Why Would Anyone Want to Be a Police Officer?

Here are the top reasons people end up joining the force

FBI Police Vehicles
••• Matti Blume/Wikimedia Commons

It's a common response when people find out that someone is a police officer. They almost always say something like, "Wow, I don't know how you do it! I could never do that job."

The day-to-day job of a law enforcement officer seems dangerous, tiring, and disturbing to most non-cops. The idea of dealing with the seemingly growing anti-police sentiment from the public can be more than a little daunting as well. In fact, many active officers might tell you the same thing. So why on earth would anyone ever choose to become a police officer?

Certainly, there are pros and cons. But for many, the pros outweigh the cons. 

First, the Negatives

There are plenty of negative aspects of a cop's job, from the risk of getting hit by a car to being physically attacked or even getting shot. There's no getting around the fact that it's a dangerous profession.

People often aren't happy when they encounter police, and they're more than glad to let them know it, too. Officers have to see and deal with gruesome scenes and tragedy on a regular basis on top of all that. 

So Why Do People Become Police Officers?

Although it might seem that most interactions with police officers are negative—trying to get out of a traffic stop comes to mind—many officers will tell you that they view their roles in these situations in a positive light. Safety education, arresting dangerous criminals or impaired drivers, and showing compassion when delivering tragic news are all a big part of the helping hands that the police offer on a daily basis.

A lot of police officers came from other careers. They've worked in retail, sales, and high-rise offices. To them, the work environment for police is a better alternative because it offers more freedom to be proactive, to get outside, and to interact with different kinds of people.

Job Stability 

There's no such thing as a truly recession-proof job, but law enforcement careers are among the closest you can get. Even when public coffers run dry, police and other public safety positions are among the last to see cuts. This makes a career in law enforcement a tempting profession for those who seek stability in their jobs and their incomes.

Health and Retirement Benefits

Specifics vary from state to state and from agency to agency, but police officers generally enjoy generous health insurance benefits and retirement packages. 

Salary and Pay for Police Officers

Police officers earn around $53,000 per year on average depending on where they work and how long they've been on the force. Large cities typically pay significantly more. Starting salaries typically run between $30,000 and $50,000. Even if that doesn't sound all that great, the opportunity to retire after 20 or 25 years as opposed to 40-plus years is tough to beat.

For all the talk of how low police pay is compared to the risks they take, people who choose to be officers recognize the salary can still provide a comfortable lifestyle and a good opportunity to raise a family.

Police Are Generally Good People Looking for Good Careers

Despite speculation by academics and the public that people who want to be police officers do so because they want power and authority, most officers are just good people who want to work in a meaningful career. If this appeals to you, you might want to learn how to become a police officer.