Recommended Item
for Your Duty Briefcase
When you become a police officer, you’ll
probably be issued a briefcase as part of
your original equipment issue.  In that
briefcase, you’re going to carry things
like reports, forms, a digest of your state’
s criminal statutes, a manual containing
your state’s traffic articles…you get the

I would strongly recommend that your
briefcase should also contain a copy of
Police Burnout – Signs, Symptoms and
by Gerald Loren Fishkin, Ph.D.  
Police Burnout was published in 1988;
however, everything in this book is just
as relevant today as it was in 1988.  
Aside from finding nothing in
with which I disagree, I feel a
bond toward this author, because he
began his teaching career in 1971; that
was the same year I began my police
Being young and naive…it's the truth
whether you like it or not...you're going
to be taken in by the police department
hype about specialized assignments and
promotions.  You, and particularly your
spouse, may even be under the
impression that all the shift work, and
working weekends, will only be a
temporary thing.  If you buy into that
naivety, and you assure your spouse of
your rapid advancement to greener
pastures, you'll experience stress sooner
than later.  While you'll quickly learn how
a police department operates, your
spouse won't have that same inside view.

For some reason, a lot, maybe even
most, young people contemplating a
police career think the uniform patrol
portion of their careers is only a starter
course for their advancement to better
assignments.  The facts are these…a
police department's uniformed patrol
force is the largest and most important
component of any police department…it is
indispensable.  A police department is
just like any other government
organization when it comes to
assignments.  Many fine police officers will
remain in patrol for their entire careers.  
Some will remain by choice while others
simply don't have the personal and
political connections to obtain other
To avoid the stress of over expectations,
you and your spouse, or spouse to be,
must discuss the sources of potential
stress, before you start a police career,
or marry, whichever the case may be.  If
you're already a police officer, and your
future spouse insists you change your
career path, you'll be experiencing some
of the stress to come.  If you hate your
job, this won't be a problem.  However, if
you like what you're doing, you've got
some hard thinking to do.

You know…when we talk about stress
and spouses, one usually thinks of the
female spouse.  I remember when women
first began entering police work as police
officers.  The wives of police officers were
not a happy bunch.  In a near totally
male dominated profession , the only
women wives had to worry about were
police groupies.  When females began
entering police departments, the stress
level in marriages began to rise.  The
wives' fears were not totally unfounded.  
More than a few marriages suffered the
stress of workplace romances.

While the work schedule of the male
police officer may be the primary source
of stress in a marriage, the female police
officer will have that and more.  Men are
less tolerant of police work than women.  
While at first the man may find the idea
of a police wife as interesting, that won't
last long.  Depending upon where you
look, only about 12 to 14 percent of
police officers are women; even though,
police departments have been open to
women for four decades.  A lot of
experts believe the low number is due to
the hiring practices of police
departments.  I have a simpler
explanation…most men simply have
a problem with the wife being the one
who is armed and dangerous.
When I read the introduction in
Police Burnout, I had to smile as the
author described his first classroom
setting with a bunch of cops to teach
a police psychology course.  Some
things never change.
If you're a single person when you begin
your police career, you may only have
parents and other family members who
are not pleased with your career path.  
However, their projected stress is minor
compared to that of a spouse.  If you're
single, and you've never been married,
you can't even begin to appreciate the
level of stress you'll experience at the
hands of an anti-police career spouse.

As a single person, the beginning of your
police career can be relatively stress free.  
There will, with most of you, come a
point when you meet the love of your
life.  It's not a very good time for
unclouded thinking, but you should try to
read signs which could... no, I should say
definitely will cause you stress in the
future.  Look for signals from your future
spouse that indicate any displeasure with
your work.  Some signs may be subtle
and easy for you to ignore.  If you
choose to ignore such signs, you do so
at your own peril.  Here's a hard reality.  
If your future spouse has serious doubts
about your chosen career before
marriage, those doubts will only get
worse after marriage.
Then…there's the no win scenario.  
People have this naive belief that they can
change other people.  This is a belief that
is unbelievably resistant to change.  
People will spend their entire lives trying
to change other people…talk about
stress.  Many police marriages suffer
stress that has nothing, or little, to do
with the job itself.  But…because police
work is universally viewed as a stressful
occupation, it becomes an excellent
reason cited for the cause of stress.

As a police officer, you're going to
experience some wild and scary
situations, so you might think that would
be the primary reason for stress.  
Well…yes, it might be, but who knows.  
In a marriage, the primary reason most
often cited is the work schedule.  Now,
here's something I've never been able to
understand.  When you hear police
officers and their spouses bellyache
about work schedules, you'd think police
officers were the only people who work
shift work; weekends; holidays, and work
overtime.  Compared to other people, in
other occupations who work similar
schedules, police officers generally fare
much better when it comes to
compensation and the number of days
off.  If you've been comparing police
entry level pay, vacation and holiday leave
to most other careers at entry level, you
already know the police career looks
pretty good.
"...you're going to experience some
wild and scary situations, so you
might think that would be the
primary reason for stress."
~ Barry M. Baker
If you're a person who thinks a lot about
stress; you find just about every
situation stressful, and you constantly
complain about stress, do yourself and
everyone else a favor and don't become a
police officer.

Police officers sometimes succumb to the
belief that they have the most stressful
job on the planet.  There's no question
that police officers experience more
serious stressful situations with more
frequency than most people; however,
stress experienced in police work can be
controlled by the individual police officer.  
Police officers frequently blame stress on
the job when, in fact, the primary source
of stress originates from other factors
within the police officer's personal life.

Without a doubt, marriage is the biggest
factor any man or woman must consider
when contemplating a police career.  If
your spouse is adamantly against your
decision to become a police officer, you
have two very simple choices.  First, join
the police department and prepare for
divorce, or secondly, look for another

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Copyright © 2021  Barry M. Baker  
Becoming a Police Officer
An Insider's Guide to a Career
in Law Enforcement
Recommended reading for
those of you thinking
about becoming a Police
Police Exam Self Help
by Sergeant George
Godoy (Ret).  
Sergeant Godoy
served for 5 years as a police
recruitment specialist where he
personally tested over 1,000
potential police recruits.
There are Five
Indispensable Truths
for a Successful Police
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