In Part 1 of our interview with law enforcement training officer and About.com’s Criminology Careers guide, Tim Roufa, he shared about his own law enforcement career and what new recruits can expect at the law enforcement academy. In this second part, he shares some valuable advice for aspiring law enforcement officers.
CJSI: What makes a good law enforcement officer?
TR: Three words: compassion, integrity and professionalism. A compassionate officer knows how to apply the law appropriately for a given situation and understands that the purpose of enforcing laws is to help others.
Officers with integrity are worthy of the public trust and will do the right thing no matter what, even when no one is looking.
The professional officer is sharp, well groomed and articulate. In short, she presents the profession in a positive light and inspires trust and confidence from the public.
CJSI: What do you recommend to those interested in pursuing a law enforcement career do to prepare to increase their chances of being hired?
TR: First and foremost, they need to keep their backgrounds clean. Too many good candidates find themselves disqualified from the hiring process because of skeletons in their closets. Avoid drugs, excessive alcohol use and many of the other pitfalls associated with college and adolescent life. That’s not to say there’s no room for mistakes, but if your goal is to work in a profession that enforces laws, a good start is to obey the laws.
Besides that, an education is a great way to get a leg up on the competition. Though a degree may not be required, the experience of college can provide important skills, like report writing, that will help you go further in your career and make you more attractive to employers.
Getting in shape and staying in shape is important, too. Employers want to hire people who take care of themselves and who will represent them well. Personal appearance and grooming create a positive image. Show up for all interviews and testing in business attire — at least a tie or pants suit — to let them know the degree to which you respect the profession and that you’re serious about wanting the job.
CJSI: For your About.com Criminology Careers Blog, you write about numerous criminology and justice careers. If you weren’t in law enforcement, what area of criminal justice would you like to be working in?
TR: I love science. I’ve always wanted to design a research facility to look into vehicle crash dynamics. If I weren’t a law enforcement officer, I have to imagine I would be working in forensics, maybe in a laboratory. I love to research and learn about new things and I like to experiment, so I suppose I would probably like to work as a forensic scientist.
CJSI: Is there anything you would like to add?
TR: I love my job and my chosen profession, and the opportunities it’s provided me. I’ve done and seen things I never would have dreamed of. I’ve participated in Vice Presidential motorcades; I’ve met governors and responded to major incidents, some of which made national news.
Most importantly, though, is that I know for a fact that I’ve been able to help people and I’ve saved lives, sometimes simply by being present or by getting a drunk driver off the road. I make sure to let people know I care, and because of that, I’ve had plenty of people say “thank you” even after issuing them $300+ traffic citations or taking them to jail. I’m proud of my job, and I really hope to inspire others to choose it and to take pride in their work, too.