What should I do first before applying for a cop job?

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Figuring out where to get started can be frustrating and honestly a bit overwhelming. Do you really have a good idea of what you’re getting involved with? How do you find out? There is tons of information on the internet on law enforcement and even the hiring process, yet it is scattered and often doesn’t make much sense to those just starting out. What can I do NOW to either start preparing myself, or better educate myself about the realities of a cop job?

The consequences of taking a life…

How much thought have you given towards the realities of having to possibly take the life of another human being in the line of duty? If you haven’t given this topic serious thought, you probably should either consider another line of work, or find a way to make an informed decision on the topic. There is no greater resource for detailed information on the topic than “On Combat.”

On Combat, The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace

On Combat is one of the best sources I have ever read that discusses the physiological realities of stress as it pertains to cops, firefighters, soldiers and other emergency responders. The book is required reading in many Police Academies around the country. And you MAY have to write a report on said book…at least in my last academy!

Advertising states On Combat is “A ground-breaking examination of what it takes to perform, cope and survive in the toxicity of deadly combat as a soldier in a foreign land, and a police officer in the mean streets of urban America.”

The reality is that On Combat is that and more. Many of the concepts and tactics taught in the police academy is explained in detail in this book. Here are a few sections covered:

  • On Sheep, wolves and sheepdogs. The description of the role of soldiers and law enforcement as protectors in society and the interaction between the warriors and the citizens.
  • The Physiology of Combat: The anatomy of the human body in battle. This details the fight or flight response the human body goes through in an emergency and includes vasoconstriction, distorted time, auditory exclusion and tunnel vision and how these affect performance.
  • Fear, physiological arousal and performance. This covers critical topics such as autogenic or “combat” breathing and conditions white, yellow, red and black. The correlation between heart rate and physiological arousal is explained.
  • The OODA Loop and how it affects decision making and drives law enforcement tactics.
  • Affects of training on the brain and the “autopilot” phenomenon, including the amount of time necessary to achieve “unconscious competence,” stress inoculation, and more.
  • Affects of violent video games and how law enforcement and the military utilizes this trick to train for violent confrontations.
  • The price of combat: After the smoke clears. The science of PTSD and how to try to mitigate the affects in our modern warriors.
  • The warrior mindset and refusing to die. This covers mental preparation and steps necessary to not only make the decision to kill when forced, but how to live with it afterwards.
  • The evolution of training methodologies that teaches our soldiers and cops to overcome the greatest human taboo. To kill when forced to protect yourself or others.
  • The evolution of combat and domestic violent crime. This covers the role of modern medicine, lethality of weapons, increases in aggravated assault rates worldwide and media influences.

If you want a detailed explanation on the WHY of law enforcement training, understand use of force and

You can also go to Col. Dave Grossman’s website and order additional videos and the “Bulletproof mind” series. Though to be honest I have never gotten to watch these. They are like Bigfoot at my department….I hear it’s out there somewhere and even got my hands on an (empty) box once, but I’m not sure it actually exists.

Emotional survival for law enforcement: A guide for officers and their families

Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement is also a critically important book to read. This book explains in detail the potential effects of the “hypervigilance roller-coaster.” This book is important for not only you to read, but your significant other, children or other family members. I can attest to how true this book is and how important it is to try to regulate yourself with exercise and normalizing activities with friends and family to avoid burnout.

Emotional Survival can paint a pretty grim picture and makes being a cop look like a life of listlessly flipping through channels on the TV while grunting monosyllabically at your spouse and drinking yourself into a stupor. The book luckily provides tactics that can be used to counter the emotional crash that comes after the highs of working in law enforcement. If you plan ahead and are aware of the emotional impacts of the job, it is very possible to enjoy a long and exciting career while maintaining healthy relationships in your personal life.


If you are interested in a career in law enforcement, I cannot recommend these two books enough to learn what you are getting into as well as giving you a leg up on the competition who don’t understand the concepts covered. I personally own hard copies of both books as well as the ebook and audiobook version of On Combat. If you find yourself pressed for time, I highly recommend purchasing the audiobook and listening to it during commutes and while performing basic household duties around the house.

Have you read either book and have a comment? Or maybe you know of another excellent resource that I don’t mention? I would love to hear about it!

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Also published on Medium.

Author: Jaden Michael

Blogger, aspiring author and chronic smart-ass. Army veteran, former corrections officer, current law enforcement officer assigned to patrol.

Questions or Comments? Let me know here!