First Year Rookie
What is it like being a rookie? Well, have you ever seen The Rookie? Yeah, it’s nothing like that.
I enjoyed the show’s first season, and it was definitely something that made me realize starting over a little later in life was possible. There is so much more to being a police officer than I ever could have anticipated. October will mark one year solo for me. I have learned a lot about the job and myself.
Not every day is exciting.
Before starting this career, and even some days in the academy, I thought every day and every call would be high stakes. The thing is, some days we are running call to call, while other days there are long lulls between calls. We run 12-hour shifts, so it can be exhausting either way. Busy days make us more grateful for the ones that aren’t.
You’ll make mistakes, but that’s okay.
You’re not going to know everything. There are always questions to ask. Situations are not always black and white. You are bound to make a mistake. Look at your mistakes as learning opportunities. If you have good leadership, they will help you see them that way, too. I am blessed with great leadership, and I know I wouldn’t have learned half of what I have so far had it not been for the time and effort they took with me when I first came to the squad.
Leadership affects your daily work.
Orders run from the top down. Your direct, road-level leadership is following orders as much as you are. If you have good patrol-level leadership, they will work with you and fight for you, and support you. I have had fantastic sergeants as a rookie, and I seriously don’t know how this first year would have turned out if I hadn’t had their guidance.
Your coworkers can make or break your squad.
Effective communication and maintaining professional relationships are important. You’re not always going to like everyone you work with, and that’s normal. But if you can genuinely get along with your squad-mates, you will like your job that much more. I never imagined having work friends, but I do now. I didn’t think I’d fit in with coworkers, but I have found I have more in common with some of them than I thought I would.
You don’t learn anything about the road in the Academy.
Academy teaches you the basic law you will be enforcing. It gives you great physical fitness. What it doesn’t teach is anything about how to handle patrol operations or life on the road.
What makes it hard isn’t the job itself.
It’s what comes with it. The general concept of being in a car, driving around, responding to calls, making decisions, and doing reports are relatively easy. What makes it hard is the schedule. You will be exhausted. You and your family will get frustrated. There may be holidays or family events you miss. It can take time for you and your family to adjust to the schedule.
You’re stronger than you think you are.
I was tested mentally and physically in training, and I became stronger in both regards. I never thought I’d want to run a foot pursuit, but I got into my first (minor) one, and now I’m ready for the next one. I feel better about my body. I feel better about my decision-making process and skills. I feel better about my communication skills. I feel more confident in myself and my abilities, what I can do physically and what I can do lawfully. I found my voice.
It really is a second family.
I used to doubt this, but because we work so closely together, coworkers become more than friends. They become a second family. You’re with these people for 12 hours out of your day, and at least four days a week for me. My squad is pretty tight-knit. We back each other up. We laugh with each other between calls. We talk about our lives. We go out outside of work. Sometimes there’s something on your mind that only these people will understand. We are there for each other, and we support each other.
I always wanted to feel strong. I always wanted to do something valuable. This process showed me I had it in me all along. I needed the right thing, the right set of circumstances, to show me. Starting over is never simple. Doing something completely different from what you’ve done in the past is even harder. There are so many more risks involved. There are also so many more rewards. Careers in public service come with a special set of demands, but it’s entirely worth it.