Polar Opposites

I was studying to be an English Teacher and working part time in the public library to pay my tuition when I received a call from a friend of mine who was considering a career in law enforcement. She asked if I would accompany her to the Oakland Coliseum for a Law Enforcement Job Fair. I tagged along and found myself surrounded by people in uniforms waving job announcements and flyers in my direction.

An interesting aside, the California Highway Patrol had multiple tables with specific job announcements stacked high. Because this occurred when Affirmative Action was the law of the land, I looked at job announcements that said, State Traffic Officer-Black Male, State Traffic Officer-Black Female, State Traffic Officer-Asian Female, etc., etc. There was a line of several of these oddly specific posts. Anyway, I collected dozens of flyers and consulted a map to learn where each of these police departments was, unfortunately, some being only a few miles from my home, and I had no idea.

Where the hell is Brisbane? No, not the one in Australia.

My father and I talked about me becoming a police officer and he agreed. He had read an article in the Mercury News that police departments in the Bay Area were not getting enough qualified applicants.

But as someone who until days ago was trying to obtain a teaching credential to teach high school and working in the public library, I did not present as a qualified applicant either. I had difficulty making my way through the process successfully. Was I a serious candidate or was I just wasting everyone’s time? Was I going to have the life experience necessary to engage in regular law enforcement duties? Would I be able to make the difficult decisions? On paper, it didn’t look like it.

To gain experience, I joined the University Police Cadet Program in order to learn more about police work in an environment where I was still pretty comfortable with my surroundings.

And I decided to expand the scope of my job search. Alaska seemed like a great frontier in law enforcement. Working at the library, I found a phone number for the Alaska Police Standards Council and had them mail me a list of police departments in the state. You had to do that back then, before the internet. I then began calling police departments. Among others, I reached the Sand Point Police Department. The conversation went something like this.

“Sand Point Police.”

“Yes, could I speak to your recruiting division?”

“I’m Chief of Police Johnson, how can I help you?”

“I was calling to see if you had any current openings for police officer.”

“Actually, we do.” I heard paper shuffling. “Do you have a few minutes? I have the interview questions right here.”

“Um…yeah. I have time.”

Then, on a long distance call, that I was paying for, I spent 20 minutes interviewing for a job that I didn’t know anything about. I learned that the position was a resident officer position because the department only had three police officers (I checked and they have five now) and that I would be on-call for half of each week. The pay was better than twice what I would get paid in California, and I would also receive free housing or a housing allowance. I would also be allowed to attend the State Police’s helicopter training academy as there are very few methods of transportation from Sand Point to mainland Alaska.  I received a background investigation packet in the mail that I completed, had notarized, and mailed back. I was notified that I was a top three candidate (probably only three candidates) and then later, that I lost out to a currently certified Alaska State Trooper looking for a retirement gig. Oh well.

Since my father lived in his hometown in North Carolina, I thought that I could apply out there, as well. I was now becoming comfortable with working in a University police department, so I thought I would start there. I called the North Carolina State University Police Department in Raleigh. I spoke to a very nice young woman and explained that I wanted to receive a recruitment package, perhaps a job announcement and a flyer outlining the hiring process. She told me that they don’t do that but that I could schedule a medical examination and that I would be mailed an information packet regarding the position in preparation for my start through the recruitment process.

I asked what dates and times would be available, as I would have to fly out to Raleigh from California. She told me not to worry as my medical examination date would be in the preparation package that I would receive in the mail. Concerned, I reminded her that I was in California, but that I would still be interested in getting an appointment and flying out for the examination. She took my address and assured me that I would be given plenty of notice.

I then continued with my life, attending school and working as a student assistant for the University police. I worked late into a Friday night and finally arrived home at a little after midnight. I gathered my mail and saw that I had a large envelope from the North Carolina State University Police, so I opened it right away. On the very first page was the date and time for my medical examination. Since it was already after midnight, my appointment was for that morning at 10 A.M. Even if I drove right to the airport, there would not be a flight until mid-morning. I couldn’t make the appointment if I tried. I also noticed that there was no phone number to call and leave a message if I couldn’t attend.

Oh well.

So going out of state seemed to be problematic. I stuck with the University police and they gave me a full time job within the year. Thirty years later, I collected my pension and walked away. I loved the job, but I don’t miss it at all. Just the people. Well, most of them.