For a student studying law enforcement, hearing from officials in the field is often the best way to gain a career outlook. One of the ways to build those relationships and hear those stories is to find a mentor.
“Students entering a law enforcement career should enter a mentorship – whether formal or informal – because it creates a role model [for them], an avenue of networking and the ability to get into that law enforcement agency [once they’ve graduated],” Minnesota State Patrol Capt. Jeremy Geiger said.
To dig deeper into mentorships, four accomplished Minnesota law enforcement officials offered their insight and perspective to Rasmussen College law enforcement students during a panel discussion Oct. 3, 2013 at the Eagan campus. Included on the panel were Geiger, Minnesota Commissioner of Public Safety Mona Dohman, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Assistant Superintendent Drew Evans and Anoka County Sheriff James Stuart.
The panel discussion focused on the panelists’ mentors and the advice they had for future law enforcement officers.
Panelists share their mentorship experiences
Though most of the panelists didn’t have the opportunity to participate in a structured mentorship program, they all had senior figures in their lives that set the bar for excellence in their law enforcement careers.
“My grandfather was the chief of police in the small town we lived in, so seeing how he interacted with the people in our community gave me a great example of how to act as both a police officer and as a person,” said Dohman.
“Even if you never were part of a formal mentorship program, the key is to find someone you admire and respect and then model yourself after them,” said Evans. “I’ve found the best role models have a sort of uniformity to their lives – they’re the same outstanding person both in public and in private.”
Advice for young officers
The discussion also allowed for the panel to pass on advice to the future officers in attendance, specifically the advice the panelists wished they had received.
“I wish someone would have told me not just to work hard, but to also take the time to enjoy what you’re doing,” said Stuart. “I was so focused on my work that I forgot to take it all in. You need to remember that promotions aren’t the only thing- it’s not the title, it’s the job you do.”
Others on the panel echoed the “stop and smell the roses” type sentiment, with Geiger taking it one step further.
“When you’re first starting out on patrols, keep a journal,” said Geiger. “You’ll see some unbelievable stuff out there that eventually you will end up forgetting. I wish I would have put some of these experiences on paper.”
Evans said the key to dealing with the stresses of law enforcement work is to keep it all in perspective.
“Because a large portion of your time is spent dealing with people who are breaking the law and the consequences of that, you’ll find yourself thinking that everyone out there is a bad person,” said Evans. “What you need to remember is even though it may not seem like it when you’re working; there are more good people out there than bad.”
Diversity more prominent on the force
Diversity in law enforcement was a topic also addressed during the panel discussion. It is clear the composition of the police force is changing with more women taking interest in the field. For example, women made up approximately half of the students involved in the college’s mentorship program, and panelist Dohman shared how she has spent a large portion of her career as the first woman in several different law enforcement positions in Minnesota.
However, even with her history with gender diversity, she’s not focused on it.
“I look forward to the day when the story isn’t about the gender of the police officer, but how good of a person that officer is,” said Dohman. “At the same time, we do need to appreciate the uniqueness of each other and value the perspective given by people with different backgrounds.”
Rasmussen College student and event attendee Panhia Lor said she agreed with the panelists’ view on diversity.
“As long as you’re able to show to your male coworkers that you’re capable of doing the job, that’s all you should have to do,” said Lor.
More on the Story
In the More on the Story video below, Minnesota State Patrol Capt. Jeremy Geiger shares some key thoughts on the importance of a mentorship, as well as what both the mentee and the law enforcement officer takeaway from the experience.