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The question asked once again...how do you do it?


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  • The question asked once again...how do you do it?

    I am at a crossroads here and would like any feedback you may have. I apologize because this question has been posted many times already. I've wanted to be in law enforcement from the time I left high school, specifically for the USSS. This is mostly due to friends of family and friends (I grew up in the same city as an ex-prez) serving and having quite an impression on me.

    I agreed to go to college and pursue a non LE-related field, (because CJ is useless, right? not) which wasn't supposed to hurt me at all. I put in my three years post grad and applied. Well, I have options...but nothing like I was led to believe back in th' day. Due to the lack of directly relevant experience, I would be put at the low end of the grade level. The main sticking point is that the pay will be waaay less for several years and it will be shift work.

    Okay...the question. As much as I want to do it, how tough IS IT to sacrifice it all for such a relatively low salary? I hate my current job and feel totally unfulfilled. I feel like a heel for worrying so much about money, but I do want to start a family in the near future. Everyone in my circle is encouraging me, but they don't have to make the financial decision. What do you do to subsidize your income, if anything?

    Should I just take the plunge and at least "try?"

    Thanks for any responses and for letting me ramble!


  • #2
    You are not alone in your delema. Almost everyone who has worked prior to going into LE takes a pay cut, at least for a while.

    Only YOU can decide if it is worth it or not. Perhaps you have a wife that could work (if she isn't already) until you get on your feet.

    OBTW AND FWIW you are talking about starting at the bottom and doing shift work. First off, your education is NOT going to get you into a LE job where you DON'T have to start at the bottom. However it will certainly help you to climb through the ranks quicker. In the long run, it was well worth getting your degree(s).

    As to the shift work, that is strictly up to the department. You may be stuck on shift work ALL of your career. Or you may be able to "bid" on a straight shift (after you get your whiskers.) That really does depend on the department, what it's size is and what assignment you have.

    One thing I can tell you. If you have "always" wanted to do this then FOR GOD SAKES DO IT! If you don't, you will always be thinking "I Should have" or "I Wish I had." Look at it this way. In twenty years, you will be twenty years older and looking back on things. Will you be saying "I did what I wanted to do" or will you STILL be saying "Gee, I REALLY WISH I HAD?"

    If you really want it bad enough, you WILL find a way. Many of us here have been in a similar situation. I put myself through an academy with a wife and two small children. No, it was NOT easy and I never would have been able to do it without the support at home. But it can be done.

    Good luck on whatever you decide.
    6P1 (retired)


    • #3
      I'm a part-time LEO...and a full-time teacher. I can tell you for a FACT, I don't do EITHER for the money!
      "When you guys get home and face an anti-war protester, look him in the eyes and shake his hand. Then, wink at his girlfriend, because she knows she's dating a *****."
      -Commanding General, 1st Marine Division


      • #4
        It should be your decision and the person you with since you mentioned about starting a family. Low pay is one of the problems of being a LEO. If both of you are not happy with the decision you make there are going to be problems. If your married or whatever how will she feel about being alone while you work the night watch, not home on the holidays, there are other things to consider other than just the money. Than there is the money. If I would have never had a real estate license I never would have made it. But I had to put in quite a few years before I could even do that. I just lined up my details and worked as many as I could. We great down here for not hiring enough police but there was always a lot of overtime and details due to the party atmosphere of the city. I'd really think things over before you make the leap but if you do I wouldn't look back. Satisfaction in what you do is all worth it as long as your mate agrees. Good Luck.
        Stay safe and watch your back. Survived Katrina. Now a Official member of the Chocolate City Police.


        • #5
          thanks for the replies. sometimes people just need a swift kick in the rear.

          I am definitely worried about retiring one day and wondering what might have been...never really contributing. I just think it's crazy that the people putting their butts on the line are the ones out there making little more than somebody at the GAP (no offense to any LEOs or GAP workers).

          Perhaps I just compromise...work the job I am in and become some type of superhero by night? If it were only that easy!


          • #6
            Originally posted by Wilbret:

            Perhaps I just compromise...work the job I am in and become some type of superhero by night? If it were only that easy!
            Ah my friend, you have done struck a chord there. Have you ever thought about being a RESERVE officer??? You get to keep your big bucks job, but go out on nights and/or weekends and be a cop.

            The academy may or may not be the same as a regular officer, depending on the state you are in. But in many departments once a reserve has fulfilled all of the training requirements, including a field training program, they get to take a car and cover their own beat. Other departments may work it where the reserve only rides with a regular. Either way, it is a service to the community, and a good way to find out if you REALLY want to get into this insanity called law enforcement as a full time job. Many of us on this forum started out as reserves ( including me.) In fact quite a few of our members are reserves right now.

            I can
            6P1 (retired)


            • #7
              Great idea about the reserves. I asked a cop in my neighborhood about that once, and he didn't really know the answer. I failed to follow up, though. I'll check into it and let you guys (and ladies) know what the good word is.


              • #8
                I know this was several days ago but I just got back into town & I wanted to throw my two cents worth in.

                It was never about the money. Of course, money makes the world go round & you've got to have it but you can make ends meet with a little sacrifice. The wife working is a big help but it took a lot of overtime jobs & second jobs to raise the boys. Once they left things got a lot better. Plus during that time, promotions and raises helped put me at a comfortable level. My wife still goes to someone's housewarming & comes home & sighs but we're doing alright.

                What I mean is, you can make it if it's what you want. But I definitely agree that it needs to be thought out & talked out with your life partner.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Pigskin:
                  The wife working is a big help but it took a lot of overtime jobs & second jobs to raise the boys. Once they left things got a lot better. Plus during that time, promotions and raises helped put me at a comfortable level.
                  Man isn't that the truth! It is a sad fact of life, that when you have kids in school, and need the money the most, happens to coincide with the time in your life when you are just barely able to get by.

                  And then by the time the kids are grown and (hopefully) on their own, when you don't need the money so bad, is when your earning capacity is at it's greatest!

                  [ 05-21-2002: Message edited by: Don ]
                  6P1 (retired)


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Wilbret:
                    Great idea about the reserves. I asked a cop in my neighborhood about that once, and he didn't really know the answer.
                    If that cop doesn't know what a reserve officer is, it's likely due to either that department not having any, or even your state not having any.

                    Or, reserve officers in your particular state may be known as Auxiliary Officers.

                    In some states, reserve/auxiliary officers have the same powers as the full-timers while on duty, although the actual deployment of such officers will vary from department to department.

                    In other states reserve/auxiliary officers aren't even armed, and a few go even further by not granting them powers of arrest.

                    I would contact either your state's agency responsible for overseeing police officer training (it may have the word "POST" in its name, meaning Peace/Police Officer Standards and Training) or else the academy where your local police department sends its recruits.

                    [ 05-21-2002: Message edited by: Sig220Man ]


                    • #11
                      As posted, it's definitely not the money which brings people to LE. I think of it more like a "calling," like to the Priesthood. There are so many times when I'm doing my job and thinking "wow...someone's actually paying me to do this!" (meaning it is so enjoyable, I would do it for free!).

                      It was unclear whether you were looking to go USSS Uniformed or Agent.

                      In the case of Agents, the pay is DAMN good. Yes, they start out a lower GS than some other federal agencies, but you blow though them until you get your 13 fairly quickly. Not to mention the "availability pay" and, in the USSS, the MAJOR overtime. USSS Agents almost always spend their first few years on protective details, which require an enourmous amount of travel, hence overtime.

                      Because of the need to attract Agents, most federal agencies stepped up their pay scales a few years ago so that people got through the grades faster. In the FBI, you get your 13 after 5 years now. With the availability pay thrown in, that's in the neighborhood of $80K per year. After that, raises come very slowly, unless you step up into management.

                      Good luck with whatever you decide and stay safe.
                      Anything I post is personal opinion and not the official or unofficial policy of my employer.


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