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Life After Graduation: A Day in the Life of a Police Officer

When Desiree Shealy was a child, she watched police officers in action on tv. And she loved what she saw.

She said watched them catch the bad guys, help the old lady get her purse back and ticket the speeder who was endangering everyone around him.

“I always thought it was so neat,” she said. “I always enjoyed the way people looked up to an officer as a friend, helper and protector.”

It was who she wanted to be. Now, thanks to her associate’s degree in Criminal Justice from Bryant & Stratton College, it is who she is.

Desiree is a corporal with the Newberry, S.C. police department.

But, is being an officer everything she hoped it would be?

“Best job ever,” Desiree said.

On the job, her daily routine is anything but routine. There is no so-called typical day, she said. Instead, she is responds to calls that are varied in both need and level of danger.

Last week, while she was on duty, she responded to a scene where two men were shot, and one died, the possible result of gang-related activity. The next day, she responded to shots fired into an apartment.

Not every moment is action packed, however. Desiree said she begins her shift as the sun wakes at 5:45 a.m. and doesn’t return home until 6 p.m., at the earliest. There is paperwork to be completed and maintenance on her patrol car to be done. Desiree and her fellow officers also deliver meals to older or disabled people throughout the day and have to appear in court once a week to follow up on individuals who have been charged. She also ferries inmates from the jail to the courtroom and back to their cells.

And, her job can be tough. Desiree said it’s a difficult decision to decide when to go lightly and when to prosecute to the fullest extent. Not all crimes are cut and dry.
“People have some good stories and lies, so sometimes it’s hard to believe what is the most accurate version of the truth,” she said.
She said it is also hard to “work for a public that sometimes appears to be ungrateful and working for a department that often puts the budget before the employees.”
So what makes it the best job ever?

“The fact that no matter what you think of the police, we are the first people you call for help, and we always come. No matter how bad it is, we show up to help,” she said.

Desiree suggested that current criminal justice take their coursework seriously, even the topics that might seem, boring. She said classes in ethics, culture and law have all proven useful on a daily basis in her work.

“Do not take lightly what you learn in school. It will only help you when it is time to go through the criminal justice academy,” she said.

And, she said, never give up.

“It may take years to get hired or graduate from the criminal justice academy, but if you want it, someone will give you a chance.”

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