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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).

Lynne Doucette

Lynne Doucette

Lt. Lynne D. Doucette is a patrol supervisor and defensive tactics trainer with the Brunswick (Maine) PD. Prior to being the first female promoted at BPD, she worked as an undercover detective assigned to the state narcotics task force.

Patricia Teinert

Patricia Teinert

Patricia A. Teinert has been a Texas peace officer since 1984. She has served as a patrol officer, investigator, and member of a juvenile gang and narcotics task force. She is currently a patrol officer with Katy ISD Police Department.
Women in Law Enforcement

5 Tips for Joining a Specialty Unit

In a multi-part series, we look at ways to join a special detail.

March 31, 2013  |  by Patricia Teinert - Also by this author

Photo by Yuda Chen.
Photo by Yuda Chen.

Female officers may encounter resistance when they apply to join special units such as SWAT, K-9, narcotics, and motor patrol, but are welcomed into criminal investigation, internal affairs, or crime prevention. To help those hoping to break into these units, is launching a Web-exclusive, multi-part series offering strategies to reach this goal.

To start with, I'll share some of my personal experiences and provide five overall tips for how to join specialty units. In future blog posts, I'll give specific tips for each unit.

After completing our field training and probation, we soon realize there are numerous specialized units in a police or sheriff's agency. Even at smaller agencies, you will have opportunities to join specialized units that may not operate full time.

Don't let the fact that you're at a small agency discourage you. Keep your options open even though officers promoted to these units rarely leave. Once you arrive, you may be able to spend your career with the unit.

While going through the academy, I was focused on patrol and being a first responder. I didn't think much about getting into the specialty units. In the early 1980s, there were few females on patrol so there were opportunities in multi-agency task forces. These assignments were not full-time and were expected to be done in addition to an officer's patrol schedule.

My first offer to participate was in a narcotics task force as a drug dealer's girlfriend. I didn't do much, just sat in the vehicle on scene for appearance purposes, but it was a start. Even though my part was small, I was there as the team planned and prepared the operation. I was on scene and watched the team initiate, complete, and clear the operation.

This may not sit well with some female officers today, but at the time I was glad to participate if for no other reason than to watch and learn from the experienced officers. I realized early on that you can't get that from a book. After that I was offered other assignments as they became available, and as time went by I was given more responsibilities and began to find my niche.

Today there are many ways to get connected with and into specialized units. I researched federal, state, county, and municipal agencies and found most agencies have designed career paths. Larger agencies require five years on patrol before transferring. Mid-size agencies require anywhere from two to five years on patrol before a transfer. Smaller agencies have not changed much in regard to these units; most officers are primarily patrol and also participate in the specialty units as needed. However, officer training comes before participation.

It does not matter what department you are with, large or small; there are things you can do well in advance to determine what unit you're interested in and how to get there.

Here are five tips for joining a specialty unit:

1. Know your agency and what is required for the different units.

Start early, prepare, and practice what is necessary for the unit. Whether it is physical, technical, or academic you can prepare in advance on your own. Remember, it is not your agency's responsibility; it's your career path.

2. Get online.

You will find books, magazine articles, instruction, and courses online. Due to the vast amount of information out there, I have had to save links to review later or I would have been online for hours.

3. Talk to and get to know officers already in the unit.

Some find it intimidating to approach an experienced or specialized officer, but don't let this stop you. All they can say is "No," or "I don't have the time." They won't eat you. Sometimes your location or schedules will not allow for face-to-face discussions. But you can interact over the phone or via e-mail if necessary. 

4. Make the effort on your own.

You might have to use your own time and money, but there is something to be said for focus, determination, and sacrifice for what you want. Even if no one ever mentions it to you, your efforts will be noticed.

5. Be realistic in where you are and what it will take to get into the unit you desire.

Reaching your goal might simply require training and waiting on that transfer, or you might have to change agencies or relocate. Keep in mind that while preparing for the future and going through the process it is easy to get so wrapped up in what you're working toward that you lose interest in where you're at. Be careful not to lose interest or begin slacking in your current position. There is nothing more aggravating than picking up the slack of an officer who has his or her sights focused elsewhere. 

Editor's note: Look for future installments of this series here on the Women in Law Enforcement channel. Is there a special assignment you love working, or one you're itching to join? Add your comment below.


5 Tips for Joining a K-9 Unit

Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Trigger @ 4/5/2013 7:14 AM

They forgot one important element--internal politics. Many times it's not what you know but WHO you know.

pateinert @ 4/5/2013 9:17 AM

Maybe in some cases, but that is something that would be beyond the officers control at the time. However, when you study, train, and go before a board, even if you do not get the position, you still benefit at the end of the day. It would be extreamly frustrating, if due to internal politics, the board or process was just a show. That is an issue that would need to be addressed before positions are posted.

Joseph Morris A Bausas @ 1/22/2015 4:18 PM

This blog will help me to find jod in abroad

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