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Becoming a Police Officer: Internships (page 3)

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Updated on Dec 2, 2010

The FBI programs are highly specific. Most internships offer opportunities to survey the whole array of police activities and operations. In other cases, you may be able to spend your internship taking an in-depth look at a particular law enforcement specialty. This could include everything from recruitment and training to maintenance of records; communications or community outreach programs; criminal investigations or crime lab and property room; preparing cases and courtroom testimony; or surveillance operations. You might also be able to spend most of the internship period with a special unit, such as canine patrol, motorcycle patrol, accident reconstruction, narcotics, arson squad, or emergency response team, to name a few.

It is unlikely you will have an opportunity to answer calls for service with these units because, of course, both the agency and your school are responsible for your safety. But you may have the opportunity to work in the command center of these units and interact regularly with officers assigned to them. If you have a preference for one type of experience or the other, find out during the application process whether you have a choice in assignments or whether the privilege of being considered for an internship is the extent of your choice.

Wherever you perform you internship work, do not expect to do active police work beyond paperwork and observation. In the field, you will be limited primarily to observing what the job entails and how the others perform their duties. More likely you will be providing routine assistance to either sworn officers or civilian employees of the agency. If you violate policies meant to keep you safe and you consistently try to stretch your responsibilities into active police work, you stand a good chance of having your agency request that your school remove you from the program. You are there to learn about policing and, possibly to help the agency with some non-emergency tasks. You are not there to endanger yourself or others by taking chances and engaging in risky behavior.

Internships not only provide real world experience, they also help you develop self-directed learning. Most of your learning up to this point will have been passive—sitting in classrooms listening to lectures, reading books, and perhaps watching a few videos. With a field work internship, you will learn when there is a preferred method of performing a task or addressing a challenge, and when there are multiple approaches to problem solving, each with plusses and minuses. You will be acquiring new knowledge and probably applying some of the knowledge you have already gained.

Most students find at the end of an internship that they have acquired new skills and experienced personal development. Most important as far as career consideration goes, you will have developed an increased sense of professionalism through your first-hand involvement in real-world work.

Now that you've learned something about internships, you need to know how to go about getting one. General information on internships is available primarily from school internships coordinators and from police agency websites. Some agencies that coordinate a number of programs with more than one college might have an agency administrator. Attend seminars, job fairs, and similar events where you can talk to recruiters about internships. Particularly if you are in your senior year and will be looking for full-time employment soon, discuss with a recruiter whether an internship can lead to direct employment or if it carries extra points on a civil service exam. Because special jurisdiction agencies and some city and state investigative agencies are less likely to be covered by civil service regulations, they often have greater flexibility in hiring. In searching for an internship, do not disregard opportunities closer to home. Friends, relatives, and possibly parents of classmates who work in the field are also a good source of information.

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