Have you ever thought about what it’s like to be a cop, sheriff or detective? Wondering if it’s similar to what’s portrayed in the movies or if it’s a job meant for you? An opportunity to work side-by-side with a law enforcement officer gives you the chance to at least partially observe and understand what their profession entails.
Numerous police departments and sheriff’s offices across the country offer job shadowing opportunities to junior high and high school students. For example, Andrea McCann reported for the Greene County Daily World of a time when eight students got hands-on training with the Linton Police Department. “They learned how to lift fingerprints at a crime scene and that speech is a key weapon in law enforcement,” wrote McCann. “They also learned how a polygraph machine, a Taser, mace, and the Doppler radar speed-detection system work”. Students additionally got to ride with Officer Paul Clark and even witnessed an arrest.
For those already attending college or university and are completing a law enforcement or criminal justice degree, many programs offer a workplace option for students to intern at police departments, sheriff’s offices, law enforcement training centers, correctional facilities, law enforcement task forces and more. Some educational institutes even require students to complete this practical form of training. Tom Reedy, Public Information Officer of the Denton County Sheriff’s Office, reported that some University of North Texas students recently participated in the “Take Flight” program. The students shadowed Sheriff’s Office personnel working in the Criminal Investigations Department, at the front desk, in pre-trial operations, communications, and jails and on patrol.
In some cases, those of all ages, even if they are not pursuing a law enforcement career, can experience what it’s like to be an officer. The City of Westlake Police Department, for example, has a Community Police Academy. It offers a 12-week training period where participants learn a myriad of topics from search and seizure and self-defense to driving a patrol car.
If you’re still in public school, talk to your guidance counselor or teacher to find out if they can help arrange a job shadowing experience. Contact your local police department or sheriff’s office to find out if they offer such programs. If you’re in university working towards your criminal justice or law enforcement degree, find out about your internship/co-op requirement. Even if it’s not mandatory, an internship with an experienced officer or investigator will not only give you a sense if this job is for you; it will also help you build professional connections and give you a head-start for your police academy training or future career.