Law Enforcement & Legacy

Would you recommend law enforcement as a career today?

By Jim Glennon  |   Feb 5, 2015

I have six kids and none are in law enforcement, at least not yet. Each have taken separate paths from private business and broadcasting to nursing and social work. They all went through points of their respective lives where they tried to figure out a path—a passion—that would eventually lead to a profession.

My oldest, a successful human resources manager for a pharmaceutical company, has been talking about this since he was a kid. Talented and intelligent well beyond his C-student father, Sean was good at most anything he tried. But he wasn’t sure what he was passionate about, what he wanted to do for a living. Apparently this is true for a lot of people.

That confusion and uncertainty has always been foreign to me. I always knew I wanted to be a cop. I don’t remember ever wanting to be anything else.

My Background
My dad was a Chicago cop as was his father before him. My mom’s Uncle Joe was too. (He eventually became the primary bodyguard for Mayor Kelly in the 1940s.) So the cop culture was part of my DNA and childhood psyche.

I distinctly remember my dad putting me on his lap when I was around four or five years old and letting my drive his squad car with his cop hat on. He’d probably be suspended for that today, but I loved it, and it obviously left a lasting impression.

He left the job after nine years, making $3,500 annually. At that point he and my mother had four of his eventual nine kids to feed. My dad generally hated and mistrusted his politically connected supervisors. But he never stopped telling cop stories and the pride that he had when he talked about law enforcement impressed me to my core. So I couldn’t wait to be a cop. In college while others were trying to figure out what they wanted to do, I was just waiting. Because I knew.

And no one, and I do mean no one, could have talked me out of pursing my dream. As soon as I got that diploma, I started taking tests. When I was hired I beamed my own pride. I made my mistakes over my 30-year career, but overall it was a marvelous ride. I cried like a baby on my last day.

But now? I dunno.

Changes of Heart
Recently both my youngest son and a nephew have expressed an interest in law enforcement. Two of my son-in-law’s brothers are new to the profession, one a local cop and the other in the FBI.

Over the last 30-plus years I never had a moment’s hesitation when some youngster would ask me about whether he or she should pursue criminal justice as a career. “Hell yeah!” I would say, adding “I don’t know why everyone doesn’t want to be a cop!”

And I believed that! What a great job!

So I enthusiastically encouraged them to investigate, prepare and pursue the profession. No hesitation.

Until now.

I wrote an article a couple of months ago titled Pigs Once Again, in which I recounted the bad-old-days when officers were disrespected by much of the populace and routinely treated with disrespect, including all sorts of vile names. I thought we had evolved as a society and those days were over. The hippies aged and matured, the media backed off, and politicians, well, they always had our backs.

But today I ask myself: Is it worse than it was in the 1960s? Again, I dunno. But, it ain’t good.

Every time I write about police officers being treated disrespectfully I put in the disclaimer that, yes, we do have members who dishonor their office, commit crimes, overreact to stress and misuse their powers. But overall, we are honorable, dedicated and even heroic as a group.

But you wouldn’t know it listening to the mainstream media and way too many of today’s politicians.

We are dark-hearted, power-hungry racists. Quick to shoot, short on patience, incapable of empathy. We don’t care about the homeless, the down-trodden, the mentally ill. I could go on, but there’s no reason to. Those skewed opinions don’t really matter to us and we ultimately ignore them and continue on with our duties.

However, these constant attacks on the profession may start to have an unintended consequence: Who’s going to want to join a vocation teeming with purportedly evil, racist, angry and violent individuals?

Who is going to put their future on the line by becoming part of a profession so reviled and under attack?

Thousands of demonstrators are calling for the deaths of cops, and it’s happening.

Politicians are vilifying the profession and telling their children to be more wary of us than of criminal gang members.

We are second-guessed by people who have agendas and ulterior motives.

The hardest workers in our membership are the most complained about. Veterans begin to learn that less work means few complaints and even fewer headaches. They get rewarded for doing nothing and eventually pass on this wisdom to the enthusiastic recruits who—at least at the beginning—had passion for the criminal justice profession.

So back to the original question: Would you recommend law enforcement as a career to a loved one, to someone you care about? And if you don’t, if we don’t, advocate for law enforcement as a profession, then who will?

Just wondering.

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Lt. Jim Glennon (ret.) is the owner and lead instructor for Calibre Press. He is a third-generation LEO, retired from the Lombard, Ill. PD after 29 years of service. Rising to the rank of lieutenant, he commanded both patrol and the Investigations Unit. In 1998, he was selected as the first Commander of Investigations for the newly formed DuPage County Major Crimes (Homicide) Task Force. He has a BA in Psychology, a Masters in Law Enforcement Justice Administration, is the author of the book Arresting Communication: Essential Interaction Skills for Law Enforcement.