The following responses were contributed by Sgt. John L. Riley, Jr., an officer on the Prince George's County Police Force, in response to a questionnaire circulated by The Washington Post. The material is intended to provide students with an idea of what working as a police officer might be like, and some steps the student can take to prepare now for a career in that field.

Sgt. Whitaker, a 17-year police veteran, is a graduate of Fairmont Heights High School in Prince George's County.


"As everyone knows, there is a certain amount of danger involved in the job, but most police officers learn to put that out of their minds. Although most cops won't admit it, we all have to deal with a certain amount of fear, but that fear is what keeps you alert and on your toes while you're on duty.

"One of the toughest parts of the job learning is that you can't solve every problem. Recurring drugs are a perfect example. We can arrest 10 people in a bust one night and come back the next night and there will be 10 new ones dealing drugs in their place. That kind of thing is frustrating.

"You see a lot of the negatives, but sometimes you see the other end of the spectrum, too. One of my most fulfilling memories was helping deliver a baby. It may sound corny, but I like helping people. There's nothing I appreciate more than a genuine sincere "thank you" from a person I've helped."


"A high school diploma or GED high school equivalency diploma is all that's required to be eligible to become a police officer, but any additional education is beneficial, especially for advancement to the higher ranks.

"There are a lot of courses in high school that would be helpful. Police work entails a lot of writing, so good writing skills are a plus. I'd recommend English courses, speech classes and classes in a foreign language. All can help. ROTC training is also good preparation for the discipline required at the {police} academy.

"At the academy, candidates undergo 22 weeks of preparation, eight hours a day, five days a week. Much of this is classroom training {in law and police procedure} and a lot is fitness training. After graduation from the Academy comes 15 weeks of on-the-job training. During this time, you are officially a police officer {on two-year probation}, but are teamed with a senior partner who evaluates and critiques your performance.

"A beginning police officer can expect to earn between $20,000 and $21,000. Senior higher ranking officer {lieutenants, captains and higher} can earn as much as $50,000 or more."


"Police officers need to be confident, compassionate, level-headed, and have the discretion to make judgement calls. The shift work {late-hours} can be rough, and much of the work we do goes unappreciated. Police work is a career -- it's not a temporary job you take just to make money. You can get addicted to it. If you're dedicated, it can be a rewarding career."