How long does it take to become really good at what you do? It’s a rare occasion when a rookie or someone new at their job has a huge amount of success at the beginning of their career. No matter what the chosen career path is, there is a learning curve.
I remember, years ago, being a brand-new officer fresh out of the academy and sometimes feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility and sheer importance of this job. I was fortunate to come from a law enforcement family, so I had an idea of how to pace myself and not get ahead of myself. Being with the PPA at the tail end of my career, I get to interact with new officers and recruits. I see a lot of really hard chargers and people who want to move ahead before they are ready.
If you are a patrol officer, then your focus for the first few years should be on working and learning the streets. If you are a corrections officer, then your focus should be on learning how to operate on the decks. The experience gained from learning and cultivating your instincts by performing the job on a daily basis is invaluable. I have seen people with less than four years on who are already looking to move into the bureau or training. This career is not a sprint — it is a marathon, and one should attempt to develop the necessary tools to function as an officer.
With the rise of shootings in this country, it would behoove us to really hone our skills and maintain our focus. When you are 21 to 26 years of age and just beginning your career, the process of learning how to function as an officer is long and tedious. With every move and decision that an officer makes being called into question, it is very important to learn all the nuances of the job. Those formative years immediately after field training will shape your career and ensure that you are ready. If we learned anything from the events of Route 91, it is that you cannot always plan or predict when trouble will hit.
The most important thing is to be honest with yourself about your readiness or ability to perform the basics of police work. Not everyone is cut out for this job. We have people who just get by and basically live off the reputation made by those who came before them. My hope is that we all remain safe and steadfast and that I have positively affected someone in my career. I would like to think that I left this career better than the way I found it.