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Police Officer Jobs

True Tales: Life in Law Enforcement from an experienced professional

By Matt Krumrie
JobMonkey.com

Ron Boyden, a Deputy Sheriff with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office in Alexandria, MN, recently talked with JobMonkey.com about careers in law enforcement.

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office is located in west central Minnesota and is responsible for 24-hour law enforcement services within the county, including several small cities. The Sheriff oversees the county jail, and provides dispatching for all county law enforcement, fire, and ambulance personnel. It provides civil process services, water patrol, underwater rescue/recovery, S.W.A.T., D.A.R.E., and is assisted by a volunteer Sheriff's Posse.

Boyden has 13 years of experience and earned a Bachelor's Degree in Law Enforcement from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

What are some top skills a police officer must have to be successful on the job?

Boyden: Communication skills. Being able to communicate with the public, from everyday conversations to calming a distraught victim are a must. It is said that the best and most used tool for any officer is their mouth. Computer skills and comprehension are also a plus.

"Anything that I do at the office computer can now be done on my laptop computer in the squad car," says Boyden.

What are the traits that make a law enforcement professional a good one?

Boyden: Common sense and a sense of humor, compassion, a strong voice, and the ability to adapt. Being able to deal with a wide array of situations with a level head is important, and being able to laugh is a must. Otherwise one would probably cry. One must be able to adapt minute by minute and day by day. One might leave a violent domestic to aid a lost child. The job is never the same, although a lot of the people are repeat customers.

What are some various types of opportunities within a police or law enforcement department or agency?

Boyden: There are many different opportunities in law enforcement, depending on the size of the agency. Investigators, drug task force agents, school resource officers, D.A.R.E. officers, civil process, and of course, street patrol officers are needed. Most larger departments will have multiple officers in those positions, and might have their own crime lab.

What are some key tips aspiring law enforcement professionals need to understand?

Here are some tips, from Boyden:

  • It will affect your family life. You will work holidays and weekends, and miss birthdays
  • It will affect your health. You will work overnight shifts and early morning shifts, resulting in lack of sleep. You will eat crappy food. You will have a sore back from the duty belt and sitting in a car for hours on end. You will become more cynical than others.
  • Are you willing to take another's life? If the need should arise, are you willing/capable of taking another life to protect your own or someone else's?
  • Are you willing to give your life, if necessary?
  • Do you have the intestinal fortitude for the job (guts)? When most others are smart enough to run away from an incident, law enforcement is running toward it. You will use all of your senses, plus one.
  • Unfortunately, you will see things that people shouldn't see, you will smell things that you'll never forget, you will hear things that bear not repeating, you will touch things that ought not be touched, and many things/people will leave a bad taste in your mouth. Plus, you will develop a sixth sense, the ability to know when something is just not right.

What is one tip to think of that most people getting into this profession might not know?

Boyden: One is never truly off-duty. You will pay attention to what others are doing when you are eating out with your family or walking around the mall.

You'll pay attention to how others are driving, and want to help at crash scenes, even if it's just calling 911. It can be a stressful career and cause pain/agony for what might need to be done and for whom one might need to deal with. At the same time, the feeling of satisfaction after helping someone who truly needed it is indescribable. For all of the bad people that one will deal with and put up with, it only takes one or two good people to make it worthwhile. There truly are more people who support their local law enforcement than dislike them.

What can one do to learn more about this profession?

Boyden: Ask your local agency for a ride-along. If allowed to do so, don't be a pain. Don't talk too much or tell whomever you're riding with how other officers do things. Ask before doing anything and go with the flow.

Where do you recommend I look or find police jobs?

The Internet is probably the best resource available for job searching. In Minnesota, the state POST Board keeps a database of job opportunities. For your first job, apply anywhere and everywhere. One might need the experiences of working in a small three-officer town before being able to move into a larger department.