Your first reaction to the title of this post might have been “no way, I don’t want to be a cop!” but guess what: there is more to working in law enforcement than being a police officer. The law enforcement field is wide and the opportunities within it are many. Think about your favorite procedural television show. How many different professionals do you remember being portrayed? A few, right? And those are just the beginning! Whatever your passions and skills, there is likely a job within the law enforcement and criminal justice field that is suited to them.
When you think about forensics, you probably think about DNA and blood spatter patterns. Those often get the most time on TV shows. There are, however, many other types of forensics. For instance, there are forensic accountants who specialize in digging through financial information and literally “following the money.” Another type of forensics is data forensics. Capitol Digital, a company that specializes in e-discovery litigation support, defines data and computer forensics as:
“the scientific art of properly handling data on devices that create and keep electronically stored information, doing so in a legal, defensibly sound manner. Such devices include desktop and laptop computers, file and email servers, external hard drives and other backup storage media, mobile devices (tablets and smart phones), and USB memory units.”
Basically, these professionals get paid to hack into data systems and authenticate what they find there. If you love computers and code, this is a great way to enter the field of law enforcement.
Fish and Game
Do you like being outside? Do you have a passion for protecting the environment? Did you know the department of fish and game operates within the law enforcement community? More specifically–a Fish and Game Warden is technically considered a law enforcement officer. They’re considered “peace officers” and their job is to patrol tracts of land to make sure that nobody is abusing them and that the people there are following the letter of the law.
The Fish and Game Warden is kind of like the big boss of park rangers. The job requires a lot of time outside, so if you feel like you’re allergic to professional dress codes, desks, fluorescent lighting and commutes, this can be a great way to earn a living.
Do you love doing research? Do you prefer studying data than sniffing it out? Can you identify trends and issues within the data you study? A career in criminology is a great option for you. Criminologists are the academics of the law enforcement world. They would almost certainly be sorted into Ravenclaw, if you catch our drifts. Criminologists are often employed by universities to teach law enforcement students the basics of what crime is and how it works.
Criminologists can also be hired by public works departments to study the efficacy of local law enforcement officers. They are the people who tell us whether crime is up or down and why. They study sentencing and conviction rates. Some might even be tasked with figuring out what changes need to be implemented to improve the efficacy of a specific jurisdiction’s law enforcement officers.
There are several different types of law and those who specialize in criminal law are definitely a part of the judicial system. These are the lawyers who try cases in court. They can be hired privately or work within a town or county’s public offices in a variety of capacities. Public defense, for example, is one area in which many lawyers operate. The District Attorney’s office takes on cases that are considered more complex or that will have a larger impact the communities in which they operate.
One of the areas of law enforcement that often gets overlooked is the area of support. Court clerks, for example, are very important people within the law enforcement community and justice system, but they do not get the glory of police officers, lawyers, judges, etc. One specific benefit of clerking is that the training process is shorter and less expensive. The same is true for Paralegals.
Paralegals often do what is considered the “grunt” work in law firms and many confuse them with assistants. In reality, paralegals are responsible for finding information, processing information and helping lawyers with every part of the legal process for their clients. A person can become a paralegal after just a couple of years of training.
As you can see there are a lot of great ways to put your passion to work within the field of law enforcement. And these are just a few of the career paths that are involved with our criminal justice system!