Today we have the great privilege to talk with Peter Moskos, a Harvard-trained sociologist who became a police officer in Baltimore’s roughest neighborhood and wrote a critically acclaimed book about his experience titled Cop in the Hood. He is currently a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Why did you decide to become a police officer?
I became a police officer to learn about policing and police officers. I went in expecting to quit so that I could return to Harvard to get my PhD. And I did.
What was the greatest challenge that you faced in the process of becoming a police officer and how did you overcome it?
I didn't find the process of becoming a police officer very difficult. Maybe that was because I was bit older (28) and more experienced than many of my academy classmates. Regardless, you kind of get pushed through the police academy. It's not a weed-out process, which is kind of a shame.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in becoming a police officer?
Remember it's a job, an important job, but it should not be your whole life. Especially if you have a family. You've got decades before you retire. So Pace yourself so you don't go from too eager to completely disillusioned. You want to leave the department with some of the same idealism you went in with.
What did you like most about being a police officer and what did you like the least?
I loved the police I worked with. I liked knowing that I was actually making the city a better place. I did not like working for a dysfunctional department in a broke-ass city. And the paperwork and mindless regulations can be really demoralizing.
What can prospective cops learn from reading your book Cop in the Hood?
I hope prospective police learn what the job is really like, both for good and for bad. I don't sugar coat anything because cops will learn the truth as soon as they're on the street. And I hope that by me being honest about the job and the war on drugs, men and women can go into the job better prepared and become better police.
Peter Moskos is a professor at the Department of Law and Police Science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and blogs regularly at Cop in the Hood. You can purchase his book Cop in the Hood at Amazon.com.