Myths/Facts About Police Work
Being a police officer can be the most fascinating and satisfying career you could ever choose. Policing today has professional standards and high expectations of those who enter. The police are often the first, and sometimes the only, contact many citizens will have with a government representative. Police actions can influence attitudes about the entire government system.
Cambridge prides itself on the level of professionalism to which all officers are held. Recruiting women is an integral part of building a police department that is representative of the community it serves.
Today’s policing environment is more receptive than ever before to the unique skills that women bring to policing. Yet, there are still myths about women in the policing field that persist.
Myth: You have to be almost perfect to be a police officer.
Fact: Standards are high, but not unattainable. For instance, everyone must:
- be at least 21 years old
- have a high school diploma or GED
- be able to obtain or hold a MA driver’s license
- have an Honorable Discharge (if applicable) from any military service (General Discharges may be considered
- pass a background investigation, psychological screening, and medical exam
- pass a drug test
- have no prior felony convictions
Myth: Police applicants need to already know a lot about self-defense, laws and using firearms.
Fact: Many police applicants have no background in any of those areas – many have never fired a gun, studied criminal law or done any kind of martial arts. CPD pays police recruits while they attend 24 weeks of training. The training will teach new police officers all of the basic skills needed to be a police officer, such as:
- Constitutional, state and traffic laws
- Defense tactics and physical training
- Firearms training and defensive driving
- Investigative procedures and report writing
- CPD policies and procedures
- New technologies, including laptop computers, record management system, etc.
After completing the academy, new officers enter an on-the-job training program where they begin to apply their new skills to real-world situations.
Myth: Women aren’t thick skinned enough to be good police officers.
Fact: Police officers are exposed to undesirable and sometimes traumatic incidents. Compassion and empathy during those times serves the community well. Many of the interpersonal skills women traditionally possess are invaluable to effective policing.
Myth: Police work requires people who are physically imposing.
Fact: Police work is not all about size and muscles. You do have to pass a job-related physical ability test, but good general physical conditioning and a helahty lifestyle are more important than size or strength.
Myth: Police officers aren’t supposed to get scared.
Fact: All police officers, at one time or another, have faced situations that caused them to be fearful. The television and movie version of police work is exaggerated. However, while police work can be dangerous, even life-threatening, officers are trained and equipped to deal with these situations. The daily work of policing is relatively safe within our community.
Myth: Female police officers are faced with a lot more situations where they must use a gun.
Fact: Police officers must sometimes make life and death decisions. There may be an incident which causes any officer to use deadly force. Officers receive over 120 hours of training specifically in firearms, shoot-don’t-shoot scenarios, use of force and legal training which helps prepare them for this type of situation. Statistically, though, the majority of men and women police officers retire from law enforcement without ever having to use deadly force.
Myth: Female police officers face sexual harassment.
Fact: Policies of the CPD and the City of Cambridge strictly prohibit sexual harassment in the work place. Any reported incidents of sexual harassment are thoroughly investigated and offenders are subject to the appropriate level of punishment, which could include termination.
Myth: Female police officers encounter relationship problems with loved ones who cannot accept their chosen profession.
Fact: When someone enters a profession that could involve danger, there is some apprehension by those who care about that person. CPD offers ride-along programs and family education programs that help alleviate the fears of family members by allowing them to see first-hand the amount of backup and support officers receive from peers.
Myth: It is very difficult to be a mother and a police officer while working varying shifts.
Fact: Most officers are assigned permanent shifts within the first year of their career and every six months thereafter. Many CPD women are working mothers. Some are single mothers.
Myth: Being a female police officer is very different from being a male officer.
Fact: Badges come in gold or silver, not pink or blue. Policing is a challenging and rewarding profession limited only by the abilities of the individual officer. There are thousands of successful women in policing today. As more women have entered the profession, there is greater acceptance among their peers and the public.
Myth: Career paths for women are limited
Fact: Opportunities for CPD women are unlimited and include:
- Patrol (through cruisers & foot patrols)
- Traffic (utilizing motorcycles)
- Accident Investigation
- Community Relations
- Bicycle Patrol
- School Resource Officers
- Self-Defense Instruction
- Crime Analysis
- Professional Standards (Internal Investigations)
- Public Information Office
- Special Investigations
- Domestic Violence Investigations
- Warrant Apprehension
- Dignitary Protection
- Tactical Patrol Force
- Special Response Team
- Explosive Ordinance Technicians
- Honor Guard
Some of the above was borrowed with permission from an article on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC Police Department web page . It was edited to contain information about the Cambridge Police Department.
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Cambridge Police Department
Robert C. Haas
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