Police Officer Interview
Interviewing two police officers, one quickly becomes aware of some of the basis similarities between officers. These similarities are not surprising, given that research suggests that certain personality types are more drawn to law enforcement work than other personality types. However, even more noteworthy than the similarities between the officers was a fundamental difference noted by the interviewer, which seems as if it might have a tremendous impact on the different courses of the officers' future careers. Interviewing these same officers in about ten years would provide an interesting follow-up to the initial interview.
First, it is important to note that the officers shared several basic similarities. Both officers interviewed were male, relatively young, had been on the force for relatively short periods of time, had the rank of sergeant, and shared similar racial and educational backgrounds. Officer one was a 24-year-old Hispanic male with 2 years of experience on the force, and 2 years of college education. Officer two was a 31-year-old Hispanic male with 5 years of experience on the force and no college education. Both officers worked for a police department and both interviews were conducted via telephone.
In addition, it is important to note that the officers suggested similar reasons for becoming police officers. Officer one stated that he loves "not knowing what the day has in store." Officer two stated that "everyday is a new challenge and that is what keeps me motivated." Clearly, both officers were drawn to the idea of a job that provides them with excitement and the opportunity for something new and exciting. This answer suggests that something about law enforcement appeals to people who feel a need for excitement.
However, the officers did not cite the desire for adventure as their only reasons for joining the police department. On the contrary, both men suggested that the unexpected was a secondary reason for joining the force. Instead, both men suggested very socially-oriented reasons for joining the police force. Officer one suggested that family tradition played a role in his decision, by stating that his father was a detective with the Fort Worth Police Department. While officer two did not cite family tradition, his motivation was just as social as officer one's motivation; he stated that he "wanted to make a difference in people's lives." Therefore, it is clear that social expectations and obligations, whether coming from the family or from society-at-large, helped influence these officers' decisions to become police officers.
When asked what they thought was the most difficult part of their jobs, the officers gave superficially similar responses. Both indicated that the very uncertainty that drew them to the job was one of the most difficult aspects of the job. Officer one said that one of the worst parts of his job was "the split decisions we have to make and not really knowing what the outcome will be." Likewise, officer two indicated that the uncertainty and danger of his job were among its worst aspects, by stating, "My goal is to make it home to my wife." Therefore, it seems that even officers who are drawn to the job due to its uncertainty and unpredictability are not immune to the devastating effects that such uncertainty can have on a person.
In fact, when asked what a good day entailed for them, both officers revealed their concerns about the uncertainty of their jobs, by replying that a good day involved making it home safe. Officer one elaborated by stating that a good day involved serving his community, however, given his other answers regarding the nature of policing, it seems clear that any day he is involved in policing is a day that he has served his community. The result is that the desire to arrive home safe is paramount in the mind of both officers. While the adrenaline rush of uncertainty may contribute to the excitement of the job, it is clear that it also contributes to the stress associated with policing.
However, neither of the officers indicated personal concerns first when asked what they considered to be the worst aspects of their jobs. Instead, they once again indicated aspects that revealed how socially-motivated the job of police officer is. For example, officer one's response immediately evoked images of families wracked by domestic violence, because he indicated that the worst aspect of his job was "seeing women and children in pain and not being able to assist them." Officer two also seemed to find the destruction of families to be one of the more difficult aspects of his job. He stated that, "There is nothing worse than informing a family that they lost a loved one." Furthermore, officer two seemed to indicate that having a happy home situation was not a cure for the difficulties encountered on the job. Instead, his recent marriage and pregnant wife seemed to make it more difficult for him to approach family members with bad news about their loved ones.
In fact, officer two's answer when asked about the best part of his job also seemed to reveal his devotion to family. He considered the best part of the job "visiting the schools and seeing the children's eyes light up." This answer seems to reflect his interest in the family. Furthermore, as he explains that "to some aspect I am a hero in their eyes," it becomes clear that officer two is motivated, at least partially, by a desire to be seen as a good person by people in his community.
Officer one's answer to the best part of his job is not so clearly socially motivated. Officer one indicated that the best part of his job "is when the perp is caught." While this answer can clearly have a social motivation, it does not necessarily reflect officer one's social conscience. For example, catching a perpetrator can benefit society in a number of ways; it can give closure to a victim or his family and remove the perpetrator so that he cannot engage in further offenses. However, catching a perpetrator can also provide an officer with a high level of personal satisfaction that is not based on social good, because criminals try not to be caught, while officers try to catch them, and catching a perpetrator provides an officer with a personal victory in a battle of minds and wills.
Despite acknowledging that there are extremely difficult aspects of their jobs, and indicating different beliefs about the best aspects of their jobs, both officer one and officer two would recommend policing as a career. However, both officers indicated that policing was not an appropriate career choice for just any person. Both men indicated that policing is a challenging vocation, which should only be considered by those who have the skills to get the job done. Officer one stated that one has "to be disciplined and have a will to get the job done to make the world a better place." Officer two's response elaborated on officer one's response, because he explained that, "being a police officer is not for everyone. I recommend it to those who are physically and mentally up to the challenge." It is noteworthy that both officers, who are relatively young and presumably still in good physical shape, indicate that some type of discipline is a necessary part of policing. In addition, officer one indicates that there is another important element to police work, which is to be a team player.
Furthermore, the officers share similar beliefs about what type of experience is necessary to prepare someone for a career in police work. Both men indicate that some college education and military experience should be required of police applicants. Officer one believes that police applicants should be required to possess at least an AA, preferably military training. Officer two…