Becoming a Police Officer: Internships (page 2)

Updated on Dec 2, 2010

In considering an internship, you should ask yourself: What do I expect to learn from this? Work with your professor, faculty advisor, and the coordinator or supervisor at the agency where you will be serving your internship to develop a set of learning goals. These are goals you set for yourself, not just program requirements like keeping a journal or writing a final term paper describing the experience and summarizing what you gained from being an intern.

Before you establish your learning goals, you have to evaluate yourself and your situation. This includes estimating how much time you will be spending on your internship and knowing yourself—your personality, your preferences, your strengths, and your weaknesses. Consider how many hours you will be spending at the work site and what the academic requirements of your internship are. Know your skill set, which means what you are good at. Learn about the agency's mandate and the duties you will be asked to perform to help the agency meet its goals. In some tasks you may be able to perform as competently as a rookie police officer, in many more areas you will find out how much you don't know.

Your list of learning goals should be specific rather than general. That is, instead of having a goal "to learn more about being a cop," you could have as a goal "learning the difference in duties between a police officer and the supervising lieutenant," or "how officers interact with members of the community who need assistance or who report crimes." You might want to learn more about the differences between a local and a county police department, or between a police department and a sheriff's office. These are very general goals. Once you have interned for a while, you might make your goals more specific or even more personal, such as learning what you have to do to become a canine officer or a homicide investigator. If you are good with numbers and enjoy math, you may want to pursue fraud examination involving accounting cover-ups.

Being an intern is an active experience. True, there will be a learning curve in the early stages of the internship. There will also be times when you are put in a passive role as a participant-observer. As you grow on the job, though, you will be expected to become a productive part of the team, doing real work in the job at hand.

One example of a highly specialized internship program is with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which operates the FBI Academy Law Enforcement Communication Unit Internship Program that brings volunteer interns to Quantico, Virginia, where FBI agents are trained. The FBI Academy also provides advanced training for ranking officers and supervisors from police agencies around the world. The FBI Academy Law Enforcement Communication Unit Internship Program is open to students majoring in criminal justice, English, communications, and related areas of study; majors in other areas may also be considered. The internships consist of 12 weeks of working 8 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. assisting communications staff. The communications unit is responsible for training FBI Academy attendees in interviewing and interrogation, developing informants, public speaking, media relations, and writing skills. The unit also produces the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, a monthly publication featuring articles on current issues in law enforcement written by people working in the field. Interns typically work on preparing summaries of articles, fact-checking, and other jobs related to editing and preparing the articles for publication.

This is just one type of internship program the FBI offers under it FBI Honors Internship Program. Each summer, about 50 students are brought to headquarters in Washington. Most of the students, who must have at least a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale, are going into their senior year in college or have graduated and been accepted into graduate school. The FBI interns assist in administrative and analytical tasks in such areas as application processing; monitoring recruitment and training policies and procedures in personnel resources; reviewing nominations for in-service recognition and special awards for agents; and working in the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC).

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