Detective Lieutenant Barry M. Baker (ret.) is a 32 year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department.
A new police officer begins his or her career possessing one of two mind sets. The first is based on idealism and the second one on power. Idealism forms the belief that people really aren’t that bad. This view dictates that the authority of a police officer should be exercised rarely and sparingly since the police officer’s ability to reason with people resolves any situation.
The second mind set will rest solely on the authority and power conveyed by the badge the new police officer wears. In this mind set, the police officer will make a quick and final determination for the solution of any situation. Hasty decisions will be based upon the police officer’s initial understanding or impression of circumstances.
While the first mind set is naïve, it’s probably the best way to start. You’ll learn that a lot of people are simply bad, and you’ll soon start moving toward the middle of the mind set scale. The second mind set isn’t nearly as susceptible to change as the first. Power can be as intoxicating as any drug and just as difficult to control. Hopefully, whichever mind set, or degree of mind set, you possess in the beginning, you’ll learn how to most effectively find the right balance to exercise reason with power and power with reason.
Self-Satisfaction - New Police Officer
There are few professions wherein any single individual can have a dramatic impact on anything on a relatively frequent basis. Police officers are rarely recognized for their importance to society, but one needs only imagine civilization without police officers. Think about this; without the social order ensured by police officers, no one, in any profession, could accomplish anything.
That’s the big picture. The small picture is you, a new police officer, and how you’ll have an impact on the lives of others. Your impact can be positive even when it’s negative for an individual. When you arrest a person for drunk driving, you’re negatively impacting that person, but the impact is positive for society.
The criminal justice system is geared toward negatively impacting some for the welfare of many, and it begins with you. If you don’t take the first, and sometimes dangerous, action on a face to face basis, nothing will come afterward. Without police officers, the criminal justice system would be a totally impotent bureaucracy.
You might think that with such an important position and mission, your accomplishments would, from time to time, be recognized and perhaps rewarded. It’s true that police departments have awards in the form of medals and citations for exceptional performance. In a well-organized police department, management realizes the importance of recognizing and rewarding outstanding performance. In a weakly organized or dysfunctional police department, recognition of your good work is the last thing on anyone’s mind.
You might join a police department that really has everything together. The department will demand a high level of competence from you, and it will quickly recognize and reward you when you exceed that already high standard. Then, of course, there is the other side of that coin. You could join a police department where management considers your paycheck as ample reward.
Here’s the point, it’s all about self-satisfaction. People in other professions experience self-satisfaction, but a police career provides a new police officer with so many ways and opportunities to experience self-satisfaction on a constant basis. You have the ability to ensure that nearly everything you do can result in a positive outcome.
Once you realize that what other people think of you is totally unimportant, you’ll be well on your way to experience self-satisfaction in everything you do. Recognition by others, in any form, is only a very temporary thing. How you recognize yourself, as you constantly strive to better yourself, is all that matters.
The Best Education on Earth – New Police Officer
People often look back over their lives and think about what they would have done differently. I’m one of the lucky ones. I chose a police career, and I’ve never regretted that decision. In fact, I’d do it all over again.
Your entire existence is about life and living, and there aren’t that many careers you could consider that will touch the lives of others as much as your decision to become a new police officer.
I often refer to a police career as the best education on earth, because it simply is just that. You’ll interact at every level of society, and you’ll exert your authority from minor to enormous effect.
I believe in one’s destiny. I think it’s a good belief for a police officer since a police career is inherently dangerous. However, only a fool tempts fate.
Police work is a lot harder and more complicated than many people believe. Knowledge and courage will be your most important assets… did I mention knowledge? While courage is an indispensable character trait for a new police officer, your continuous pursuit of knowledge is also indispensable for a successful police career.
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