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Police academy or college?

I want to become a police officer to make a difference, but I don’t know how. Public Safety needs people like you, says our elder. Follow your dream!

Dear EWC

I’m 16 years old and I’m really stressed about my future career. I want to become an officer for the police force. With all this horrible stuff happening it’s what feels right. I’m so sick of hearing about these young black people being shot because they were walking down the street. I know that on my own I can’t change everyone, but if I can save just one of these kids and make sure they’re safe, then maybe it will spark a chain reaction. Sorry for the ‘self righteous rant’. I know it gets old.

Anyways, I’m stressed because I don’t know where I should go. Should I go to the police academy and train there? And stay at home with a mother who’s been emotionally abusive and has told me straight to my face that she does not support my dream to become a detective. Or should I go to college and get a degree in law enforcement and figure out what to do there? I’ve been dying to leave this place I really don’t want to stay because my mom is really homophobic and she doesn’t care about her children’s happiness or mental health. But I’m also not weak. I could stand a couple of years, I guess. I’ll be 18 in the late summer but that’s after college starts and I don’t know what to do. I’m sorry.

Cairnie replies

No need to ever apologize for thinking about your future and seeking advice. Your thinking about a career in law enforcement and criminal justice is honorable, and I applaud your desire to serve the public. We need passionate and compassionate people like you in Public Safety!

From everything I have seen and read, training only at the police academy does not seem adequate to prepare future officers for the complexity of situations they’ll need to respond to, especially under pressure and under scrutiny. For this reason, my advice would be to pursue a college degree in some area of Public Safety, Law Enforcement and/or Criminal Justice. I believe the future holds more opportunity for someone with a college degree in this field — more credibility and more opportunities for promotion.

If you can afford it (and there may be scholarships. loans, work/study, etc to help with tuition), consider college. Look into your local community/county college if affordability is an issue, and see if they have courses and/or a field of study toward this degree.

With the Covid pandemic right now, you might not even be taking courses on campus, but rather remotely from home, so that’s worth looking into right now, too. More colleges seem to be preparing for remote learning for the near future, such as at least the fall semester.

Your letter also seems to refer to conflict with your mother, but you’re not really asking me a question, so I’m not going to offer any specific advice, other than to build a social network and safety net that includes people who care about you, support you, and nurture you and your dreams.

This is your dream, and no one can or should take it away from you. You sound strong and clear-minded. Make decisions for yourself that keep you safe, healthy, grounded and on a path of happiness and fulfillment. It sounds to me like that means working in Public Safety. I say go for it!

Take care, and good luck. I see a wonderful future ahead of you!

Letter #: 462101
Category: Career

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