In today’s society, the lack of respect for law enforcement officials are at an all-time high. Because of poor judgment calls made by a handful of individuals, law enforcement has been given a bad reputation. In the media, bad news is broadcasted more than the good simply to cause a media frenzy and because it gives more ratings. At the end of the day, there are more good cops than bad that we don’t see in the news. We sat down with our VP of McAfee Institute and former Chief of Police, Jody O’Guinn and interviewed him about his experience as a cop to give our readers an exclusive insight on what life as a cop is like in today’s world.
What made you want to go into law enforcement?
From a very young age, I had a desire to help those who were, for whatever reason, unable to help themselves. I’ve always been a rule follower, so helping others by way of vigilantism, was not an option. While doing an internship with a small Illinois police department, I learned that the most direct way that I could help people and positively influence their quality of life was to become a police officer. I spent the next 35 years doing just that. It was a very intrinsically rewarding career.
What was your everyday routine like?
Nothing like you see on television. Don’t get me wrong, there were days that mirrored some of the things that you see on television, but not nearly as many. I mostly focused on self-initiated enforcement and crime prevention activity. There was a lot of report writing as well. Eventually, as I progressed in years of service, my days were filled with special enforcement details, detached assignments with various task forces and tactical team activations. As I gained rank through promotions, I became the protector of those who protected and spent my time guiding the activities of younger officers and passing along the knowledge and skills I had gained along the way.
What were the difficulties you faced on the job?
The main difficulty was effectively operating within a highly political and emotionally charged environment. It is tough to appease everyone and even tougher when politicians are trying to influence an outcome. However, the most difficult part of the job was witnessing and dealing with personal human tragedy on a regular basis, and in some cases, not being able to help.
Were there any hardships outside of work due to your profession? Example-family life, continuing educations, dealing with shift work, politics, etc.
The demands of the job made for disruptive family life. I tried very hard to attend all the important events in my children’s lives. Sometimes that didn’t work out. However, just as many police officers do, I fell victim to divorce and the balancing act of trying to continue my education and work extra jobs to make ends meet, while still being attentive to my family’s needs. Being a police officer is not a 9-5 job and neither is being a father and a husband. I felt I was able to pay attention to each of them effectively, as I had an outstanding career in which I ultimately retired as a police chief, and I was a soccer coach, baseball coach and scout leader that saw both of my boy’s reach the rank of Eagle Scout.
What are your thoughts about the ways law enforcement is portrayed?
I think by and large police officers are judged unfairly. It’s true that police officers, in a position of public trust, should be held to a higher standard. But, there are bad actors in every profession. The key is to try and weed them out before the entire organization is affected. Public sentiment is tough on police officers today. My hope is that more citizens would take an active role in getting to know the police officers in their community to see the difficulties they face each day. The decisions police officers are forced to make in a split second, are then reviewed and dissected for months afterward, with criticism to follow. More people need to know just how heavily that weighs on those officers who protect us each day.
How did becoming a cop change your life?
It made me appreciate my family and helped me to gain compassion for people. The pay was not the best, but the intrinsic reward was priceless.
Is there any advice you would give to those in law enforcement just starting out?
Be honest, fair and compassionate to those you serve and to your brother and sister officers. Continue to learn about your profession. You can never learn enough, especially in a dynamically changing profession such as law enforcement. Never do anything to jeopardize your morality or integrity and always keep your word.
Are there any final thoughts or comments you have about being a police officer?
All in all, it was a great job! I would do it all over again if I could and not change a thing. Each experience I had, whether positive or negative, defined me as a person and taught me respect for humanity and humility.
If you would like to enhance your career in law enforcement as Jody did, click here to learn more!