Careers in the trades: law enforcement

Mint Hill Police patrol car.

CHARLOTTE – Law enforcement is certainly a noble career; however, it is difficult and can be a stressful and potentially dangerous career choice. An individual must be motivated to want to serve their community and the safety of people. It can also be incredibly rewarding because they touch so many lives.

It is a future of service to others. It is a commitment to justice and to the service of the greater good. It is a vow to protect others while you gain the skills, law enforcement training and expertise necessary to perform your job effectively and professionally. Communities trust law enforcement daily to uphold the law, fight crime, and protect the ideals of justice on which this great nation was founded.

Law enforcement agencies may vary as each has its own jurisdiction. It can be helpful to decide what level you prefer to work at in the first place in the field of law enforcement. While most applicants are interested in helping their immediate community, county, or city, others may prefer at the state or federal level.

This includes the United States Department of State ( The U.S. Department of State manages U.S. diplomacy, advocacy, and security on the international stage. Law enforcement jobs with the agency include diplomatic security and various officer positions involved in protecting U.S. citizens overseas.

Another possibility is the United States Department of Justice: ( The DOJ manages law enforcement at the federal level; this includes the FBI, DEA, US Marshals, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and ATF.

The Department of Homeland Security ( is also at the federal level. DHS includes United States Customs and Border Patrol, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), United States Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and USCG.

Studying crimes and the systems in place to prevent them can lead an individual down a variety of career paths. Some careers in law enforcement are more about upholding the law (like prosecutors or paralegals), while others are about reacting to those who break the law (police or probation officers) . Then there are those who work immediately after a crime (crime scene investigator, detectives, forensics, etc.).

The field offers many interesting, challenging and fascinating career opportunities including ATF Agent, Border Security, CIA Agent, Corrections Officer, FBI Agent, Police Officer, State Trooper, Private Investigator, Probation Officer, Crime Scene Investigator, TSA Agent, Immigration/Customs Agent, Bailiff, Fraud Investigator, Forensic Science, INS Agent, K9 Agent, Sheriff, Secret Service Agent, Security Guard fishing and hunting, private security, etc.

When it comes to education, the type of degree you pursue matters. Usually, two- and four-year college programs, including online programs, will focus on criminology or criminal justice, which is the study of the systems our society has created in response to crime. Students will learn about the many arms of the criminal justice system, how they are able to enforce laws, and how they can help stop people from breaking the law. All students enrolled in these programs can gain an in-depth understanding of what drives people to commit crimes and when they are most likely to occur, including the circumstances that make the crime happen.

Locally, you can attend Central Piedmont Community College, South Piedmont Community College, and York Technical College for a two-year associate degree. You can also attend or transfer to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Gardner Webb University, or Wingate University for a four-year bachelor’s degree program. Also, there are good online programs offered by various universities depending on your time, preference, and availability to attend class sessions at a college campus.

As a high school student interested in law enforcement, consider participating in the Student Trooper program sponsored by the American Legion and local law enforcement in your community. The program allows interested young people to attend a week of exploratory training to give them some exposure to the field and see if it suits their career choice. The US military is another great option, as each service branch has a police force. You will receive excellent training, benefit from a free education, serve your country and have many job opportunities in the field when you are released.

Tim W. Ledford, former Mint Hill Police Chief and current Adjunct Professor of Criminal Justice at Gardner Webb University, made the following powerful statement: ten years or more; law enforcement will experience a high level of respect from the public and then out of nowhere there will be a huge media event that will trigger a backlash. For example, the tragedy of 9/11 – police officers all over the world were hailed as heroes, only to hit rock bottom a few years later in the public eye. I always explain this phenomenon to my students and I encourage them to keep a positive attitude. Law enforcement is a calling, a passion, not just a career. There are so many stories where I have personally helped people, in so many different situations, and I always tell my caddies not to lose sight of the importance of having a positive impact on someone’s life. one, a real life-changing difference for the better. ”

“Law enforcement can be a very rewarding career, not just a job,” Ledford continued. “If one does one’s research, it is well documented that the American public overwhelmingly supports law enforcement. A public opinion poll conducted last year indicated that 85% of Americans support men and women in blue, brown, gray – whatever color their uniform is. To all the young men and women considering a career in law enforcement, please take the plunge and go for it. You will be rewarded in so many ways.

“Law enforcement is an easy target for the media,” Ledford said. “The negative narrative that the media portrays is not the essence of the profession. However, the way the media portrays them sells airtime.

“In 2018, more than 250,000 people died from medical malpractice and 2,872 lawyers were publicly sanctioned for wrongdoing,” he continues. “There hasn’t been a lot of media attention regarding these issues. While in 2018, 1,000 police officers were accused of excessive force, yet less than 100 were actually charged after diligent investigations.

“When I’m in class and see the bright young cadets and students, I encourage them to hold their heads up high and strive to do great things as the next generation of police officers,” concludes Ledford. “The future of law enforcement will once again become a career that young people will seek to take up. There are too many budding young minds out there who want to achieve great things by helping the public.”


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