19 things cops wish they knew before they joined law enforcement

You never truly get the full picture until you're actually in law enforcement


You probably thought you had a good idea of what things were going to be like when you first started your career, but you never truly get the full picture until you're actually in law enforcement.

We recently asked our readers to tell us what they wish they’d known before they became cops. Here is a roundup of the responses we received.

After you've read these, be sure to check out reader Randy Harris' longer, deep-dive response here. Email us to share what you think, or complete the box below.

(Photo/PoliceOne)
  1. “As a police administrator, I did have a lot of authority, but you quickly realize that the council has the power to put you out. So, you learn it is a balancing act from day one: Everyone is watching you, everyone (thinks) they can do it better and some want to hurt you.” – Preta1586
  2. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a LEO; however, I had no idea how much of our personal time is sacrificed.  As a longtime trainer, I always made it a point to discuss this issue to try to prepare recruits for the inevitable disappointment of missing some special times with family and friends.” – Bob Bojcic
  3. “A favorite axiom I coined after becoming an officer is: ‘Put on a badge, hit the streets, and get the other half of your education.’

    I've done a lot of things in my life but LE is at the top of the list for exposing the unbelievable amount of pure evil that consumes a large percentage of the population.” – Lee Marion
  4. “Just how much sadness and anger comes over you when you find out your brother or sister was hurt or killed. It can be talked about, but never fully understood until experienced and unfortunately we experience it too often.” – Jenna Shaw
  5. “Not everyone appreciates the police like you did/do. Learning that was tough.” – Blain Hatch
  6. “My very first call was where a woman had intentionally burned a two-year-old with an iron. I wasn’t prepared for the emotional toll it takes on you, but I learned to adapt, accept and do my best job and never looked back.” – Brek Henry
  7. “That 95% of your shift is pure boredom/paperwork, 2.5% of the time you are just amazed you didn’t die and 2.5% of the time you are wondering how the person you are dealing with has survived this long.” – Nic Holas
  8. “No matter how hard you try, the hatred and disrespect will get to you.” – Anthony Salinas
  9. “You can never get the dead bodies out of your memories whether natural or otherwise.” – Dennis Bryson
  10. “A career in LE will ultimately accelerate what you truly are as a person.” – Robert Anthony
  11. “You will be involved in a life-changing event, you will struggle, some make it, some don’t. One thing is certain: the ‘it won’t happen to me’ mentality couldn’t be farther from the truth.” – Clayton Johnson
  12. “Sitting in a car with all this gear ain’t great for your lower back.” – Kevin Kray
  13. “You can be both tactical and humane. Because over the course of 25 years, you will need to use both techniques. One will protect your body and one will protect your conscience.” – Jennifer Susan
  14. “You are always a cop in everyone’s eyes. Between that and your lack of trust in everyone (everyone lies and everyone is a criminal) it can destroy marriages if you let the job define you. Find the healthy balance between being aware of your surroundings at all times and trusting your loved ones while living a happy and healthy home life.” – Andrea Lee
  15. “I wish I had known how fast it would pass by. I loved every minute!” – Dave May
  16. “Don’t get a Criminal Justice degree. You learn most of that stuff in the academy and FTO training.

    Get a degree in another field that you can associate with police-related needs: computers, etc. A CJ degree doesn’t guarantee you a job in LE, and once in, you may find LE is not for you, or you might have to leave the field for a number of reasons (downsizing, injury, etc.).

    By having a degree in another field, you can smoothly move to another job after LE.” – Kraig Kirves
  17. “The nights you decide you want to take it easy because you’re tired, sick, etc., typically turn out to be the busiest and craziest.” – Barrett Nearn
  18. “That one mistake will erase a million great decisions in a moment.” – Monty Cristo
  19. “I wish I knew that when chasing after others, the possibility of losing yourself is stronger every time you do. Know who you are before getting into this job. Accept it as a job and not a lifestyle.” – Benny David

NEXT: What I wished I had known before, during and near the end of my police career

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