Can a career in law enforcement bridge the gap between military and civilian life?
There aren't many nine-to-five jobs that offer the same excitement you experienced in the military
The skills and duties prized in the military are vastly different than those most jobs require in civilian life. The idea of leaving behind the fatigues and rifle for a desk job can be a terrifying change. Not all jobs have to be drastically different, though. In fact, many ex-military professionals have found a path that’s a perfect fit for the transition — law enforcement.
Why law enforcement is a natural fit
A number of parallels between the two professions make many veterans feel at home and connected to a family like their military family. Law enforcement agencies are often a paramilitary structure, which means that military veterans likely share many skills and habits with law enforcement. Both professions are known for their love and commitment to community and country, too.
“When I left the service I was only 20 years old and could not find a job that could provide me with the responsibilities I routinely enjoyed as a member of the service,” said Joe Gandurski, a 31-year veteran of the Chicago PD after he retired from the U.S. Army. His search for the perfect profession eventually led him to law enforcement.
“I applied for the police department in the hopes that they could provide me with a challenging career,” Gandurski said. “While on patrol, I learned a lot, made some great friends, and it satisfied my desire to make a difference.”
Rob Wilson, U.S. Army (ret.) and LEO (ret.) agrees that law enforcement is a natural progression for military veterans and advises vets to do a little research.
“If you are beginning to transition and are building a resume, make sure that you are going to a military-friendly and military-minded department,” he said. “It makes going from one realm to the other much easier.”
Law enforcement wants you, too
Many departments value their military veteran candidates. The structure, organization and responsibility that come along with retired military members make for an easy culture fit. There are many tools to help set you up for the transition, too:
- Did you know there is a military transition program available?
- Some departments offer discounts and priority for veterans. The San Jose Police Department (California) offers 50 percent off the PELLETB fees and WSTB, as well as Veteran Preference Test Points.
- Most departments are eligible for GI benefits compensation for on-the-job training and police academy participation.
What are the challenges of transitioning into law enforcement?
Transitioning doesn’t always come easy, of course. According to Pew Research Center, 27 percent of all veterans said their re-entry into civilian life was difficult, at least at times. Even if you’ve found your dream position in law enforcement, you’ll likely run into issues you weren’t prepared for.
Dealing with past trauma is one challenge.
“Be sure to take care of any underlying mental health issues you may have from your military experience, because I have found police work will amplify these and will also add its demons to the mix,” said Wilson. “This can be difficult for some guys and gals, especially those who have seen a lot of trigger time.”
Jon Tasch, retired naval officer and retired FBI special agent said the most major hardship he needed to overcome while transitioning was missing the sense of brotherhood.
“There wasn’t as much camaraderie in the FBI as I experienced within the military. I was surprised by that,” he said. “When you are in an organization like the military, and you go overseas for extended periods of time, it breeds a culture of esprit de corps.”
There are many opportunities for military veterans to transition into law enforcement. No one says transitioning is easy, but finding a career that shares the same values and culture as your military background is a great way to start.
- Veterans Resources