“Go to college. Get an education. Understand the law, the profession and our constitution so you understand your responsibility to the people and the trust you are granted – and to stay true to it.”
-Sheriff Dave Brown-

I have always had much admiration for men and women that choose the career path of being a civil servant. I had the honor of being a resource connector to assist potential candidates prepare to be considered for law enforcement roles. I must say that I was always taken back when a few candidates realized that they really did need to be at their physical best, their past life choices can really come back and haunt them, and committing time to volunteer with an agency is time well spent. More importantly helping the potential candidates connect to the reality that their entire life personally and professionally is an open file that will be reviewed against a standard of excellence that could become their lifestyle to uphold with integrity and commitment.

I’m excited to share a recent interview that I had with Sgt. Jamie Joyce. Sgt. Joyce is a Patrol Supervisor with the Winter Park Police Department. She shares her experience and mindset tips from an insider’s perspective for potential law enforcement candidates. Sgt. Joyce has served the citizens of Winter Park, Florida for over 22 years in various capacities with experience in recruiting and background investigations, working with the media as an Agency Public Information Officer and a certified Crime Prevention Practitioner.  She also serves as a Team Supervisor for the Hostage Negotiations Team and as Vice President for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 64.

Career Tipper: Please share your recommendations of how law enforcement candidates should establish themselves to have a successful law enforcement career?

Joyce: Candidates should familiarize themselves with the agencies they are interested in. Review the websites of agencies, research news articles, go on ride-alongs, and volunteer. Be “career minded”. Attend the police academy and distinguish themselves during the program. We all know each other; law enforcement is a close, tight-knit community and we do our homework on prospective recruits. Get your education (2-4 year degree) it’s required for promotion. Understand that law enforcement is not just a “job”. It is a way of life and once you are an Officer, Trooper or Deputy. You are expected to conduct yourself with honor and integrity at all times. With that being said, if you are a few years out from applying for a sworn position; understand that your personal and social life will be assessed by a Background Investigator. Any adjustments to social life or peer group should be made now. Your reputation should be sterling.

Career Tipper: What are two character traits you look for in law enforcement candidates? What are two character traits that is not favorable for law enforcement candidates?

Joyce: Honor and integrity are the two most important. All you have is your word, don’t compromise it for anyone or anything. Other important traits is patience, flexibility, strong written and oral communication skills, the ability to multi-task, make good decisions quickly and have a strong work ethic.  I couldn’t narrow it down to two. Character traits that are not favorable would include: laziness, cowardice, violent impulsivity, prejudice, having what I call the general “get over” mindset. Always figuring out a way to get away with things you know are morally or ethically wrong and justifying it with some excuse. In addition to having a predatory mindset by enjoying observing or creating suffering for others. Other traits that would not be favorable are: mental illness, lack of critical thinking skills, and lack of communication skills.

Career Tipper: How important is proper usage of oral and written grammar for a law enforcement officer candidate to understand that is entering the crime industry?

Joyce: Extremely important. We document everything and it has to be accurate and complete. Our reports are seen all the way through the court system, by the media and by the public. Nothing is more embarrassing for an individual officer or an agency than to present a report or legal document that is lacking. Oral communication can save your life and keep you from physically engaging with folks. Everything we do (or don’t do right) reflects on others that wear our or a similar uniform.

Career Tipper: What has been your keys to success to your career advancement and longevity?

Joyce: Conducting myself personally and professionally with integrity at all times. Never complaining about a task or job assigned to me and maturely accepting disappointment (not getting a position, assignment, transfer I wanted right away). Patience, flexibility, strong work ethic, loyalty, accepting and seeking training, and doing the job the best I could every time. Understanding and sincerely subscribing to the mission of the agency and truly enjoying the service oriented nature of this job. A sense of humor and having an internal mechanism for processing out all the negativity one can experience in this job.

Career Tipper: What has been your most profound career lesson to date?

Joyce: This is a service oriented occupation, law enforcement is still a business and a delicate balance between the cold business fiscal side and the human side of this job (in terms of the employees and the public we serve) must be struck. The career of law enforcement is professionalizing and in that profound systemic change, there is room for positive growth for not only the profession and its practitioners, but the philosophy behind what we do and why. It is an exciting time! Stagnancy has no place. There is too much technology and too many resources available for us to be playing “catch up” in terms of crime fighting and prevention.

Career Tipper: What do you enjoy most about working in the law enforcement industry?

Joyce: Knowing that in some small way, at some time, I might have made a positive impact on someone or the world is very rewarding….but hands down, the best thing about this job are the amazing professionals I work with and get to meet every day. Law enforcement are a truly special group of folks and it has been an honor and a blessing to work with all of them. These people, whether you know them personally or not, will walk through fire for you, be there for you through the worst, help you celebrate righteously the best and if need be, sacrifice everything and die for you. No other profession outside of firefighters and armed services can say that.