4 reasons why military veterans make great cops

There are many qualities that prepare service members for a successful career in law enforcement


This story was updated Oct. 30, 2018

Whether you’re a police agency looking for new recruits or a military veteran looking for a new career, you can be confident that veterans can make great cops. However, many police executives unfamiliar with the military and the way they build their service members into professionals may pass on a great law enforcement candidate due to a lack of experience with these men and women. 

Some police administrators may even have a preconceived notion that combat veterans may be a liability and keep the veteran from a fair crack at wearing a gun belt someday.  

These are just four of many qualities that make military veterans excellent candidates for careers in law enforcement. (Photo/dema.az.gov)
These are just four of many qualities that make military veterans excellent candidates for careers in law enforcement. (Photo/dema.az.gov)

After 30 years of serving the military and law enforcement communities let me share four qualities that make military veterans excellent candidates for careers in law enforcement.

1. Team Players

Military veterans are not only trained to contribute to a team in order to thrive but they also learn that they have to count on a team to survive. Service members that have trouble with this concept are identified and extra training follows. 

Troops who can’t participate as a team member will meet various fates but they won’t be allowed to hold their unit back. Identifying the problem service member who may be on your hiring list is simple. The obvious answer is the military records provided with his employment packet but the best answer is contacting his military supervisors. A call to his former unit and a couple short conversations with his former First Sergeant or Platoon Sergeant or Platoon Leader will provide you an honest assessment of the veteran’s personal qualities. 

This a great way to measure a veterans qualities and attributes because active-duty military leaders say exactly what’s on their mind and they will not hesitate to share the good with the bad. When it comes to law enforcement, working as a team player with other cops and following orders from supervisors are important factors for professional success.

2. Communicators

From the time they exit the cattle wagon at boot camp to the time they exit the military, service members are taught to communicate confidently and concisely. They learn to speak with efficiency and clarity because survival may depend on their message and how it’s delivered. That’s why so many veterans who recently have departed from the military will speak with short and concise sentences. 

I have witnessed law enforcement leaders mistake this quality in a veteran recruit for a bad attitude. Don’t allow your lack of exposure to veterans influence your decision to not hire one. Any good cop on the beat is a cop that can communicate, among other things. We all know that those officers that struggle with communication quickly find themselves in all sorts of trouble.

3. Maturity

Service members typically enter the military at young ages, many of them at the age of 18. They are taught to be leaders at every rank. Often, by the time they are 21 they may be leading a squad or holding a highly skilled position within their unit. The military spends great time and effort training their leaders. Promotions come with exceptional leadership schools that are not available in law enforcement. Their ability to function as leaders will provide an agency a valuable resource that is hard to come by. Military veterans often will be the quiet professional in a squad, never complaining and always pushing forward.

4. Stress Managers

Whether a veteran has combat experience or not, they were surely exposed to stress with expectations of success and nothing less. Service members are exposed to stress at levels that aren’t imaginable for those who have never served. Boot camp initiates the recruit to sleep deprivation, physical stress and mental stress and it doesn’t ease up until you retire or leave the service. Law enforcement is filled with hours of calm and moments of extreme stress. Military veterans won’t crack under this type of pressure because they were trained to perform. This type of stress management can’t be taught at an educational institute.

Conclusion

The hiring process in law enforcement is a complicated balance of various elements that develop a final candidate list. I don’t believe the military veteran is a better police candidate than a college graduate nor do I think a college graduate is more qualified than a military veteran. What I can assure you is that all things being equal military veterans may be great law enforcement candidates for their ability to function as part of a team, communicate, police with maturity and perform under stress. The military veteran’s commitment to excellence was a daily ritual. These men and women of the armed forces will provide a great balance to the college educated recruits. Together, they will make great future leaders of law enforcement.  

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