A Q&A session with Russell who worked as a police officer at the Sheboygan Sheriff Department in Sheboygan, Wisconsin for 25 years.
Q: What kind of training did you need to become a police officer?
A: When I started police work, the standards were different from what they are now. I had to apply and pass the testing. Then I had to take the physical and basic training. I already had military experience for over 10 years, so that was a plus in those days. I had drafting experience since I worked for Donahue and Associated for years. I worked the crime scenes measuring and drawing up the reconstructions for the department. This was before computers. Now they have specific computer reconstruction personnel.
Throughout the years, I was sent to school to learn more about the criminal justice system. This was something that Bill (another police officer at the Sheriff’s Department) and I did together. We needed to further our education for promotions. I was advancing my career and moving into the Detective Division.
Today, new police officers need to have courses in criminal science and understand the justice system. An associate degree in criminal science is recommended, but not necessary as long as you have the basic classes and pass them.
Q: What did you like and dislike most about the job?
A: The job was enjoyable for the most part. I was on the drive team. For years, I was the motorcycle cop during the summer months. I worked Road America and got to meet the drivers. Working on the road gave me the opportunity to make many new friends and learn about things that I never knew before. Driving all the time was not as bad as one would think because you do stop and catch up on some paperwork or watch the traffic.
Working in Sheboygan is a lot easier than it is working in some of the larger cities like Milwaukee. I really did not dislike anything about the job. Foot chases were not anything you wanted to happen, but it did from time to time and you need to know how to run. My career gave me a new understanding about different aspects of the community.
Q: Can you describe a typical day for you on the job?
A: The typical day starts with roll call. Roll call is where you hear information from prior shifts about what happened. You are told who is wanted and what to look for in a particular day. Then it is time to get in your car and drive. You are assigned a section to patrol. You just drive the streets and look for suspicious activity or if you get a call, you respond. I would stop for coffee at local restaurants. I had lunch at the restaurant out in Plymouth. The typical day was normally quiet.
Q: What are your career plans for the future?
A: The next step is being retired and building some houses to sell. Traveling is also on the plan. I will build a house and sell it so I can vacation in Las Vegas during the winter months.
Q: What previous job history prepared you for working as a police officer?
A: I spent more than ten years in the Navy and had drafting experience. I also did construction work prior to becoming a drafter, which was actually helpful on the job because it helped keep me physically fit.
Q: What kind of traits does a person need to have in order to be successful at this job?
A: You need a strong personality. You need a strong backbone. If you intimidate easily, being a police officer is not for you. You have to stand your ground and not back down. You also have to have a personality that people respect. If you are all business, people feel uneasy. A sense of humor is also needed most of the time. You have to be able to take death as it comes and not dwell on it.
Q: Would you recommend the job to someone else? Why or why not?
A: Yes, being a police officer is rewarding. Today, there are more gangs and killings to worry about, but it is still a rewarding job. I would not recommend the job to someone that shows instability in his or her personal life. You really have to have your life in order to work the job.
Find a criminal justice program in Texas that will allow you to take the next step towards becoming a police officer.