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!

Related:

Down Economy Bringing Older Recruits to LE Agencies

Former Cleveland Jailer Is 50-Year-Old Academy Graduate

Author

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.

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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.

View Bio
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