The Straight Scoop on Law Enforcement Careers

Get the facts about common misperceptions in law enforcement

Cops cars and ice cream trucks
••• Scott McLeod/Creative Commons

Pop culture, entertainment, and news media are all full of stories and images of police officers at work. Each has their own agenda, angle, and biases when trying to show what the job of police officers is like. While I'm a firm believer that there's a kernel of truth to nearly ever tale, let's take a closer look at some popular and common myths and misunderstandings about police work.

Divorce and Law Enforcement

It's a widely-held belief that careers in law enforcement often lead to divorce. In fact, recruiters and background investigators even know will sit down with the spouses of potential recruits to let them know about the higher-than-average divorce rate among cops.

The funny things is, the data doesn't pan out. Researchers in multiple studies have demonstrated that not only do police careers not lead to a higher potential for divorce but that officers, in fact, have a lower-than-average divorce rate when compared to other professions.

Are Law Enforcement Careers Really Dangerous?

Every year, like clockwork, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a list of the most dangerous jobs, including a death and injury rate per capita. And while every year police careers make the cut, they are most often found in the middle to the lower end of the list.

Inevitably, some intrepid journalist will pick up on this and conclude that public support for police is based on the myth that the profession is dangerous. Is this really a correct conclusion? Are police careers really dangerous? Are they worthy of the public support and sympathy they currently garner?

Actually, yes. While there's no arguing statistics, it's hard to argue with the fact that wherein other jobs may have a higher per capita risk, there's only one job in the United States where other people are much more likely to actively try to hurt or kill you, and that's law enforcement.

The Link Between Police Work and Poor Health

It's long been alleged by police unions and law enforcement professionals that policing can be dangerous to your health. Unfortunately, there hasn't been any hard data on the subject one way or the other. Until now. New studies confirm what many have long believed: law enforcement careers are bad for your health. That is, of course, if you don't take steps to mitigate the threat. 

Common Myths About Law Enforcement

Do undercover cops really have to tell you that they're cops if you ask? Is your arrest invalidated if your Miranda warning isn't given? Must traffic cops be readily visible, or do hidden radar units mean entrapment? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding "no".

Police Stereotypes

What's the very first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word "cop"? I'll bet it was a doughnut. But is it true that police find doughnuts irresistible? No; they really love coffee. Why are so many officers depicted as Irish in movies and television? Because so many police officers were of Irish descent when the profession began in the mid-1800s. Do police really have quotas? Nope. In fact, quotas are against the law in many states.

Find out the truth behind some very common perceptions about your friendly neighborhood police officer:

Just the Facts About Working as a Police Officer

A day in the life of a police officer is tough and full of challenges. It's not an easy job, and it's not a perfect job. For all the negative stereotypes, though, there are plenty of great reasons to be a police officer.

If you're interested in a career in law enforcement, it's probably a good idea to know what you're getting into.

Make sure you don't fall into the trap of making assumptions based on popular culture and urban legends. Learn the truth and make an informed decision, and you're sure to find the perfect criminology career for you.