From Military to Law Enforcement: Tips for Making the Transition
Many of the attributes veterans have developed during their time in the service make them ideal candidates for work in civilian law enforcement. Hard work, dedication, clarity in stressful situations, and adherence to a stated mission make the transition to law enforcement an obvious potential next step after your Expiration of Active Obligated Service (EAOS). But if you’re considering a transition into civilian law enforcement, there are a few tips and recommendations that can help make the move a success.
There are several differences you’ll encounter as you begin the hiring process. For example, as with many professional civilian jobs, the hiring process from interview to hire can stretch for weeks and even months. Consider that in your planning, and try to prepare accordingly. Start making plans at least a year before your EAOS and think about where you would live and what you would live off if you had a significant gap between paychecks.
You may need to travel to your prospective city of employment multiple times, so consider that it might be helpful to still be in the military at that time, where you are still receiving a paycheck and are able to take leave. If you don’t have a specific city or area in mind, you can apply for openings in a wide range of locations, which can be exciting. But be sure to either check out the city first-hand before things get too serious, or have someone who lives there give you an honest perspective. A recruiting brochure or city’s website might not give you the true feel of what life would be like for you and your family if you were to move there.
When doing your initial research, you can also call a department and ask specific questions to help gain an accurate perspective on what your experience would entail. For example, you can ask if the department:
- Waves residency requirements for military veterans?
- Holds their own academy or sends recruits to a regional one?
- Pays during the academy?
- Is actively hiring or just filling the hiring pool?
While money is not everything, it’s important to take a long, hard look at your expenses and the salaries offered by various departments, remembering that while the numbers might seem quite a bit higher than your time in the service, they do not come with many of the benefits you and your family received while in the military. Things like housing, meals, health care, and even uniform may or may not be covered in the listed salary you’d be receiving in the civilian world.
You may also want to consider creating a resume or at least a handy contact list to help you fill out employment applications. While it can be challenging to keep up with past supervisors and references due to transfers, the personnel department at your command can be very helpful. Your future employer will most likely ask for names and contact information for previous supervisors, so build that into your preparation work. Also, be sure you have access to your DD 214, as you’ll need it for most applications.
While you are preparing for the application process, take a moment to review your online presence, especially your social media profiles. It only takes a few moments to remove your own posts or untag yourself from photos that might not cast you in the best light. You can be sure that your future employer will be checking your profiles, at least in passing, and you don’t want indiscretions from your past, even minor ones, to paint a negative picture. You can also choose options that prevent people from tagging you or posting to your wall to ensure you have total control over your social media presence.
A serious but important thing to consider is your mental preparedness for police work. While your past in military service most definitely has taught you the discipline and hard work necessary for law enforcement – not to mention a familiarity with firearms – the work will put you into stressful, sometimes violent situations. If you have any lingering stress-related issues from your prior service, you may want to spend some time resolving that and even receiving counseling if needed before pursuing a law enforcement career. Many servicemembers make excellent law enforcement agents and have no issues with this, but it is important to be honest and aware of the type of work you will be encountering to give you the highest chance of success.
You have served your country with honor and know what it means to protect others around the globe with courage in dangerous situations. Your experience makes you an obvious fit to protecting civilians in the United States in the very same way. With a little research and preparation, you’ll fit the right line of law enforcement that builds on your military career, and gives you the chance to keep making a difference in the world by serving and protecting.
Written by Megan Hammons