This Pasadena police officer opens up about the highs and lows of working in law enforcement. He also explains how his career has benefited through scholarships because of his bilingualism, despite that he has faced discrimination because of his ethnicity from his peers and the community.
I am a police officer with the Pasadena Police Department. I have worked for the City of Pasadena for three years after graduating from the police academy. If I had to describe myself in three adjectives, I would say that I am “tall,” “handsome,” and “nice.”
I am a Hispanic male, which has definitely helped me so far in my career. I received a scholarship for minority cadets from greater Los Angeles, which really helped make this job happen. I have experienced some discrimination on the job, mostly limited to racial insensitivity. One of the other cadets at the police academy asked me if I spoke English, and another guy called me a wetback during an argument. Of course, we get a lot of insults thrown at us by people in the community, but I don’t count those as discrimination. You’re just there to help people, and sometimes they don’t respond positively. That’s okay.
I would rate my job satisfaction as four out of ten because I don’t like the level of physical danger I have experienced as a police officer. I have had shots fired at me during two arrests, which really made me evaluate whether this was the career for me. I like serving the community, but I would really like to be an actor. I don’t feel like this is my calling, but I feel like I’m doing something good. I really want to act.
I got into police academy because of the pay, which might be a different situation for most police officers. In 2008, it was difficult to find good full-time work, but I had good grades in school and I was able to get into the police academy. I knew if I made it through. I would have a full-time job with benefits and a good salary, even if I wasn’t excited about the job all that much. If I could go back and do it differently, I might have applied to other jobs just to see what is out there. At this point, I’m locked into my job unless some of my acting auditions come through.
One thing I learned the hard way was how tough it is to be a police officer. On shows like COPS, being a policeman looks like a fun job, but most of the time, it’s sad or dangerous. I hate responding to domestic violence calls most of all. You meet these people and see their suffering, but you usually can’t do anything. I walk right back out of their lives and probably won’t see them again.
I learned a lot about the working world through this job. I never felt like school was preparing me for what I really wanted to do in life. I had real jobs growing up, and I learned a lot from them but being a police officer really taught me about how people live.
The strangest thing that ever happened to me was when some kids left a dozen donuts on the radio antenna of my cruiser. It was really weird.
I get up and go to work each day because I’m helping people. It really makes me feel good. I face a lot of challenges in this job, and, like I said, getting shot at was something that made me want to quit, but I know I’m doing something good. My job is stressful, but it’s manageable. My work-life balance is okay because I am unmarried and have no children. I get paid $52,000 per year, which is enough for me right now. I also get two weeks of paid vacation each year, which is great.
To get this job, you have to apply to the police academy and perform well. Most people do not need a college degree. If a friend were considering doing this, I would recommend they think about the physical danger and whether or not they can get shot at for a living. If you can, it’s a great job. In five years, I hope to be a professional actor, but if that doesn’t work out, I sure hope I’m still a police officer!