The most common complaint we hear by aspiring law enforcement
officers has to be the one concerning politics. “It’s not what you know,
it’s who you know.” “I’m not even gonna bother applying. They already
know who they want.” Most of this can be summed up in one word;
The bottom line is that becoming a law enforcement officer in New
Jersey is a difficult, frustrating, demoralizing, and long task. For
most it will be at least a three year process, and many find it takes
even longer then that. During this period most will complain instead of
making themselves a more desirable applicant. We’ll cover that in a
future article, but for now let's talk about politics.
It seems simple. If politics is working against you, then you should
be taking steps to make politics work for you. If you believe that it’s
“who you know” then why aren’t you making an effort to also know this
Before we continue it’s important to say that the majority of
officers on the job today did not have “hooks” to help them initially
land the job. They kept applying everywhere until they slipped into a
position. If they weren't happy with the job, they continued to apply
until they found a home.
Blaming politics is the easiest out. Yes, there are some who have an
“in” if they pass the barrage of tests. However, there are approximately
2,000 people who go through New Jersey's police academies each year.
That means there are 2,000 openings each year.
If you want to develop contacts that can help you, then do it. Some
become dispatchers to get to know officers and administrators while
others join organizations like the local first aid squad or fire
department. Some make it a point to attend law enforcement fraternal
events like PBA dances or FOP dinners. There are always officers looking
to sell tickets to these things. Getting involved with local
organizations like the Optimist Club, the local Drug Alliance, or other
town entities are great ways to meet local people active in the
community who may be able to return the favor for your efforts at a
later time. The Mayor and council (or committee) of your town are always
looking for people to serve on boards and with groups. Involving
yourself in any of these things is also a great way to demonstrate your
competence and your commitment to your community.
You can’t just sit back and
blame politics. If it is an obstacle for you then turn it around and
make it an advantage for you.
Finally, when you get to the
interview stage with an agency, there is one question which will always
come up. “What have you done to earn this position or make yourself a
more desirable applicant to us?” How will you answer that? Can you
even answer that question? We’ll talk more about it next time.