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10 reasons why veterans should consider a career in policing

Police departments need your courage, decisiveness and judgment

Veterans have the fortune of obtaining experience at young ages that many can only dream of. This experience of being a veteran sets the course for their code, conduct and values for the rest of their lives. This is exactly why veterans are needed now more than ever in today’s law enforcement, especially given the recent wars resulting in an influx of young veterans.

Veterans are brought up in a culture where everyone is an informal leader. One doesn’t have to hold a formal leadership billet in order to provide leadership to a unit. Informal leaders take initiative to improve the unit or act when opportunities present themselves without being told by a formal leader. This mentality is ingrained from day one in basic training.

To further advocate for veterans to consider law enforcement, I will reference the Marine Corps Leadership Traits.

1. We need your dependability
Your high level of discipline provides the dependability needed to keep our communities safe. Law enforcement is paramilitary in nature and thus requires a level of discipline regarding adherence to orders. I will never forget drill instructors making us repeat the phrase “discipline is instant willingness, obedience to orders, self-reliance and teamwork, sir” for 2 hours straight in basic training.

2. We need your courage, decisiveness, bearing and judgment
Active violence incidents are an unfortunate reality. These incidents serve as the climax for law enforcement as they are on the frontlines for these incidents. It’s the one thing you spend countless hours training for, but hope to never experience. However, when the time comes to act, the time to prepare has long passed. Having the ability to make correct, rapid decisions while maintaining composure under duress is the key to making sure everyone comes home alive at the end of a shift.

3. We need your endurance
Law enforcement agencies are doing more with less. This isn’t a foreign concept to the military either. Both professions require long hours and dedication in order to accomplish the mission set forth. I recall times going without a shower for almost a month while overseas. I also recall times being out on patrol for multiple days at a time, often with very little or sometimes no sleep. This experience has allowed me to take everything in my law enforcement career, as well as my life, into perspective. Being held over late for a few hours dealing with an incident at work could be a lot worse. The military trained me to be prepared for the mental and emotional toll the law enforcement profession can take on us at times.

4. We need your enthusiasm
Veterans know the pride of wearing a uniform for their respective military branch of service. This can be continued through a career in local law enforcement. Think of your local police department as its own branch of service, but instead there are thousands of different branches with their own subculture.

5. We need your initiative
Law enforcement needs people who want to do the right thing without being instructed to do so. A go-getter attitude combined with military discipline can help elevate the level of service law enforcement has been known to provide. Taking initiative allows for you to make your own luck rather than waiting for opportunities that may never present themselves. Remember, luck is preparation meeting opportunity.

6. We need your integrity and tact
Integrity and tact go a long way in this profession and will mold the reputation you build for yourself as a police officer to many factions of people: your peers, your supervisors, the judicial system and the community we are sworn to serve. The values of never lying, cheating or stealing serve as the foundation for what law enforcement is based upon. Additionally, the tact you bring will help strengthen the bond between law enforcement and the community you serve.

7. We need your sense of justice
Every occupation in the military supports the overall mission of bringing foreign enemies to justice. The mission of local, state and federal law enforcement is no different, but with a more domestic focus. Bringing enemies to justice is the primary mission of both professions.

8. We need your knowledge
Veterans have exposure to tactics, training and procedures that have been used for many years in past operations. Additionally, veterans have thousands of hours of experience with various weapons systems. This knowledge and experience can be used as a resource for developing a department’s firearms policy and procedure or for increasing the department’s overall proficiency in weapons usage and maintenance. This provides an opportunity for the veteran to be an informal leader by stepping into a leadership role which can improve a department’s overall preparedness for a critical incident.

9. We need your loyalty
Devotion to a cause greater than yourself is one of the most honorable things a person can do for their country. The unwavering loyalty displayed to your peers, supervisors and your unit’s mission can prove to be an example for newer officers in how to carry themselves throughout their career.

10. We need your unselfishness
Every veteran and police officer knows the honor it would be to take a bullet for another brother or sister in arms if it meant saving their life. Self-sacrifice is the most unselfish act a human can do for their country or community. Both professions are proud of this ultimate display of brotherhood. We’re proud to sacrifice ourselves for society’s benefit.

Serving your country is a calling that very few answer. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in 2008, there were 765,000 total sworn officers employed in America. Law enforcement allows for that call to be answered in a different yet equally as important capacity as well as providing a seamless transition to civilian life. The exclusivity of being a veteran or a law enforcement officer strengthens the bond one has with their peers within the profession. This association is what drives us to continue looking out for each other and doing the right thing for our communities.

Veterans should see serving in law enforcement as a continuance of answering the call to service in a different uniform closer to home. It provides a similar fulfillment and war stories that the military has come to be known for. Serving in a local, state or federal capacity may just be the solution to the void discovered by many once the end of active service arrives.

I couldn’t be more honored to be able to continue my service to my country in the capacity I currently am. I don’t feel by serving a smaller area that I’m making a lesser impact than I was when I was enlisted in the military. If anything, I feel I am making a bigger impact with a greater sense of fulfillment that keeps me driven to succeed each and every day.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all past, present, and future veterans for their service to our wonderful nation. Your service and sacrifice will never be forgotten or silenced. Semper Fidelis.

Andrew Rathbun previously served with the Michigan State University Police Department. Andrew was assigned to the Uniform Division for four years prior to transferring to the Investigative Division’s Digital Forensics and Cyber Crime Unit (DFCCU). He specialized in digital forensics and cybercrime, as well as conducting general investigations. Andrew also served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve as a rifleman. Andrew served one combat tour to Fallujah, Iraq, in 2006-2007 with his infantry unit out of Michigan. In continuation of his service, he works with the Michigan State University Communication Arts and Sciences department on various PTSD awareness campaigns. Andrew earned his bachelor’s from Western Michigan University in Criminal Justice/Sociology and his master’s from Central Michigan University in Human Resources Administration.