But I just want to help people
Here's a bit of free advice to departmental interviewers. I'm not sure all of you know just how important your job is. How many of you have “the” question on your interview questionnaire? What answer are you expecting? Before you make your next decision on the future of your next applicant think about this. If you are an officer first and interviewer second,why did you want to be a cop? Was it difficult for you to answer that in your own interview?Answer your own question, remember how you felt in your interview and take a different look at your applicant.
I have been asked several times in my career why I wanted to be cop. My career has been a special love hate relationship but 21 years later I feel as if I have been somewhat of a success at it. It's also a good thing that I still love going to work.
Looking back on it I did not really know why I wanted to be a cop. If I were asked back then that was the reply. I don't know. I'm glad now I never had to answer that question for an interviewer. That would have been a very empty answer. It was as if I were drawn to it. No one in my family have ever been full time law enforcement officers. In fact my step father once told me if I were ever to become a cop he would kick my ass until my nose bled. Some were military but no cops. I say that, but my biological grandfather was once a Special Officer with the City of New Orleans. Special Officers were a division of NOPD that is usually reserved for armed security officers. As far as cops were concerned that was as close as it got. I'm the first.
There are some lines that are not meant to be crossed. Some rules that are not meant to be broken. I was blessed with some family members that instilled that into me. I was also blessed with a step grandfather (I was not able to meet my biological grandfather) that also told me that I should try do things that would fix the broken rules and get people back over the lines they've crossed. After looking at my life I believed law enforcement was the proper way to do those things. I work in a fashion that I believe gives my life purpose. That does not mean that any other job is menial compared to mine. It simply means that I saw my job as a fit for my life and the principles that I was gifted as a youth. I now have a front row seat in seeing how some do not have that and are not interested in learning it either. Those people are why we are here. Articulating that is not always an easy process.
The “standard” answer to the why question is “I want to help people”. I have watched interviewers cringe at that answer. The strange thing to me is that's why we want to do this. In my opinion that is the proper answer. It seems,however, that answer is just to stock. To plain. Interviewers and administrators want more. They desire a more complicated answer. Well I hold most at arms length if a post college level, algebraic doctoral answer is given. Wrong? Maybe, but not for me. I've been pretty good so far at looking past the “standard” answer and glimpsing the character of the person giving the answer. There is a difference in a person who wants a cop job for the benefits and one who just wants to walk the line. It's not shameful to want a cop job for benefits for needing to provide for one's family. People need jobs and provide. As long as any officer properly handles their business motivation is secondary. However, finding someone that just wants to walk the line and may not realize why...well, that might be your diamond in the rough.
Some desire to be cops because they were blessed. Blessed in being given some form of upbringing that supports doing something positive for their community and maybe righting some wrongs along the way. It takes the right person to maneuver through the danger, repetitive calls and watch as the court system throws out and pleas case after case and still want to do our job. Through it all they still stand the line and some may not ever realize why.
Even someone who has had a poor and or abusive upbringing may want to do this. The person that knows firsthand what being a victim looks like can bring a lot to the table in digging through the BS and finding the actual issue at hand. They also know what wrong looks like. They didn't like when it was them and they know other victims don't like it either. A mirror is sometimes quite a proper reflection.
A majority of people that say “they want to help” and really don't can be ferreted out with proper background checks, probation, listening to and having good field training officers, and evaluations. As I recently was informed, good interviewers are supposed to be professional assessors of BS. They should be experts in finding the posers. In the end interviewers should not be judgmental just because an applicant says they want to be a cop because they “want to help people”. Careful. You may very well be staring straight down the barrel of the next best person to wear a badge. It would be a shame to boot them because they don't yet understand their need to help people.