strange facts of life. If someone talks a lot about what a great shot he is, he probably can't hit the side of a barn with a shotgun.
Conversely, when it comes to acknowledging the negative things about ourselves, from our weaknesses to our vulnerabilities, most of us do not want to admit the truth about ourselves. It isn't necessarily that we think our muscles are enormous; we just don't want to admit that they're puny. By that I mean we aren't typically lying to ourselves—we are just not admitting the truth. I'll give you an example. I have a friend who really struggles behind the wheel. Whenever he has to merge into traffic, he curses and brakes and slows to a near stop before there is finally what he believes to be enough room for him to get into the lane. Meanwhile, cars are lined up behind him waiting for their chance. Forget parallel parking. But he would never admit he's a bad driver. The problem is always the other drivers: They're overly aggressive, or they've parked too close together to allow room for his car. In this case, my friend might not be the best candidate for law enforcement, particularly local or state law enforcement, since patrol duty requires that you drive a patrol car and drive it well. But if he couldn't admit that he was a bad driver, he might not recognize that jobs that involve patrol duty might not be right for him.
So these are the two reasons we have a hard time being honest with ourselves. But they do not rule out the possibility. They just mean we have to make a point of telling ourselves the truth. You have to put forth the effort to make it a habit, because, as you move toward a potential career in law enforcement, you will be called upon to ask and answer difficult questions. If you get far enough in the hiring process for any given department or agency, you'll find yourself answering written or oral "personal integrity" and situational questions. These questions will cover your past, including any history you might have with drugs, alcohol, legal problems, fights, domestic disputes, and so on. They also include ethical questions, which prompt you to make a choice as to what is the right thing to do in a given situation. These questions are hypotheticals based on real-life situations faced by officers having to decide when to pursue a suspect, when to brandish a firearm, when to report a fellow officer, and so on. These questions speak to good judgment, but also to honesty. Telling the truth is a constant through any law enforcement career.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The first thing you need to ask yourself is this: What are my strengths and weaknesses?
What are you good at? What are your talents? There are undoubtedly certain activities or types of activities that come naturally to you. Think hard. We would all consider our physical strength if law enforcement were an area we were interested in. But some aptitudes might not seem as relevant. Don't be so quick to judge. Do you almost always have a sense of what someone is about to say before he or she says it? Are you very organized? Do you have a photographic memory? Are you insanely good at recognizing the celebrity voice-overs in television commercials? Can you do math in your head? Can you identify makes and models of cars on sight and remember details like color, finish, and accessories? Are you a whiz at the computer? All these abilities would be useful in law enforcement. Take a step back when looking at your strengths and include even those that seem inconsequential. You might be surprised.
On the other side of the coin, what are you not good at? What do you find yourself struggling with? Maybe you're terrible at math, even with a calculator. Are you a bad driver, like my friend in the previous example? Are you a poor judge of character? Do you have poor communication skills? Do you have a hard time following rules; do you resent authority figures? Again, be honest. None of these things makes you a bad person. They just may not make you the best candidate for law enforcement. Perhaps if you are a poor judge of character, you should try to find work in an area where you aren't called upon to make such judgments. Perhaps if you resent authority figures and have a hard time following rules, you would be better suited to working for yourself.
That said, to the extent that you can improve yourself and make yourself stronger in areas where y
Excerpted from JOHN DOUGLAS'S GUIDE TO LANDING A CAREER IN LAW ENFORCEMENT by JOHN DOUGLAS. Copyright © 2005 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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