T Nation

Pros and Cons of Being a Cop?

I am an attorney and am currently working in the court system. I don’t really like my job (it is temporary) but, I do get to see a lot of cases involving criminal investigations and I find them interesting. I’ve been thinking about becoming a cop for a long, long time (probably 4-5 years).

However, you hear a lot of rumors about bad aspects of being a cop. For example, that promotions are totally political. Or that when you are starting out, supervisors will have you do all their paperwork even though your shift is over and its time for you to go home. You also hear about how stressful and depressing it is.

I think I might enjoy being a cop for several reasons. First, I’d like to be mobile. I don’t like the idea of sitting on my ass in an office all day every day for the rest of my life. Relatedly, I like the idea of being in a profession where being psychically fit is not only encouraged, but required. I deeply resent that I currently work with (I’m not kidding) a bunch of morbidly obese middle-aged women who talk nonstop about “Lost” over Lean Cuisine.

I think I would also enjoy the sense of teamwork and camaraderie that police officers seem to have. I like the idea that I am working with men and women who are depending on me for their lives and I am doing the same with them.

But most importantly, I think I would enjoy the opportunity to work in a field where each and every day brings something a little different. “Excitement” may not be the best word because I don’t expect things to be like “Lethal Weapon,” but just a change of pace. Being an attorney can be extremely monotonous and not a day goes by that I am not watching the clock waiting for 5:00 p.m. so I can go home.

In sum, I would like to be able to say that I love going to work most days. I cannot say that now and I feel like being a cop would allow me to do so.

A huge downside is that I spent time and money going to law school. I graduated at the top of my class and could have a bright future in law. That’s kind of what makes this career change so difficult. I don’t want to throw all that away for something that I’ll end up hating. Moreover, it would kind of be a shame to let most of my legal knowledge rust.

Anyway, I thought I would start a thread on this issue. I’m sure there are a number of LEOs on this forum. Am I off the mark with the things I see as positives? What sort of negatives have I overlooked?

Two more things:

  1. My question is not necessarily confined to officers in municipal departments. While that is primarily what I had in mind, I would also be interested in hearing from those in other agencies as well (e.g., Border Patrol).

  2. I am from San Diego, CA, and will be moving there in August. If I decided to become an LEO, it would almost certainly be for a city in Southern California or for the Border Patrol.

[quote]eic wrote:
I am an attorney and am currently working in the court system. I don’t really like my job (it is temporary) but, I do get to see a lot of cases involving criminal investigations and I find them interesting. I’ve been thinking about becoming a cop for a long, long time (probably 4-5 years).

However, you hear a lot of rumors about bad aspects of being a cop. For example, that promotions are totally political. Or that when you are starting out, supervisors will have you do all their paperwork even though your shift is over and its time for you to go home. You also hear about how stressful and depressing it is.

I think I might enjoy being a cop for several reasons. First, I’d like to be mobile. I don’t like the idea of sitting on my ass in an office all day every day for the rest of my life. Relatedly, I like the idea of being in a profession where being psychically fit is not only encouraged, but required. I deeply resent that I currently work with (I’m not kidding) a bunch of morbidly obese middle-aged women who talk nonstop about “Lost” over Lean Cuisine.

I think I would also enjoy the sense of teamwork and camaraderie that police officers seem to have. I like the idea that I am working with men and women who are depending on me for their lives and I am doing the same with them.

But most importantly, I think I would enjoy the opportunity to work in a field where each and every day brings something a little different. “Excitement” may not be the best word because I don’t expect things to be like “Lethal Weapon,” but just a change of pace. Being an attorney can be extremely monotonous and not a day goes by that I am not watching the clock waiting for 5:00 p.m. so I can go home.

In sum, I would like to be able to say that I love going to work most days. I cannot say that now and I feel like being a cop would allow me to do so.

A huge downside is that I spent time and money going to law school. I graduated at the top of my class and could have a bright future in law. That’s kind of what makes this career change so difficult. I don’t want to throw all that away for something that I’ll end up hating. Moreover, it would kind of be a shame to let most of my legal knowledge rust.

Anyway, I thought I would start a thread on this issue. I’m sure there are a number of LEOs on this forum. Am I off the mark with the things I see as positives? What sort of negatives have I overlooked?

Two more things:

  1. My question is not necessarily confined to officers in municipal departments. While that is primarily what I had in mind, I would also be interested in hearing from those in other agencies as well (e.g., Border Patrol).

  2. I am from San Diego, CA, and will be moving there in August. If I decided to become an LEO, it would almost certainly be for a city in Southern California or for the Border Patrol. [/quote]

one positive is that chicks dig cuffs and love the freaky cop shit

negative is you can die but that’s any given day right?

While I am not in any other “agencies,” as a high schooler, I am sorry to inform you that I do not approve of your career choice.

You bastards need to stop taking my pieces.

[quote]Artem wrote:
While I am not in any other “agencies,” as a high schooler, I am sorry to inform you that I do not approve of your career choice.

You bastards need to stop taking my pieces.[/quote]

he’s a lawyer not a cop

What about an FBI agent?

I mean the career choice that he’s considering.

I’m all for loving what you do and all, but I’m pretty sure that you will make considerably more as a lawyer than as a street cop.

So you have credentials for law, but you want to be a cop… well… ever seen Judge Dredd?

[quote]Artem wrote:
I mean the career choice that he’s considering.

I’m all for loving what you do and all, but I’m pretty sure that you will make considerably more as a lawyer than as a street cop.[/quote]

Why does that matter? I’d rather take a pay cut than hate my job, and I’m sure the OP agrees.

I have been an officer for 5 years. I could not think of anything better.

[quote]masonator wrote:
Artem wrote:
I mean the career choice that he’s considering.

I’m all for loving what you do and all, but I’m pretty sure that you will make considerably more as a lawyer than as a street cop.

Why does that matter? I’d rather take a pay cut than hate my job, and I’m sure the OP agrees.[/quote]

You are 100% right, masonator. If I continue down the road I’m on now, I could stand to earn $230,000 my first year as an associate attorney with a firm. But the friends I have who are in that position are miserable. They wouldn’t tell you that (some would) but they definitely are wrapped up in material possessions, not quality of life and fulfillment.

[quote]Kal-El wrote:
I have been an officer for 5 years. I could not think of anything better.[/quote]

It’s funny, but so many of the cops I’ve talked to in the last year or so have said the exact same thing. Care to elaborate, Kal-El?

Also, one other thing I didn’t add in my original post. When I was a kid in school, I remember cops coming to talk to us about drugs and other things. I also remember cops taking part in youth sports and just generally being visible in the community. I think that working with kids like that would be awesome, but you don’t see attorneys who do that kind of stuff.

Like ab_power said why not FBI, CIA or become a Detective instead of just a regular cop? Your law degree should come in very handy there.

Some of your complaints about politics and shit rolling down hill happen everywhere. Have you ever had a job that promotions weren’t in some way political? I can’t think of any.

“Forget about the badge…when do we get the freaken guns!!!”

“Hey you don’t get a gun until you tell me your name!”

[quote]GhorigTheBeefy wrote:
Like ab_power said why not FBI, CIA or become a Detective instead of just a regular cop? Your law degree should come in very handy there.

Some of your complaints about politics and shit rolling down hill happen everywhere. Have you ever had a job that promotions weren’t in some way political? I can’t think of any. [/quote]

FBI was my first thought, actually. In fact, I went to law school because I knew the FBI liked to hire attorneys. However, talking to a number of FBI agents, it doesn’t sound all that awesome. It sounds like the first several years you are in the Bureau you are working 12-13 hour days 6 days a week. In the words of one of the agents I talked to, “The Department owns you.” (He, BTW, loved his job.) Also, with the FBI, you don’t get to choose where you go and what you’re doing. Plus, there really does not seem to be any financial benefit to the FBI over a conventional LEO. Finally, it sounds like FBI agents do a lot of deskwork compared to conventional LEOs.

God forbid I give up $230,000 a year working on boring paperwork all day everyday in an office in San Diego to earn $60,000 doing the same thing in an office in Buffalo, NY (no offense to anyone from Buffalo). The FBI just doesn’t seem to pan out.

CIA sounds intriguing, but sort of scary at the same time. Detective would be cool, but you can’t just jump into that. You gotta spend some time on the street on patrol before getting a chance at that. (Which I wouldn’t mind.)

I’m strongly considering being a cop also, I just got the job listings for local departments today, and am looking into two of them. Pay is nothing amazing at all, but it’s work I would really like to do. Actively contributing to the society in a positive manner is something I would love to do for a living. Besides, pension plans are generally pretty good.

You mentioned “throwing it all away,” but what stops you from resuming work as a lawyer if after a year you want to come back?

[quote]atypicaluser wrote:
You mentioned “throwing it all away,” but what stops you from resuming work as a lawyer if after a year you want to come back?[/quote]

That’s a good question. For one, I would definitely lose my “edge,” so to speak. My writing abilities are what set me apart from other attorneys and those would, no doubt, get a bit rusty.

But I think the bigger hurdle might be the stigma attached to my decision. I admit that this may be more of a problem in my head than in actuality, but law is a very superficial profession. For example, more than any other profession, people will not give you the time of day if you didn’t come from one of the top schools. I’m worried that if I take a detour to try being a cop, find out it’s not what I wanted, then try and climb back into law, I will be some sort of outcast. It sounds crazy when I explain it, but it is a very real concern for me.

Ultimately, however, you might just be right.

I’ve been a cop in a large city in Texas for nine years. I think it’s the best job in the world. Can’t imagine doing anything else, frankly.

If you want to PM me, I’ll go into more details about pros / cons. Too many trolls get involved otherwise.

Your decision though, frankly, doesn’t seem all that difficult to me. You know where you want to be, and you know your current job ain’t it.

I gave up a very stable job, a decent lifestyle, a college education and the respect of my parents to join the Army when I was 21. I did it without regret, and have never looked back. I became a police officer after I left the Army. That first decision though, was the best thing I ever did for myself.

I think you should just pull the pin and do what your heart tells you to do. But, that’s just me.

The idea of beating up a guy who just hit his girlfriend sounds pretty appealing.

[quote]eic wrote:
GhorigTheBeefy wrote:
Like ab_power said why not FBI, CIA or become a Detective instead of just a regular cop? Your law degree should come in very handy there.

Some of your complaints about politics and shit rolling down hill happen everywhere. Have you ever had a job that promotions weren’t in some way political? I can’t think of any.

FBI was my first thought, actually. In fact, I went to law school because I knew the FBI liked to hire attorneys. However, talking to a number of FBI agents, it doesn’t sound all that awesome. It sounds like the first several years you are in the Bureau you are working 12-13 hour days 6 days a week.

In the words of one of the agents I talked to, “The Department owns you.” (He, BTW, loved his job.) Also, with the FBI, you don’t get to choose where you go and what you’re doing.

Plus, there really does not seem to be any financial benefit to the FBI over a conventional LEO. Finally, it sounds like FBI agents do a lot of deskwork compared to conventional LEOs.

God forbid I give up $230,000 a year working on boring paperwork all day everyday in an office in San Diego to earn $60,000 doing the same thing in an office in Buffalo, NY (no offense to anyone from Buffalo). The FBI just doesn’t seem to pan out.

CIA sounds intriguing, but sort of scary at the same time. Detective would be cool, but you can’t just jump into that. You gotta spend some time on the street on patrol before getting a chance at that. (Which I wouldn’t mind.)[/quote]

Look into an 1811 position (criminal investigator) with the federal government. FBI, USSS, DEA, Customs/BP. As far as financials, 1811 position after about 5 years will be paying you around $115K including the LEAP (Law Enforcement Availability Pay) so it is definitely more than a regular cop or detective.

Additionally, it is government work so the benefits are great (health care, TSP, pension, time off) and you would really have to try to get fired. As you know, being a lawyer will assist with the process but you should make sure you have an almost perfectly clean background.

Personally, I would grin and bear it for the $230K but that is just me.