When I went to the academy I felt I had such an edge on others with my military experience. The academics were tough, but the physical and team-building parts were easy for me.
The Tucson Police Department bends over backwards for military personnel. With my military commitments they're very flexible with allowing me to get my military hours and training in. A lot of times I can flex my (TPD) hours or just use the military leave that the Department gives. While I was gone for two years (on military leave) they let my vacation and sick hours accrue, so when I came back I had all kinds of vacation and sick days to transition back to a non-combat environment.
As far as pay, the department looks at what the Army's base pay is and they make up the difference. They also sent me monthly newsletters to keep me informed to what was going on in the department. It kept me connected, which was very helpful.
The camaraderie in the Tucson Police Department is great - just like the military. We depend on each other and we're constantly monitoring the radio if things aren't busy. And if another officer in our squad or division is on a traffic stop or another call, you kind of head that way in case something were to happen. You always take care of each other and have each other's back.
I went to the academy after thinking about it for 10 years before applying. I knew I wanted to (become a police officer) in my early 20s but I also knew I didn't have enough life experience yet. I was 34 and a female and I kept up with the kids who just turned 21. When you go to the academy you're expected to do the same physical activity as the males.
As a female officer it's not any different with your co-workers. Everything is equal - your peers don't treat you any differently. You do have to prove yourself, but gender isn't an issue.
Whereas with the public it can be different. The public looks at you differently to see how you present yourself and how confident you are in tough circumstances. You need to know how to be aggressive and blunt.
However, you also need social skills and empathy for people. When you're a female officer, people are more apt to speak with you - victims or suspects - so you can use that to your advantage by having an open ear to get a confession or help a victim recall more details about a crime.
In general, this job is as hard as you make it. If you think 'I'm a female so people are going treat me different and I have to prove myself that much more' then others will read into that and you will be treated that way. But if you go in thinking 'I'm an officer… it doesn't matter what I look like or what my gender is. I have a badge and a gun just like anybody else. I'm a person behind the uniform not just a woman then you'll be regarded as an equally important member of the team.
We need more female officers. So if this is something you KNOW you want, then go for it. But make sure you prepare - that means mentally and physically. Find an officer who can help you prepare before you enroll so you'll be successful.
And understand how this job is going to affect your life. Your personal life may change because now your neighbors and friends will know you're a police officer and your job is to deal with people who prey upon others - they're opportunists. You'll work 12-hour shifts and sometimes have to go to court on your days off - days that you really want to have off. Even on your days off you're always a police officer.
Part of the reason I became a police officer is to help the Tucson community - to be out in public each day interacting with a variety of people. But when I first joined, there was a shock factor. I grew up in Tucson but was amazed at a different side of the city I hadn't experienced, so it was a matter of quickly adjusting and learning a different code. I remember being intimidated by how to interact with people I met while I was on patrol. Some of them tested me, and tried to prompt me to react negatively to their actions. It helped me learn restraint and I became in-tune with what it means to earn public trust and adapt to any environment.
If you're thinking about a career in law enforcement, you need to realize that a big part of your job is to deal with problems and conflict. If you are easily dissuaded or discouraged by that or fear the dangers of being a police officer then it will be hard to remain in this job for 20 years.
Participate in a ride-a-long, speak with officers about their assignments. Become engaged in your community and listen to the happenings with local government - it's all part of being an officer. And know the physical and mental preparedness needed in order to successfully complete your basic training.
As an officer I have an opportunity to see change. It may not be immediate, but I'm able to witness neighborhood changes and change in the individuals I interact with. That's where the reward is; knowing I have contributed to the betterment and prosperity of Tucson. Plus I am a part of Tucson's history. Deep down these things make it worth it for me.
There's nothing else like it - it's a family. As police officers we have an underlying connection with each other because only we know what we go through on a daily basis that the public isn't necessarily aware of. And if you hear about something happening to another officer it breaks you down to the core. I've been in some hot situations but when I call out that I need assistance, regardless of the situation and how bad it might be, I have no doubt in my mind that I always have backup. We're the first line of defense for the public and we have to look out for each other.
You have questions, concerns, you want to make sure that your son, daughter, husband, wife, family member or friend is going to be ok. This is normal and it’s important to us that you feel more comfortable about the decision your loved one might make.
Please know that the officers of the Tucson Police Department receive the very best training anywhere – and they receive a lot of it. Upon graduation from the academy they are fully equipped to handle a variety of different scenarios they may encounter on the job.
Learn how to support the officer you know and love. This process takes time and requires openness from both individuals. This job can be very trying – physically and emotionally. There will be some emotional and communication challenges, as many officers may be hesitant to share about their job and their feelings about what they see and do. They also develop close relationships with other officers who share these day-to-day challenges. This might leave you feeling as though you’re not connected to this part of his or her life.
However, the majority of police officers have very strong relationships and bonds with their family members and loved ones. The most important thing you can do is to build a peaceful and strong home life so that your loved one can focus on the job while they’re at work and enjoy their family and loved ones at home.
Please take the time to read some of the thoughts voiced by one TPD officer who did take this step and what it means for his family and loved ones. Additional opportunities to speak directly with the spouses of veteran officers is also available.