After I completed the law enforcement academy the real work began. What I mean by work is, I had to go and find work. This was no easy task, especially since there were so many other cadets who were also looking for full time employment. Most unsponsored cadets will have to search job postings and find jobs in areas they would want to work at. The application is only the first step, then there is most likely a written examination and if one is fortunate enough to get past those steps, there is an oral interview. It is in this process cadets begin to understand what an asset a good instructor has been.
In Benefits of Teaching at the Academy Part 1 we examined the benefits to the individual instructor. Part 2 examined the benefits of having instructors at the academy for a law enforcement agency. In the final part of the series, we will discuss the benefits the students receive when you take time to instruct at the academy. Of course, different states offer incentives like college credits or some cadets are fortunate enough to be hired by an agency and that respective agency may pay for the academy and provide the cadet with a salary. These are examples of tangible benefits to a student but, what benefits instructors and cadet share through the academy experience?
By instructing at the academy, an instructor can be valuable to a cadet during the future job search. It is common for law enforcement academies to have several instructors form different agencies in the region. This is a benefit to a cadet because it allows the cadet to have some insight into the organizational culture of a prospective employer. Let’s face it, if a cadet is looking for a high-speed environment with exposure to a lot of “exciting” calls for service and your agency is a bedroom community that does not have the volume of calls a sister agency has, it is better for the cadet to find out before anyone invest a great deal of time in the hiring process. Academy instructors can explain the differences between larger and mid-size to smaller agencies. This is important because it can have an impact on the cadet's preconceived notion of a law enforcement family environment.
This information is especially valuable to a cadet during the interview or oral board conducted in the hiring process. Law enforcement agencies often like to hear what the candidate knows about the organization they applied for. Information found on the internet is good but, if the candidate can speak about information the academy instructor(s) have relayed to the former cadet that will have a substantial impact on the board. Having firsthand knowledge from an academy instructor about an organization separates the candidate from those who have relied on Google to provide them with background information.
Many cadets are younger people who may have just finished college or have had limited time to develop life experience. Even after completing the academy and a field training program they are still going to have some questions. A benefit to the cadet of having had an academy instructor is the possibility of mentorship. Let’s face it, the last thing a new officer is going to want to do is start asking their supervisors a bunch of questions. Sometimes this reluctance may be to their determent. If the cadet has an academy instructor working for their same agency, the former cadet has the potential to have an additional layer of coaching and mentoring. Hopefully, a layer that is not going to be overly judgmental. A former instructor can be a person for the new law enforcement officer to watch from a distance and gain insight into how to deal with different people and circumstances. This is an opportunity for the instructor to demonstrate sound ethical decision-making skills.
When a law enforcement officer decides to become an instructor at the academy, they need to make sure they have searched their heart and determined the motives behind the decision. When making the decision they should look past the opportunity to make some additional money. It is important to realize going into the academy classroom without a teacher’s heart can have long term impacts on careers and agencies. However, becoming an instructor realizing you are impacting the next generations of law enforcement officers and fully understanding the impacts to the agency and the student will lend itself to a rewarding second career.