A college kid came up to me at a coffee shop once (I didn’t have my bullet proof coffee that day) and said “Hey, Officer Meraz, I recognize you from Instagram!”

I shook his hand, he seemed like a cool dude until he opened his mouth and made me want to string him up by his skinny jeans. “I’m working on my degree in ‘poli sci’ but if that doesn’t work out, I want to be cop.”

Being a gentleman, I told him that wasn’t the best mode of thinking, that it was nice chatting with him and we ended our brief encounter like any other… No hard feelings bro. So, what made my blood boil? If you are already upset, good, you have a higher sense of purpose. Skinny jean college kid did not say something I’ve never heard before but to anyone that may be thinking along his same train of thought:

Police work is not a job, it’s a career and it’s more than a career, its a lifestyle.

If you aren’t 100 percent devoted to being a cop, you will be in a world of hurt. There are other cushy city/government jobs you can apply for that don’t require you to expose yourself to a life of danger and adventure. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us that love what we do by showing your disgruntled ass to our roll call trying to spread hate and discontent just because you need a pay check. It’s not our fault you became a cop as a “last resort.” Worse off, you’ll probably go viral on some YouTube video for the wrong reason.

In LAPD, as in most other departments, 1/1000 applicants get hired as cops. The requirements to be a cop may be seemingly simple, on the surface… Typically, all you need is a clean record and a high school diploma, followed by a simple application process. However, the departments hiring are also looking for qualities, often unwritten and confidential, which they hope will rule out any applicants that will bring liability (lawsuits specifically).

Here’s an informative video I found:

Of course, the system isn’t perfect.

For the rest of us that want to be cops because we want the challenge of a life of danger and adventure, and simultaneously serve the community, here are the 6 principles you need to strive for:

1. Leadership
2. Core Values
3. Fitness and Nutrition
4. Stress Management
5. Emotional Intelligence
6. Adaptability

Not exactly the stuff of a last resort job.

If you can manage to prove to the hiring board you possess the above list, then you stand a chance of getting hired. If you get hired, possessing this list is what will make you successful. Notice nowhere in this list is shooting guns, fighting, running, etc… IT’S IMPLIED. Not implied that you possess those skills, but that you possess the foundation to acquire them. Naturally, someone with a military background is more inclined to possess the listed skills.

Notice I said inclined. Reality can be ironic.

Skinny-jeans-college-kid wasn’t trying to be a douchbag, he was just uninformed. His condescending comment is water under the bridge. Really. My concern is that you, the reader, are informed. You might never get to ride a black and white next to me, but if you get to wear a uniform and badge, you will represent me and all police officers, whether we like it or not.

The department that hires you needs a rookie to train. That means, you don’t a degree in Criminal Justice.

At least not immediately. You don’t even need a college degree. But you will need to have some skills. So make a trip to your local library, or load up your Kindle. Buy yourself a good pair of sneakers. To prepare for a career in law enforcement, you need to exercise your body and your mind.

Skinny jeans college kid, if you are reading this, sorry I forgot your name. I guess your defeatist persona told my memory bank your name wasn’t important. If you have read this far, you are definitely not as bad as you seem, or as you predicted, poli sci didn’t work out. Either way, I’m at your service, so here are some parting words of wisdom from General “Mad Dog” Mattis, USMC retired (current Secretary of Defense):

“Nothing can stop us, we don’t take refuge in self pity.”

Oorah!