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The Straight Scoop on Law Enforcement Careers

Get the Facts About Common Misperceptions in Law Enforcement


Cops cars and ice cream trucks

Police cars and an ice cream truck in New York City

Scott McLeod/Creative Commons

Pop culture, entertainment and news media alike are full of stories and images of police and law enforcement at work. Each has their own agenda, angle and biases when depicting the job and functions of officers. While I'm a firm believer that there's a kernel of truth to nearly ever tale, let's take a closer look at some popular presuppositions about police work.

Divorce and Law Enforcement

It's long been asserted that careers in law enforcement often lead to divorce. In fact, recruiters and background investigators have been known to sit down with the spouses of potential recruits to inform them of the higher-than-average divorce rate among cops.

Public perception to the contrary, the truth is that the data doesn't pan out. Researchers in multiple studies have demonstrated that not only do police careers not lead to a higher potential for divorce, but that officers in fact have a lower-than-average divorce rate when compared to other professions.

Are Law Enforcement Careers Really Dangerous?

Every year, like clockwork, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a list of the most dangerous jobs, including a death and injury rate per capita. And while every year police careers make the cut, they are most often found in the middle to the lower end of the list.

Inevitably, some intrepid journalist will pick up on this and conclude that public support for police is based on the myth that the profession is dangerous. Is this really a correct conclusion? Are police careers really dangerous? Are they worthy of the public support and sympathy they currently garner?

Police Work and Poor Health

It's long been alleged by police unions and law enforcement professionals that policing can be dangerous to your health. Unfortunately, there hasn't been any hard data on the subject one way or the other. Until now. New studies confirm what many have long believed: law enforcement careers are bad for your health. That is, of course, if you don't take steps to mitigate the threat. What does the research say, and what can you do about it?

Common Myths About Law Enforcement

Do undercover cops really have to tell you that they're cops if you ask? Is your arrest invalidated if you're Miranda warning isn't given? Must traffic cops be readily visible, or do hidden radar units mean entrapment? Get to the bottom of some common misconceptions about police work.

Police Stereotypes

What's the very first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word "cop"? I'll bet it was a doughnut. But is it true that police find doughnuts irresistible? Why are so many officers depicted as Irish in movies and television? Do police really have quotas? Find out the truth behind some very common perceptions about your friendly neighborhood police officer.

Just the Facts

There's little question that a day in the life of a police officer is tough and wrought with challenges. It's not an easy job, and it's not a perfect job. For all the negative stereotypes, though, there are plenty of great reasons to be a police officer. If you're interested in a career in law enforcement, it's probably a good idea to know what you're getting into.

Make sure you don't fall into the trap of making assumptions based on popular culture and urban legends. Learn the truth and make an informed decision, and you're sure to find the perfect criminology career for you.

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