I Love/Hate Being a Cop (2022)

"Looking forward may be the best insurance we have against being blind-sided by the unexpected. This is especially true in love and in police work," says Ellen Kirschman in I Love a Cop. Many people have tried to figure out what makes a good law enforcement officer and what about law enforcement makes it a good occupation. Often a young person states from the beginning of his or her career, "I've always wanted to be a cop," or "It's a calling."

Anyone who has stood with applicants taking the written test, or at the academy on the first day of classes, can attest to the palpable excitement and energy. So why do people become officers and how do they maintain that fire when the realities of police work sink in? What happens when the dreams of youth evolve into the often jaded wisdom of experience? What can officers do to continue loving their jobs when time has taken a bit of shine out of their badge? How can families help support them? With a bit of awareness and reparation, it can be done.

Why I became a Cop

Helping People
"I grew up watching the Andy Griffith Show and the common sense displayed and how often Sheriff Taylor could help folks was my motivation," says a 24-year veteran of a suburban Maryland department. His determination started before that. As a very young child he is reported to have told his family, "I'm going to be a policeman and actually help people." One of the most reported reasons for joining the police force and one of the motivations attacked by the realities of the job is the desire to help. A 14-year veteran of a suburban Illinois department states his motivation, "It was the desire to help people and be 'the good guy' who protected society."

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Excitement
Another motivation for many who enter law enforcement is the desire for excitement. A 24-year east coast veteran says, "I wanted a job that wasn't routine. I wanted excitement." Of course, like helping people, this motivation can be quickly challenged. When asked how the reality of the streets changed his motivation, he replied, "The old police saying of police work is 7 hours and 50 minutes of sheer boredom followed by 10 minutes of pure terror. I never thought people would bother the police with such mundane complaints nor how much time was wasted answering calls over nonsense."

Value
Doing a job with great value is also a dominate motivation. Even though she believes an officer cannot maintain their original enthusiasm for police work, a 17-year veteran of a metropolitan Texas department states, "One has to do the job simply because one believes that it is 'the right thing to do.'" Law enforcement has a long history of being an honorable and valued profession.

Between the Pinning on and the Taking off of the Badge

Many things occur between the time a person receives the call they've made it through the process and are now able to become a police officer and the moment they shut the station door behind themselves for the last time. In her book, Kirschman describes four post-academy phases:

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1) The Honeymoon
The Honeymoon incorporates the early years following training when an officer encounters a large amount of learning. New opportunities present themselves and the authority and responsibilities of wearing a badge become apparent. Kirschman describes, "new officers feel invincible, as though they are fulfilling a kind of hero role - protector; rescuer; powerful, brave defender of justice." Most are consumed by police work. They talk about it non-stop and probably dream about it most nights.

2) Settling Down
No longer the rookie, an officer moves into this phase which is defined by competence and confidence in his or her street skills. Realism begins to temper many motivational fantasies. Many times, at this stage, officers begin to look for promotional opportunities. Unfortunately, this is also the time when the reality of internal politics begins to color his or her experience.

3) Dealing with Disillusionment
Kirschman describes officers in this phase as no longer "idealistic supercop(s) out to solve crime and make this a better world." Now he or she is intent on just doing their best to "maintain order and hold the line". Stress due to internal and external situations beyond their control becomes an increased part of the officer's professional life and this seeps into their personal life as well. Cynicism is rampant at this stage as well as feelings of helplessness and frustration.

My colleagues indicated several categories of disillusionment:

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3a) Sheer Volume of Work
"Quite often now, especially in urban areas, being able to help people takes a backseat to call response," says the veteran Maryland officer. "The crime rates in certain urban areas is so bad that officers go into their shift with a list of calls on hold, waiting for their attention. I could only answer calls as fast as I could and hope I'd get a chance to eat dinner."

3b) Human Nature
"People want law enforcement's help but on their terms and they often become angry or contemptuous when our realities confront their expectations," explains the Illinois veteran. He was grateful he came into law enforcement a little older (30 years old) and from a social service background. "That had already tempered any unrealistic romantic notions about human nature," he explains. "You have to realistically know that most civilians hate you (unless you save their lives)," adds the Texas veteran.

3c) Politics
Much of the disillusionment of law enforcement comes from within. "I'm not intuitively political and don't know if knowing this early on would have made a difference in my career, but I came to see how politics can poison the morale of a department," says the Illinois veteran. He added how he wished he had known that "internal politics infect everything" and how "self-serving some people are."

4) Coming to a Crossroad
The final phase, officers who weather the disillusionment stage often find themselves at a crossroads where they need to find a way to renew their interests at work and at home. Without this renewal, they will fall into indifference and apathy. Focusing on retirement becomes a theme as well. An essential part of this phase is consideration of his or her legacy.

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How to Maintain the Fire

Although maintaining the idealism of youth is often impossible, law enforcement officers and their families are not doomed to continually having their dreams and initial motivations crushed by life. Several steps can be taken to tether the optimism of youth with the forged reality of life on the streets.

Staying positive is important. "Recognize what is the arcane BS of the job and refuse to get caught up too much in it," advises the Illinois veteran. He also adds staying focused on what you can do is helpful. "It is a matter of looking for the good that can be done each day I show up to work, noticing what good I do, trying to actually HELP people and make them see me and my profession in a positive light, and not dwelling on the downsides that kill morale," he states.

Awareness is also key. "The only thing I wish knew before I began working in law enforcement was the extraordinarily long hours and moving around the country, losing the family support system each time we moved," explains a veteran FBI agent. "I most likely would have still chosen the career but I would have been better prepared for the challenge."

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A final way is to make sure you continue to find other ways to satisfy personal goals. Don't allow yourself or your spouse to define themselves solely on the job they perform. Continue to pursue personal interests, participate in hobbies and have friends away from the police department. Time adds realism to the idealistic motivations most young officers have and most cause conflict. Without an understanding of how doing the work affects an officer's worldview, these changes can make doing the job unbearable and the officer can become extremely jaded, unhappy and unpleasant at work and at home. Try to hold on to a positive view of your work and you can leave a legacy that makes you proud whatever the phase of your career.

FAQs

Does being a cop change your personality? ›

Police officers, in the performance of their duties, face a range of potentially stressful situations and events. These have the capacity to cause significant personal distress, leading to short-term changes in mood and psychological functioning.

What kind of personality becomes a cop? ›

Police officers tend to be predominantly enterprising individuals, which means that they are usually quite natural leaders who thrive at influencing and persuading others. They also tend to be realistic, which means that they often enjoy working outdoors or applying themselves to a hands-on project.

Is being a cop boring? ›

Police work is boring, involves a substantial amount of “down time,” and can have negative consequences for police officer performance, contributing to occupational stress and turnover. Research argued that workers reduced their boredom by engaging in “none-work” activities.

What personality makes a good cop? ›

Police officers must always be able to work under pressure, to maintain composure, and to have sound judgement and decision-making skills during times of need. They must be able to reason, to weigh the consequences, and to consider alternatives, before deciding on the most logical course of action.

Do cops get lonely? ›

Isolation. Social isolation is a common outgrowth of police work. Police officers most commonly associate with other officers, because they feel uncomfortable in non-law enforcement settings. Officers' spouses and children are bound by similar unspoken rules.

How stressful is being a cop? ›

Police work is highly stressful, since it is one of the few occupations where employees are asked continually to face physical dangers and to put their lives on the line at any time.

Do introverts make good police officer? ›

The fact that you prefer working alone also makes you a good candidate for police work. In fact, one survey found that many introverted cops said they liked their jobs better because they didn't have to chat with people all day long. They could focus on doing what was necessary instead of wasting time socializing.

Why do people want to be a cop? ›

Here are some good reasons people typically pursue this profession: To save lives. To make communities safer. To help others make better life choices.

Are cops Type A? ›

You must be a certain type of person – adventuresome, traditional, organized – to be drawn to a career in law enforcement. There is no question about it, Type A personalities are common in law enforcement. Type A tendencies can be good for the meticulous trade, but they can also mean major setbacks and limitations.

What are disadvantages of being a police officer? ›

Disadvantages of Being a Policeman
  • Police officers don't get rich.
  • Many people have lost respect for the police.
  • You have to make difficult decisions.
  • You can lose your job due to one big mistake.
  • Job satisfaction is rather limited.
  • Being a police officer is not the safest job.
  • Your family will worry every day.

How do you tell if a cop likes you? ›

10 Signs a Cop Is Flirting With You!
  1. They Find Any Excuse to Talk to You.
  2. They Take Their Time While Talking to You.
  3. They Tell You to Contact Them Anytime.
  4. They Ask if You're Single.
  5. They Find Reasons to Make Physical Contact with You.
  6. They Let Their Guard Down.
  7. They Ask if You've Ever Dated a Cop.

Why dating a cop is hard? ›

It Can Be Lonely. A cop's schedule can be crazy, and they might have to work overtime or work alternating shifts that just never match up with yours. For this reason, it can be lonely dating a cop. The time you spend together can be amazing, but when he inevitably leaves to go to work, the loneliness can creep in.

What is the salary of a police officer? ›

How much does a Police Officer make in the United States? The average Police Officer salary in the United States is $61,200 as of September 26, 2022, but the range typically falls between $57,200 and $66,700.

Who do cops usually marry? ›

Female police officers are most likely to marry male police officers or female office and administrative-support supervisors. Male police officers are most likely to marry female or male elementary- and middle-school teachers.

How do you date a cop? ›

Be flirtatious with the police officer once you get to know each other. Flirting is an art in and of itself, but to give off hints you can make eye contact and smile. Offer the officer compliments, and brush against their shoulder or arm. Act happy and cheerful throughout your interactions.

What is a badge bunny? ›

badge bunny (plural badge bunnies) (US, idiomatic) A woman who is romantically attracted to police officers and who seeks out their companionship. quotations ▼

Do most cops like their jobs? ›

For the most part police officers give their workplace a positive rating and are committed to their agency's success. A solid majority of officers are either very satisfied (16%) or satisfied (58%) with their agency as a place to work.

Does being a police officer affect your mental health? ›

Police officers report higher rates of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to the latest law enforcement statistics by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), police officers report much higher rates of depression, burnout, PTSD, and anxiety than the general population.

Why do cops drink so much alcohol? ›

Police officers are a unique subset of the population as a result of their occupational culture and regular exposure to stressors and trauma. These issues culminate in an increased risk for problem drinking, either as a result of social pressure or as an unhealthy way to try to control anxiety or stress.

Can you be shy and a police officer? ›

In summary, can introverts be police officers? Yes, definitely, introverts can definitely be police officers. There are pros and cons to bother introvert and extrovert tendencies, policing needs both introverts and extroverts, working together in order to have a good balance of skills.

Are cops extroverts? ›

Analysis of MBTI tests taken by 722 law enforcement personnel revealed that a slight majority were introverts (inner-directed people). Over three-quarters preferred sensing over the intuitive mode, 85 percent preferred thinking over feeling, and about 83 percent judging over perceiving.

Why do most cops become cops? ›

An early study by Lester (1983) indicated the top five reasons for one becoming a police officer included job advancement, structure, and security, the ability to help people and contribute to the community, as well as the excitement of the work.

Is being a cop a good career? ›

Great compensation

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2014, the average pay for police and sheriff's patrol officers was $57,000 a year. And since salary increases are often based on seniority, police officers who've been at their job for several years can earn even more.

Is police a good career? ›

You'll be able to make a real difference in your community, reducing crimes and making people safer. But being a police officer isn't for everyone – it's one of the most challenging careers you can choose, being physically, mentally and emotionally demanding.

What are three similar occupations to a police officer? ›

Occupations
  • Corrections Officers.
  • Emergency Medical Technicians.
  • Fish and Game Wardens.
  • Security Guards.
  • Detectives and Investigators.
  • Firefighters.
  • Sheriffs.
  • Transportation Inspectors.

What are police types? ›

  • 2.1 Uniforms.
  • 2.2 Organisation.
  • 2.3 Government Railway Police.
  • 2.4 Police Commissionerates.
  • 2.5 Traffic police.
  • 2.6 State Armed Police Forces.

How do you pass the police personality test? ›

How to prepare for the police psychological exam
  1. Feel confident in yourself. One of the most important steps you should take is to feel confident in yourself and your abilities. ...
  2. Be on time. Always arrive at least 10 minutes early for the psychological exam. ...
  3. Be prepared. ...
  4. Dress appropriately. ...
  5. Be honest. ...
  6. Ask questions.

Is becoming a cop hard? ›

The path to become a police officer is fairly straightforward. However, it will take dedication, stamina, and time to enter this competitive field. The testing and training is designed to ensure that you're prepared for the risk and responsibility that comes with this career.

What are the benefits of being a cop? ›

In addition to above average salaries, police enjoy benefits, retirement packages, and insurance coverage options that usually exceed those offered by private employers. In some agencies, full retirement is attainable in 20 to 25 years regardless of age.

What are good weaknesses for a police interview? ›

From my weaknesses I would pick two things: I am impatient at times, which I know is a quality I have to work on, not only because it matters in work. It impacts also the quality of my personal life. Second weakness are my computer skills, and it also something I want to improve on.

Why do cops give you a cup of water? ›

Drinking a glass of water will leave a small sample of your saliva on the container, and saliva contains your DNA. If the police don't have enough evidence to compel you to submit to a DNA test, don't give them a gift by leaving your DNA on a drink container.

Is there a dating site for cops? ›

Cop Singles

Cop Singles is part of the Friends Worldwide network of dating sites, which has over 1000 dating websites. Cop Singles connects singles across the U.S. The site is free to sign-up and browse.

Can cops date each other? ›

Serious problems arise when police officers in the same supervisory chain become personally and emotionally involved. Personal relationships within police departments can be unethical and can adversely affect the morale of coworkers.

Are police officers professionals? ›

A Stressful Job. Every day, the United States' 800,000 police officers, deputies, troopers, and agents shoulder responsibility for keeping our communities safe, helping those in need, and running toward incidents that the average person runs from.

How much do police in the UK get paid? ›

The average police officer salary in the United Kingdom is £26,605 per year or £13.64 per hour. Entry level positions start at £24,179 per year while most experienced workers make up to £38,972 per year.

Are police officers controlling in relationships? ›

No, police officers are not automatically controlling in relationships. If they are controlling, it's more to do with who they are deep down, not due to their job as a police officer.

Do nurses and cops make good couples? ›

Dear Confused: Your question prompted me to do some reading on the whole nurse-police officer dating nexus, and my casual research reveals that, yes, nurses and cops can make great partners. Both professions seem to draw plucky, hardworking people who are drawn toward service, and can tolerate challenging shift work.

How many hours does police officer work? ›

Full-time police officers complete an average of 40 duty hours per week, in eight-hour shifts.

What is the most important role of a police officer? ›

Police typically are responsible for maintaining public order and safety, enforcing the law, and preventing, detecting, and investigating criminal activities. These functions are known as policing.

What does a police officer do on a daily basis? ›

Typical day to day duties include assisting in emergency scenes, responding to burglaries, and monitoring the roadways and stopping cars that are driving erratically or speeding. For every incident that occurs, a police officer is required to file a report.

What state pays cops the most? ›

Washington state has the highest-paid police officers in the U.S.

What is the highest paying occupation? ›

Highest Paying Occupations
OCCUPATION2021 MEDIAN PAY
General internal medicine physiciansThis wage is equal to or greater than $208,000 per year
Family medicine physiciansThis wage is equal to or greater than $208,000 per year
Emergency medicine physiciansThis wage is equal to or greater than $208,000 per year
17 more rows

How does police stress affect their family? ›

How Stress Hurts Law Enforcement Families. Stress has a direct impact on the personal lives of officers. Research shows that police officers are at an increased risk of divorce due to stress from the job (Galatzer-Levy et al., 2013). Officers also have higher rates of divorce than other occupations (Russell, 2014).

What is cynicism in policing? ›

Cynicism can be defined as a means to display an attitude of contemptuous distrust of human nature and motives. The inherent stress and frustration found in the law enforcement profession provides an ideal breeding ground for the disorder.

How do you pass the police personality test? ›

How to prepare for the police psychological exam
  1. Feel confident in yourself. One of the most important steps you should take is to feel confident in yourself and your abilities. ...
  2. Be on time. Always arrive at least 10 minutes early for the psychological exam. ...
  3. Be prepared. ...
  4. Dress appropriately. ...
  5. Be honest. ...
  6. Ask questions.

What's it like being a police officer UK? ›

A police officer has an arsenal of responsibilities and challenges they face on an hourly basis. Police officers patrol the streets of the community, protecting citizens from crime. They can interact with many people during a given shift, such as the shopkeepers, children on the street, and people at the bus stop.

What causes police burnout? ›

The causes of burnout include increased stress due to the extensive and ofter conflicting demands made of police officers, the higher expectations among young police officers, excessive rules regarding minor matters, and a lack of clear performance standards.

What jobs are the most stressful? ›

For the third year in a row, enlisted military personnel, firefighter, airline pilot, and police officer are the four most stressful occupations, according to CareerCast's annual Most Stressful Jobs report.

How does being a police officer affect your mental health? ›

Police officers report higher rates of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to the latest law enforcement statistics by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), police officers report much higher rates of depression, burnout, PTSD, and anxiety than the general population.

What is the police culture? ›

Police subculture is defined as a specific set of beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors exhibited by those in law enforcement. They often portray police officers as noble and heroic and their work as dramatic and exciting.

What is a pessimistic and suspicious outlook on the part of police officers towards their job the public and society as a whole? ›

For the purpose of this article, cynicism is broadly defined as a pessi- mistic and suspicious outlook on the part of police officers towards their job, the public and society as a whole. A cynic expects nothing but the worst in human behaviour (Graves, 1996).

Where did the movement to improve American policing began? ›

Modern American policing began in 1909, when August Vollmer became the chief of the police department in Berkeley, California.

How many people fail the police psychological test? ›

Statistics indicate that the psychological screening eliminates between 15% to 20% of the applicants. This elimination typically occurs because either the candidate changes their mind about pursuing a career in this field, or they're not approved by the psychologist to continue.

Can you become a police officer with anxiety? ›

Living with depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder can be difficult, but many people prove capable of managing and functioning normally. If you're fortunate enough to live in a state that fosters this mindset, you should be able to be considered as a candidate just like anyone else.

How do you fail a psych test? ›

There's No Pass or Fail

Just as there's no cookie-cutter approach to psychological testing, there aren't right or wrong answers to any test questions. This means you can't pass or fail a test, which eliminates the need to study.

Is being a cop fun? ›

It is often very exciting and spotted with adrenaline dumps. Add to that the ability to help people on a daily basis and this line of work can be very fulfilling. Comraderies among peers also deflect negative work thoughts. Officers get to work on an individual basis as well as in a team environment.

Do police officers enjoy their job? ›

Police officers are about average in terms of happiness. At CareerExplorer, we conduct an ongoing survey with millions of people and ask them how satisfied they are with their careers. As it turns out, police officers rate their career happiness 3.2 out of 5 stars which puts them in the top 50% of careers.

What do policemen do all day? ›

Typical day to day duties include assisting in emergency scenes, responding to burglaries, and monitoring the roadways and stopping cars that are driving erratically or speeding. For every incident that occurs, a police officer is required to file a report.

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