Law Enforcement or Active Duty Commission

99charles

New Member
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Apr 20, 2016
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6
Currently a criminal justice major and a contracted cadet in the Army ROTC.

I am deciding between pursuing active duty in the combat arms OR getting a reserve commission and joining a police department as my full time job. Always wanted to serve in the military but I also know my long term goal is to work local or federal law enforcement. Anyone have any advice (or experience) as to doing reserves and becoming a LEO right after college, or going into LE after serving 4-6 years active duty?
Thanks
 

kinnem

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Why not a third alternative? Go active but try to get into the Military Police? Sounds like the best of both worlds to me. Of course I have no idea what it takes to become an MP.
 

Capt MJ

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@99charles

Perhaps you will be lucky to get posts from some with LE background.

I can give you the perspective that 4 of our USNA sponsor family midshipmen, after 5-7 years active duty, are active agents with various federal “ABC” agencies, and several of my former junior officers, from a variety of commissioning sources, separated and went on to careers in some field of law enforcement. They had various majors - ocean engineering, physics, history, systems engineering - and various military specialties - Marine communications, surface warfare, aviation, EOD. None of them had your major or any LE background. Two of this group are with elite teams doing Interesting Things.

What they had in common is highly valued by employers in law enforcement: performance in stressful environments, understanding of rules of engagement, proven leadership ability, working as part of a team, communications and technical skills, understanding of mission/strategy/tactics concepts, physical fitness, familiarity with weapons, resource management experience, security clearance, maturity - and embarking on a career of sworn service under oath.

There is something to be said for serving on active duty. Those years create a bond with others who have served, and you will find fellow veterans in all branches of law enforcement. Those years on active duty will also count toward Federal retirement. Serve long enough to get your GI Bill eligibility, and you can get your post-grad degree via distance learning or after hours. You may also get veterans’ preference points on your application.

Edit: The years I spent as a junior officer, with a team of senior enlisted leaders and sailors - what a learning lab for me, unforgettable, rewarding, occasionally hilarious - I would never trade those experiences.
 
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QA1517

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Jul 11, 2012
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Why not a third alternative? Go active but try to get into the Military Police? Sounds like the best of both worlds to me. Of course I have no idea what it takes to become an MP.

I have had a few people tell me that being an MP will not increase your chances of getting a law enforcement job afterwards (one friend of family). I have had a few come thru the company I work for. You still have to do the training required for civilian LE.

MP reserves in our state are plentiful, not difficult to get.

Having the leadership qualities of a good officer will give you a better chance.

DS has quite a few police officers in his engineering guard unit.
 

MohawkArmyROTC

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Jan 18, 2017
Messages
490
It is hard to become a LEO, and the hiring process tends to be quite long. To be on the safe side, I would go active duty for 3-4 years, then start applying to be a LEO when you are 6-9 months out. That way if it doesn't work out, you can decide to stay on active duty if you like it.
 

Army Vet & Parent

Red Leg Army Vet
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Feb 14, 2018
Messages
23
Seriously consider the theme of what has already been said here. Go active duty and stay as long as is comfortable for you. The experiences and the "active duty" stamp on your forehead will put you in good stead on the leadership and credibility side of things in a later government or civ agency career.
 

ProudDad17

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Nov 3, 2016
Messages
584
Here is my 2 cents worth as a municipal police officer for the past 23 years. This is based on the assumption you went to college right out of high school and are graduating at 22 years old. Most 22 year olds I have met are not really ready for the responsibilities and demands of being a police officer. Granted, most 22 year olds have not graduated college or been through an ROTC program, but I believe it is best to go out and get some real life experience before trying to become a police officer. Most departments are hesitant to hire a 22 year old, due to maturity and life experience concerns. I agree with the above comment that going MP will not increase your chances of getting hired by a civilian law enforcement agency. In fact, I have seen cases where it has been a hindrance in the learning, because the two sides are so different. Going active duty will certainly give you some great life experience that you can take back and use when applying for civilian law enforcement jobs. Over the years I have worked with some great officers who have prior military training. If you do decide to go Reserves, I would encourage you to wait a couple years before applying for a law enforcement job. And thank you for your willingness to serve your country in the military and your community in law enforcement.
 

Capt MJ

Ancient Mariner
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@ProudDad17
Thank YOU for protecting and serving in our community at home. So glad someone from LE could offer experienced perspective.

One of our USNA former sponsor mids, now FBI, said classmates at Quantico were mostly late 20’s.
 

Motorguy

Member
Joined
Jan 27, 2017
Messages
39
Currently a criminal justice major and a contracted cadet in the Army ROTC.

I am deciding between pursuing active duty in the combat arms OR getting a reserve commission and joining a police department as my full time job. Always wanted to serve in the military but I also know my long term goal is to work local or federal law enforcement. Anyone have any advice (or experience) as to doing reserves and becoming a LEO right after college, or going into LE after serving 4-6 years active duty?
Thanks
I can give you a LE perspective. I retired after 20 years as a Sergeant in the NYPD. I started at 20 years old and retired a few months after my 40th birthday. I was very young starting and it was tough to handle such a big responsibility as a police office but I would not change a thing. I am retired with great pension and full benefits for me and my family. I became a Registered Nurse while still working as a LEO (Hard but best thing I ever did) and now have retired on to this career making my own hours and enjoying life. We had tons of reserved guys who became cops and actually they made all the military guys our police academy company sergeants. The NYPD actually has a special unit that deals strictly with military guys and leave for reserve and active duty. They have great fraternal organizations for military guy who are also cops which is a great support to the men and women. I saw these guys retire from both the police and 20 year s as a reservist with TWO great pensions and great benefits forever. I think you get the best of both worlds doing the reserves and LE. It's like having two careers at the same time with great benefits after 20 years of working. Hope this helps.
 

NavyHoops

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Jul 13, 2011
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In my current capacity I have hired many young men and women fresh from college. Several had applied for LEO and done very well in the interview process but got told thanks, but come back in 2-3 years. All had College degrees, passed every wicket of the process, and this is a large metropolitan city that needs officers. A city with a large recruitment campaign needing a lot of officers. I have hired them and said give me 2 good years and I would support their move in a heart beat. Great employees. None of them are vets. I have seen the same Dept hire vets of similar age, but the experience of decision making and keeping calm under pressure sends them over the top.

When I left active duty I had a Masters in Criminals Justice and pursued a LEO path in two cities. I had two offers and declined to go another path. Most depts had a degree requirement and/or Vet requirement to get hired. No regrets on my path.
 
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KarenH

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Dec 21, 2010
Messages
103
Keep in mind that many LE positions require a competitive exam; in some departments you must place very high to even be considered for the ensuing physical, psychological and medical exams. An individual on active duty would be well advised to start taking as many exams as possible prior to separation. In some LE departments the hiring process can take several years. On a positive note, many LE agencies work very well with, and are supportive of, their Reservists.
 
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