Recently we spoke with retired police officer Mark Udy about his experiences as a law enforcement officer and what it takes to be a cop. Udy was a SWAT officer and worked on the K9 team, and now teaches at the Police Academy. If you want to know how to become a police officer, become a police officer or have a criminal justice career, check out this video interview and see the transcript below.
It’s not mundane, it’s never going to be the same. What you did yesterday will not what you do today. There’s no script for the day.
My name’s Mark Udy, I’m a retired police officer and my title during my career was SWAT, K9, DARE, and a motor officer. I didn’t really have an official title, other than I was a K9 officer most of the time during the last half of my career. Currently I’m teaching law enforcement, marshal skills, and then firearms.
I did go through the police academy, it’s about a 12-14 week program, very intense, you’re going 8-10 hours a day, 5 days/week, a few Saturdays. I’m certified to teach for the police academy, about six different classes which is some certifications that go with that. Some of the weapons certifications that I have, some of the explosives certifications that I have. All of those things contributed to my education as far as law enforcement, and it was a growing process, it’s not something I had to do all in my first 14 weeks in the academy. But we had ongoing training, and in law enforcement, you have to continue law enforcement training. Most of the people that I worked with continued to go to college and get degrees in criminal justice, and get degrees in accounting and stuff like that, because all of those participate in the investigative process.
When you start your shift, when you call 1041 on duty, you’re ready to go to work and that could mean that you’re going to get a call as soon as you check on and have to go take care of a traffic accident, or a domestic violence issue, or a burglary or a robbery, or something else that’s going on and those dynamics may be instant. On your travel into a briefing, you may have a speeder that you need to pull over and write a ticket to, I mean, there’s just, there’s no structure as to, “here’s what you’re going to do for the next hour.” It doesn’t happen in law enforcement, which is really probably the most exciting part of the career.
There’s a lot of patrol work. In other words, you’re just kind of being community oriented policing, being out in the neighborhood where people can see you. There’s a ton of report writing, documentation of incidences. Every incident, no matter how small, as simple as unlocking a car, clear up to arresting someone, there’s a lot of documentation that occurs, and so there’s a lot of stuff that gets done on a daily basis.
The more education that you get in any given area is actually going to serve you well in that you’ll know what you need to do and you’ve learned the process of learning. In the career of law enforcement, learning the process of going through and learning things is probably most critical as you enter that field.
Evidence technicians are a critical and intricate part of law enforcement and there are a lot of classes, a lot of colleges that have in their criminal justice system as well as evidence techs that you can get certified, still makes you police officer, you still work in the industry, but you’re not necessarily out on the street. There’s a lot of evidence gathering that has nothing to do with chasing bad guys, as the case may be.
Being a good communicator is key as far as law enforcement, and learning how to understand the personality of people. A criminal justice degree, they teach you about psychology, and so that you understand how to diffuse situations verbally, versus “hey, you know what, we’re just the big guys, we’re going to come in and do what we want.” So that’s really important, skills that you learn in law enforcement.
I loved being a cop. I’m telling ya, it is the funnest career and a lot of reasons for that. One, the dynamics of being a police officer, again, day to day, I’m not stuck in a cubicle. I was fortunate enough to be a patrol officer where I got to drive around and deal with problems. I was fortunate enough to be on SWAT, which is an exciting part of the career and that was part of the biggest reason I wanted to get started because of the excitement of that. And then to be able to teach DARE and be in K9 and even the opportunity to ride motors, I had the opportunity to do all of the fun stuff in law enforcement. But like anything else there’s a lot of work that comes with accomplishing all those type of things.
Being a police officer is probably the greatest career on earth.
To learn more about a law enforcement or criminal justice career, check out My Colleges and Careers!