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P1 Mailbag: What makes a successful career?

Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith's latest column seemed to hit home for many PoliceOne readers. In her piece, Brantner talked about what really makes a successful career.

"We put pressure on ourselves, and our families often put pressure on us as well; after all, a specialty position or a promotion may mean a higher salary, more overtime, better hours, more prestige, less danger. And yet we tend to forget the basic structure of a police organization: it's a pyramid ... one person at the top, a few more in the middle, and lots of people at the bottom.

Does that mean all those people at the bottom are lacking in skill, ambition, and talent? Do you have to have a detective's shield or sergeant's stripes or more to be considered successful? Do we have to always to striving to obtain a higher rank or a better position, even if we're happy where we're at?

Too often we judge a cop's career (or our own) by rank or assignment, not by accomplishments. And we definitely give little thought to how satisfied someone is outside of the job."

As usual we received excellent responses from our readers via e-mail, comments and in the PoliceOne Forums. Below are a few of those responses:


Deputy Sheriff Eric Goodman:

For a while now I have been struggling with the idea that I'm happy with being a one striper and really don't want the headaches that comes with rank. There are many officers and supervisors at my agency that look at me like I'm nuts when I tell them I don't want rank.

I currently work in our patrol division and have done patrol for my entire 9+ years of police work and to tell you the truth: I love it and love having to answer just for my actions alone. Rank means I have to answer when someone else messes up even when I'm not on scene or not even on duty. Many supervisors look down on other officers who don't want to move up in rank and look at us like we're lazy and have poor attitudes because we don't want to further our career.

I have so often questioned what was so wrong with wanting to stay on the streets and only wanting to answer for your own actions and not the actions of others. I have often heard supervisors say that if an officer does not want to move up in rank then they are not really devoted to the agency. I just wanted to say that you wrote a great article and thank you for making me feel like I'm not lazy because I like being a street cop with no rank.

Special Agent Jimmy Young:

I’m a senior agent at my agency, and the next level for me is supervision. I’ve always assumed that I have to keep moving up in order to move "forward." In reality though, I’ve been apprehensive to seek a supervisory position because I honestly like field work, and do not want to be confined to the office. A raise and a title that signifies authority sound great, but job satisfaction has to be the most important thing to an individual (career wise).

Sgt. Joseph R. LaFlower:

I work for a small police agency in central Massachusetts as a sergeant. Recently, our chief left and I was made acting chief while they went through the process of looking for a new chief — which I was in the running for.

When all was said and done, I was not chosen for the job but instead of being disappointed, it was like a big sigh of relief. As the acting chief I was salaried, so there was no OT, I did not have union protection, and I was the scapegoat for all the failures of the previous chief.

You are right, moving up is not always the best move. I am very content right back where I am in my sergeant's position, and quite frankly, so is my family.

Patrolman Ronald Grunton:

As a 21-year veteran patrolman, I've wrestled with this issue at various times during my career. I've been in K-9 [units] for the past 11 years and a promotion would very likely result in me getting moved out of K9 — something I definitely am NOT interested in.

I am currently second in seniority, so I get my choice of vacation picks. And as a junior sergeant, I would find myself working most holidays along with other equally undesireable "benefits." My K-9 assignment carries with it a built-in monetary stipend that puts us at sergeant's pay. Although I feel I would enjoy being a street boss and have been told many times by other guys that they'd like to work for me, the cost to myself as well as to my family makes me stay where I'm at.

I'd much rather be "Patrolman Dad/Husband" than "Sgt. Who?"

Deputy U.S. Marshal Steve Weathersby

Your article made me realize why I’ve made some choices I’ve made in my almost 30 years of law enforcement.

I've been with the U.S. Marshals now for almost 21 years and it's been a great career. I've never had the real desire to become a desk deputy, which is mandatory if you become a supervisor.

My greatest joy in this job has been the sound of someone yelling "Get on the floor" and also the sounds of handcuffs clicking. I would have lost that thrill if I would have decided to "move up." True, the salary does go up and — if you have an ego — so does the prestige, but those weren't enough for me.

Didn't get a chance to speak your mind? Speak out in the P1 Forums.

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