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ADVICE NEEDED: Firefighter thinking of switching to Police


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  • ADVICE NEEDED: Firefighter thinking of switching to Police

    Dear Law Enforcement Officers and Non-LEOs who wish to help,

    How are you? My name is Greg. A little background on me: I'm 25 years old, currently residing in Broward County, Florida. I'm 5'9, very fit and athletic, a caring and compassionate person. I'm college educated with a BA degree in English from the University of Central Florida.

    I have a simple question, but with a long explanation.

    Throughout my life, I have been interested in public service. Typically, throughout my childhood I envisioned (daydreamed) of myself as a crimefighter. When I was in college at UCF (2002-2006), I majored in English because I enjoyed writing stories about heroes, law enforcement officers, etc. However, very soon into my undergraduate course work, I realized I wanted to go into public service and not merely write about it. Not wanting to switch majors and prolong college for 1 or 2 additional years, I continued my English major and added a minor in Criminal Justice to my workload. I really liked it. I found it all incredibly interesting and enjoyed my minor classes more than my major classes. When I did ride-times with the local police department, I found the job to be exciting, interesting, and varied (even the mundane, slow parts, like report writing, didn't bother me - I was an English major, after all, and used to writing 20 page research papers!) However, herein lied my problem: I was a very quiet guy, ultra-nice, meek, and not very assertive. When I graduated college, I decided to go into Fire/Rescue instead because I knew I wanted to help people, serve the public, and I was willing on trading my interest in law, ethics, criminality, for firefighting/paramedic knowledge. Hell, I even had a life-long interest in learning martial arts/fighting, but I put that on the backburner as well, even though I was into working out/being athletic. All in all, I felt I just didn't have the "required attitude" to be a police officer. To put it frankly, I was kinda a nerd/dork in college.

    Over 1 1/2 yrs went by. I enjoyed EMT-B and Paramedic school (mostly because that's where the person-to-person contact was and I like being a community service agent and talking to people and solving their problems). Fire Academy, on the other hand, was challenging, and I performed well and I loved the bonds of friendships I built with the other Academy cadets, but to be honest, the actual "tasks" of firefighting (a very mechanical job, using hand tools, learning building construction, ventilation, using hoses, learning about water supply, wearing the bunker gear, mastering endless amounts of equipment, having engine/pump panel knowledge, etc.) did not spark my interests much and paled in comparison to my exploration of Criminal Justice during my minor studies a year prior to starting this.

    To be honest, I found the raw-material/hands-on/know-how of firefighting tasks to be boring...

    Zooming further into the future...

    A funny thing happened though. After securing my certifications (EMT-B, EMT-P, Firefighter II, ACLS, PALS, CPR, etc.) the impossible occurred: I got hired by a highly reputable fire department in South Florida.

    And then it hit me...

    Like a sledgehammer to the face, I REALLY started to feel a strong personal regret. Something was "missing". Something "was not right" inside myself. Three months into the job and I'm really starting to think I should of stuck with Criminal Justice and a career in Law Enforcement. Sure, the job is great, no doubt, but here are the most meaty reasons to my current dilemma: 1) I like the medical side (riding Rescue/paramedic tasks), but as foreshadowed earlier, the fire-related aspects of the job just don't "do it for me"... they don't j*** me up as much as the idea of chasing down criminals, taking bad people off the streets, investigations, does... 2) Looking into my future with the department, all my promotional opportunities/higher-rank positions are related to the fire side (Driver Engineer, Ladder or Tiller Operator, etc.). They hardly interest me. Likewise, the incentives and extra certifications (Haz-Mat, TRT, Dive Rescue), also don't get me very excited. I'm concerned about my future and whether or not I'll ever advance in a department where the opportunities afforded to me just do spark any enthusiasm in me. On the flip side, I know of the opportunities afforded through most municipal police departments/state/federal and A LOT of them intrigued me greatly.

    When I explain it this way, it seems like an easy, "no-brainer" decision...

    However, I'm not taking this lightly. A job in Fire/Rescue is so very hard to achieve and not something you just "throw away"... Obviously, the fire department saw strong qualities in me, and I feel bad ****ing it all away for a change of career at this stage in the game. Fortunately though, I've grown up a lot (mostly thanks to fire academy and in-department training) and I'm much more confident in myself and more assertive than I was during my college years.

    I currently have a ride-time scheduled with a Police Department this Saturday, a day off of my Fire/Rescue shift, and I'm hoping that helps me.

    So what is everyone's input? Should I make the switch?

    Any Law Enforcement Officers have any advice for me?

    What questions should I be asking myself?

    Anyone know any Firefighters who switched to Police? Is it advisable?

    Somethings I already know from being on the job....

    I know Police are not as "widely hailed as heroes" as Firefighters are. The public mostly feels suspicious and hassled by them, but trust me I didn't get into public service because I want to be praised all the time.

    Both Police and Firefighters/Paramedics do a lot of report writing. I hear that's something most "new recruits for police" are surprised by initially. Well, I won't be surprised because it's nothing new for me.

    Also, my family's first reaction to my desire to switch was "Why don't you become a nurse instead"? Okay, that makes logical sense, but seriously, hospitals are like libraries to me... stale, mostly quiet (except during a trauma alert in the ER), and just bland... I am an adrenaline junky, I do like speeding to calls, and danger, and excitement... so, yeah, no nursing for me.

    Thanks for your help,


  • #2
    Originally posted by FirefighterGreg View Post
    I am an adrenaline junky, I do like speeding to calls, and danger, and excitement... so, yeah, no nursing for me.
    I didn't mean this to be interpreted as meaning I was some action-jackson, leap-and-not-think kinda guy who thinks police work is going to be like how the movies portray it. Similar to fire/rescue, showing up at the call safely is better than showing up fast. I was merely pointing out the fact that a career in nursing was of no interest to me, as some members of my family were quick to suggest. I like the community involvement, being out in the city, on my feet, in a vehicle, etc. Being stuck in a hospital would bore me.



    • #3
      I did a ride-along with a big city police department last night...

      this was my second ride-along (I did another back in college)

      It was the graveyard shift I was supposed to ride all night long but unfortunately there was something going on (I never found out what) and my ride-along didn't start until midnight and it ended at 4:30am instead of 7:30am like it was supposed to... this was due to a police officer getting shot (in the hand) and a perimeter had to be set up for CSI, the detectives, to keep news media out, etc. and since as a "visitor" I wasn't aloud to just chill at the perimeter, and the police officer I rode with wouldn't be taking any more calls, he advised I just go home (not being rude, just making sense)... and I'm going to ride-along again this Friday night since my ride-along was only 4 instead of 10 hours long...

      Any ways, in the four hours we stopped a local guy in the wrong part of town who is always looking for crack and the police officer spoke to him and searched him for drugs, we searched around a building that supposedly had been burglarized but we didn't see any evidence of it, and then we went lights-sirens to the shooting. I wasn't aloud to approach the scene.

      So here were my thoughts: On my ride-along, when we went lights/sirens screaming down the road because dispatch advised "shots fired" inside of a neighborhood, I felt way more excited about getting there and getting on scene than I ever have riding in the back of a fire engine to a fire or in the back of a rescue truck to a medical alarm. Also, I spoke in detail with the police officer about all the things you can do (SWAT, Detective, Juvenile Unit, etc.) and so much of it interests me far more than the future with the fire department (Driver Engineer, Haz-Mat team, etc.). We talked about guys in the PD that taught Ju Jit Su to the other officers and that really excites me because I'd really love to learn that stuff. So since my ride-along was only 4 hours, I really can't comment much on what I thought of the calls, since we only had three, and we only got out of the vehicle once to talk to one frequent-flyer drug addict, but even still, the job is extremely interesting to me. I will admit this though - I can definitely sense that police work is far more dangerous than being a firefighter. Sure, when all hell breaks loose, firefighters are expected to perform at a super-human level (you try wearing all that gear that shots up your body temperature, inside a building thats like a billion degrees, crawling around, chopping and swinging and cutting at stuff, dragging out bodies, etc.)... but on a normal day-to-day basis I can see a clear difference in police work and firefighter/paramedic work.... police, on every call, are encountering people who do not like them... meanwhile, firefighters are meeting little old ladies who have chest pain and would like to go to the hospital... so I can see where the differences are... I'm not dumb, deaf, and blind to the clear differences in the two professions.


      • #4
        This job is not as exciing as you posted. We work with people like you and do mundane tasks as well. 99% boredom 1% sheer terror like most will tell you. I would do what you think you should do and go where your skills suit you best.


        • #5
          A friend of mine was a fire fighter before becoming a cop. Four years into the cop job, he kinda had enough and tried to go back to the FD. Unfortunately for him, there is a hiring freeze around here.

          In Police work, alot of people dislike you. You will be lied to almost all day every day. I could care less if people dislike me. The decent people in society seem to be fine with the Police. The lies get to me. People think cops are stupid. They all think they know how to be a cop. I would never tell a chef how to cook a 5 star meal, but I bet the chef will tell me how to do my job. My suggestion would be to do a few ride alongs and see what you think. Maybe look for a PD that has part time cops and see about getting on there while you're still on with the FD.


          • #6
            Everyone loves a firefighter, no one loves a cop.
            "The wicked flee when no man pursueth
            but the righteous are bold as a lion"

            Proverbs 28:1, inscription beneath NLEOM lion.sigpic


            • #7
              Originally posted by Highwaylaw View Post
              Everyone loves a firefighter, no one loves a cop.
              Well, some do, but they'll get you in trouble.
              summer - winter - work


              • #8
                Stick with Fire and join a reserve with a city department in the broward area as a reserve policeman if you really want to pursue it.

                be a reserve for a year or more and see if you like it. If you like it, join a department with an FRS pension.

                Since i assume your firefighter in broward, you must be under the FRS pension. Keep in mind that the years of FRS can be moved into other departments that also participate in FRS pension programs.

                Basically, dont lose any sleep over it


                • #9
                  I posted this question on 3 police forums with "ask a cop" sections... it seems a lot of police officers working in the profession are bitter about their profession not being as well liked or well perceived by the public as firefighters are. I completely understand the public view of police officers. So my question is did all the LEOs here realize the job was like this? or was it a surprise? does it really depress you that much? I didn't go into firefighting so I could be praised and loved by the public.


                  • #10
                    I always wanted to work in law enforcement too and was a volunteer firefighter. I have bad days when I question my decision to work in LE but I have a lot more good days. Some days I feel down because I didn't have enough time to work all the areas in my zone I wanted to work (as in look for dope and other criminal activity).
                    As with any profession there are going to be parts of the job that you will like and others you're going to hate. Just like your current job. So like the others have suggested try LE part time. In FL you can go through the academy part time and work full time. This will allow you to try LE and still keep your current job. If later you decide you don't like LE you can stay in Fire / Rescue. By the way have you considered arson investigations? Maybe you could work that angle to your benefit?


                    • #11
                      Personally, unless this is a job you have wanted to do since you were young, i wouldnt recommend doing it.

                      we can all give you a thousand opinions of the job, but the only for you to find out is to try it out.


                      • #12
                        They don't call me careerchange for nuthin! I switched from the FD to the PD years ago and haven't looked back since. I enjoy the broad range of activites I can partake in each shift vs. the "grandma down" or "junkie down" calls I ran all day and night with the FD.


                        • #13
                          What made you switch CareerChange?


                          • #14
                            If I was in your shoes I would have a very difficult time giving up the schedule most firefighters enjoy. At least where I work the firefighters work 24 hour shifts and get paid to watch tv, workout, and sleep. My own observation is fire departments care much more about the welfare and health of their employees than most police departments. I love law enforcement, but it sounds like you have a pretty good gig. It's not only what you want to do now it's also where you want to be in ten years. I've never heard any stats about high divorce, suicide, and death rates amongst firefighters. Maybe they are out there, but they are not nearly as highly publicized as those stats for police officers. In my city on any given night we have 3-4 more times the number of firefighters on duty in their various stations handling about 1/3 of the calls we handle. You guys have it pretty good from my perspective. If you really are interested in law enforcement why not try and combine the best of both worlds and either be a reserve or work towards an arson investigator type of track if your department offers that.


                            • #15
                              Why not explore a career with your state fire mashal's office? There you get to be a fire-related LEO, which might fit your background & interests to a "tee".

                              Or look in to the fire/arson/explosives side of BATFE - similar idea at the federal level.

                              I started out as a fire guy (FF/EMT/pumper operator & ladder truck driver) & still volunteer occasionally at the local level (very small town) but went LE 18 years ago & never looked back, as that was my intention all along. Discussing the subject with a small-city deputy fire chief one day - he asked "why?" right when a call came over his station speakers for an "80-year-old-male with a severe rectal bleed' and I smiled at him and said "That's why." While preparing for LE I studied fire/EMS stuff on the side, which was a good thing as when I got out of school & got married, there were no LE jobs in my area but fire was hiring. Got my foot in the door & a paycheck to boot, but no intention of staying in that career field. When the LE job openned up - there I went and here I am.

                              There are ups & downs to both fire & LE - go with your skills, interests, and most of all your heart and you will have the answer.
                              The opinions expressed here are from the individual only and do not represent the view of any agency that the poster may be affiliated with


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