Are you interested in this career?
I am never bored; no day is the same for me in my job. Some days I do individual counseling with first responders and their families, some days I consult with large departments or provide critical incident stress debriefings.
If you are looking to become a police and public safety psychologist, here are a few suggestions I have to get started in this field.
Ride – along
If you are interested in working with first responders, nothing can help you make a better decision than going on a ride-along, or sitting along with dispatch. Most departments require a waiver of liability form and may ask to do a brief background check to be sure you don’t have a criminal record. A ride-along will give you a better perspective than what you see on television.
Many communities offer a Citizen’s Police Academy where residents meet weekly to learn about the various functions of a police department. You can develop credibility with law enforcement by having this behind – the – scenes experience.
Attend a pancake breakfast, spaghetti feed or other local fundraising event
Find out what is important to first responders by contributing to their charity drives. Fire departments may host a Random Acts of Kindness benefit where you can learn about the needs in your area and what firefighters are doing about it. The charitable cause for law enforcement is Special Olympics. Sometimes police departments will serve as the wait staff at a local eatery and the tips are donated to their favorite cause.
Be (or get) comfortable with guns
Law enforcement officers might be armed when they see you in your office for therapy. If you are not comfortable with guns or didn’t grow up with guns in your house, then consider spending some time at a gun shop or shooting range to reduce your own anxiety. Take a gun safety course.
- American Board of Police and Public Safety Psychology
- First Responder Support Network – Information for Clinicians
- Inside Police Psychology
- Society for Police and Criminal Psychology
- The International Association of Chiefs of Police
- American Psychological Association – Psychologists in Public Service
- Psychology Today – Becoming a Police Psychologist