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Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.

Older Recruits

Second-career officers are increasing within the ranks.

August 07, 2012  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

Officer Karl Lloyd was a 50-year-old recruit when he joined the Cleveland P.D. in October 2009.
Officer Karl Lloyd was a 50-year-old recruit when he joined the Cleveland P.D. in October 2009.

Second-career "start-overs" are increasing in our ranks. I don't know whether it's the economic situation, disillusionment with a current job, or fulfilling a childhood dream but older candidates are applying for policeland. I recently had a chap call me and ask if he should apply for the police test. He is in his early 30s and wanted to know his chances. Let's take a look at this phenomenon.

Post military careers are quite common (author included). If you're in the military and can't decide whether to stay in or look for a civilian job, you may want to give this cop gig a whirl. The uniforms, ranks, governmental benefits, and guns will sound familiar. In the 60s and 70s, the Vietnam era churned out a great crop of police officers. More recent conflicts are doing the same. Chiefs should give a vet a chance!

Economic woes, downsizing, and over-qualification have been a recent stimulus for many to seek employment amongst our ranks. At the 50,000-foot level, most see it as a government job with protection and perks. Most think that no police agency will ever downsize, but think again. The larger cash-strapped cities are now leaving positions unfilled and slimming down their ranks.

Some view the occupation of a cop as inside work and no heavy lifting. Think again. Fully explore your new employer and understand how the agency can withstand any more shuttering of the economy.

The disillusionment with a current career and life is another reason I've heard to seek out Copland. Candidates want a job helping others and making a difference. OK, sounds good at the oral boards but stop and think. Do you really understand what real cops do? I had a high school teacher ask about being a cop. He hated dealing with youth and wants to leave the classroom to become a cop. If you hate working with juveniles now, what do you think you're entering into?

Stop and fully evaluate your reasons here. The other problem of a second career is that cops may have to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, holidays, and during your kid's recitals. The working environment is not for the faint of heart.

For the late 20s to mid-30s set who still want to apply, let's have a little reality orientation. Before you apply for the job, honestly try to address these points.

Physical standards: Most academies have physical standards for entrance and graduation known as P.T. (Physical Training). Most of these are not graded on the curve for older students. You'll be expected to run, jump, and wrestle with the 21-year-olds. Can you?

Background investigations: Let's face it, you have 10 to 15 more years of experiance than the young bucks of getting into stuff, driving, and employers. You also have 10-15 years extra of life's little problems, issues and such to explain. Can you?

Academy and FTO programs: To go to work for some employers involves a couple of days of new-employee orientations and that's it. In Policeland, you have at least of year in the academy and the FTO program before you can breathe without worry. If you have a family, can you have the kiddies cared for? Will they understand that dad or mom will be in an academy for six months and can't come out and play?

Starting over: Let's say you have some seniority, rights, and privileges at your current job. Can you stand being an FNG all over again?

School work: When was the last time you were in school? The young ones are straight out of college or within a year or so of academia. When was the last time you had to take notes, submit papers, or study for exams? The older we get, the harder this gets. Are you ready for this critical piece of the pie?

Can you check your ego at the door? Finally let's take this one wild card element. You are 35 and your training officer is 25. You have 10 years more life experience and other intangibles. Can you let a youngster teach you or supervise you? Check your ego.

I'm not trying to scare off the second-career group. Some make the finest officers I've ever worked with. They will have challenges to overcome, and it can be harder for them than the younger set. Those who make it will appreciate the job and all it can be. Before you think of applying on a whim, weigh the job out for you and your life. Still going to try it? Good luck. Stay safe and train hard!


Down Economy Bringing Older Recruits to LE Agencies

Former Cleveland Jailer Is 50-Year-Old Academy Graduate

Comments (7)

Displaying 1 - 7 of 7

Marv Wierenga @ 8/14/2012 5:26 PM

Finished #1 in my academy class at 63 years old. Always wanted to be a cop but life got in the way. Paid my own way. Working court security and prisoner transport. Couldn't be happier. Chase that dream.

jack @ 8/14/2012 9:22 PM

Im glad you enjoy it Marv but I hate to burst your bubble. Being a baliff aint being a cop. Your job entails nothing of what the author put forth. I dont think theres a out there 'chasing the dream' of standing in a courtroom or driving a bunch of asshats around in a van.

Mike @ 8/16/2012 11:08 AM're a dick...

Don @ 8/16/2012 11:25 AM

I was an MP in the military when I was 18, then a dispatcher when I was 22. Went into business for 25 years then decided to pursue my dream. I joined the academy when I was 47 years old and was 1st in my class. Was accepted by an agency for reserve when I was 49 years old. Was hired full time a year ago when I was 50 years old. I stay in shape and yes scuffle with the BG's at 50 years old and have not had my butt handed to me yet. You go for it Marv! And BTW Jack, Mike is right, you are a jerk...

RIck @ 8/17/2012 2:11 PM

48 years old Academy starts Aug 27. Going for the dream!

Biggles @ 9/12/2012 12:39 PM

I'm 29 and have been finding that I should have begun the process six years ago but pursued another line of work instead. I'm now serving with a police department that's full of 'older' recruits. The author is correct - once you're out of your early/mid 20's you have more explaining to do regarding your career/financial/life choices. This does not mean that you cannot fulfill your goals at becoming a peace officer, rather, the challenges are different yet equal to those facing recruits fresh out of high school/university. Peace officers come in many forms - police, bailiff, game warden, deputy - and are equal in how crucial they are in the criminal justice system. Implying that becoming a police officer is a greater accomplishment than a bailiff demonstrates ignorance as to the nature of their position. Police and Bailiff deputies work together some of the time and are simply two sides of the same coin. I would recommend looking into the unique challenges faced by bailiffs, because it sounds like someone here thinks that us cops are somehow 'better' than other peace officers.

Joel @ 5/4/2017 9:15 AM

Became a CO at 56. Not as tough as police, but the prison was challenging. Biggest setback,was neglecting a mis-medication, that took me out. I worked my ass off to get the post. Worst day ever, was resigning to get better, as my health had really dropped. Point is, watch your health, don't take for granted, that you'll get better. These jobs are stressful, so think about #1 first. I don't know what to say about Jack's comment, that isn't profane. I'll not judge anyone, anymore.

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