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Police Officer Interview | Officer Nathan Spies

July 30th, 2019 police officer interview

Introduction

Many of you have been asking us to conduct an interview with a police officer. We asked you what questions you would like asked and we put them to Officer Nathan Spies, who works for Oregon City Police Department.

We met Officer Spies in early July. The police officer interview lasted around 30-minutes, and, in that time, he cast some real-life light on what it’s like being a police officer in the United States; a realistic take on what’s involved.

We’ve since received some great feedback from our readers and, encouragingly, how many of you have decided to arrange to meet officers in your own police department.

This is advantageous for two reasons:

  • First, it’s beneficial for answering oral board exam questions. You can cite cases where you’ve proactively gone out to learn what a career in law enforcement is like.
  • Second, it gives you a realistic expectation on the career and whether it’s something that appeals to you.

For these reasons, we encourage more of you to meet with your local police department and, if you cannot arrange a sit-down interview, to at least arrange a ride-in where you can go around your department with officers and see what a typical day in the life is like.

Without further ado, then, let’s review our police officer interview with Nathan Spies.

Police Officer Interview – Officer Nathan Spies

PTSG – How long have you worked as a police officer here in Oregon City?

NS – “First of all, I’d like to thank you guys for reaching out to us. We appreciate the work you guys do in training the next batch of officers, and to let prospective officers know what it’s like working in this profession.

PTSG“No problem at all, we appreciate your time!”

NS – “So yeah, I’ve worked here at Oregon city for the past 8 years. I haven’t always worked in the same part of the department, though. Starting out, things were new, and I was assigned more basic tasks – such as traffic control or city patrol – to get my skills up to scratch. You quickly learn on the job, that’s one of the things I least expected.”

PTSG“So, there is great scope to advance within the department then?”

NS – “Absolutely, but you need to know what you want and put the work in. Nobody does that work for you. For me, I’ve always wanted to work more on the investigative side of things. I found myself more interested in forensic investigation. Perhaps my interest in detective TV shows over the years has had an impact. But it doesn’t make it any less interesting. If anything, that’s a direction I want to go in more than any other. The scope for growth in law enforcement is incredible, and I’d encourage aspiring new officers to reach those ambitions”.

PTSG – “Why did you want to become a police officer?”

NS – “Honestly, I didn’t always want to be a police officer. It was something that grew on me, though. In high school, I quickly realized that dealing with authority wasn’t always my greatest strength. I guess, then, I felt that becoming a part of a wider authority in society was the best place for me. I’m also a strong believer in conviction, law and order, loyalty within a group, and these factors are all present in a career in law enforcement. I think, then, my experiences growing up coupled with my personality led me to this career – and, eight years on, I’m still confident that I made the right choice. Not everyone can say that about their career”.

PTSG – “That’s interesting how you matched your personality and career choice. Many wouldn’t think of opting for a career along those lines. But now that you’re an experienced police officer, what is it about the role today that you most enjoy?”

NS – “I guess this comes back to my last answer. One of the great advantages of becoming a police officer is the flexibility it gives you. You’re not sat in an office from 9-5pm with a manager looking over your shoulder. You know what to do and you do it in a way that you deem best. Also, there is nothing boring about being a police officer. There is no daily repetition. Every day comes with something different and you can’t buy novelty like that in any career.

PTSG – “For sure, but is there anything you don’t like about your job?”

NS – “Good question! Let me think…well, I think the hours can prove a problem at times. This is truer starting out though, as – depending on the department of course – you are assigned more grueling hours, such as late-night shifts, which can become difficult to get used to. At this stage though, I’ve gotten used to much of it and, as years progress, you’re less likely to be given month after month of these kinds of hours”.

PTSG“When it comes to being a police officer, not everyone will match the ideal criteria. It’s not a job for everyone. Based on your experience, what qualities and skills should aspiring officers have before entering the profession?”

NS – “True, and I’ve come across many officers in my time who couldn’t hack it. They may stay with the career, but often it’s turned out to be something that they weren’t prepared for. For me, though, I always knew it was the right career for me. Police officers encounter so many different aspects of life and death, violence and missing persons. You need to be strong, but empathetic when the situation requires it. You need to be honest and diligent. After all, as defenders of the law, officers should approximate to the very best in trust and fairness for all. Officers should also be confident, self-aware, yet unafraid to confront what could be a life or death situation, whether it’s a mentally ill suspect or a suspect who intends to cause harm to himself, others or both. True, it’s a diverse skill set but that’s what’s needed and that’s why rigorous training is required to find the right people for the job”.

PTSG – “That’s a great take-home message for our readers, the need to know what the role involves and whether you have the skillset for each of those very different tasks. You mentioned training there. How did you find the police officer exam and subsequently, your training in the police academy?”

NS – “Tough, very tough. I found the police test much harder than others. It’s like what I was talking about earlier; how I wasn’t always the best student. I was never the most academic student and so I never flourished in that environment. To become a police officer though, you do need to pass a test with academic-style components. They still test the same topics that I took. They’re not easy! Honestly, I failed the exam first time around and needed to put in the work. When I took the exam, there were no online programs like yours around to help structure my study, take test questions or prepare for the oral board. I wish there was though. That’s what I was missing during my study. Once I made it into the police academy, things were much, much easier. I was in my element and really enjoyed the training on offer. It was just getting past the police officer exam that I found toughest”.

PTSG – “True, not everyone is academically oriented. I guess one of the best ways to tackle the exam, as we recommend, is to understand the relevance of why each part of the exam is tested. That way, it offers some sort of motivation.”

NS – “That’s very true. Over the past 8 years now, I’ve lost count how many reports I’ve had to write or read or prepare for court. One of the skills I’ve really improved over the past couple of years is communication. You’d be surprised how important effective communication is. One of the things we put into practice is called the force continuum. These are guidelines on what force to use in a given situation. Communication with members of the public/suspects is crucial to ensure you de-escalate a situation as much as possible. Sometimes communication is not enough, and a more rigorous response is needed. Unfortunately, this response may be fatal and involve killing the suspect. But yes, communication is just one part and the police test has been put together to filter through candidates who meet these minimum requirements”.

PTSG – “Finally Nathan, what advice would you give to anyone reading this who is thinking about becoming a law enforcement officer?”

NS – “Know what you’re getting into! Don’t rely on your understanding of what it is to become a police officer based on some TV series you’ve watched. Instead, get to grips with the reality of what we do, how stressful it can at times be, but also how rewarding the career can be – serving the local community and acting as a respected beacon of the law within that community. As any police officer will tell you, it’s not always easy – and it never gets easier. The more familiar you become with what the career demands, the better. It will shape your understanding and help you decide whether this is the right career for you. We talked about skills earlier, too. Readers should conduct a review of their own skillsets and where their strengths and weaknesses lie. That will give them a good understanding of whether they’re a good match for the tasks that we do daily. I guess, yeah, that would be my one piece of advice.”

PTSG – “That’s awesome Nathan, we really appreciate your time doing this police officer interview, and hope that perhaps we can do this again at some point in the future.”

NS – “Anytime, my pleasure.”

Final Thoughts

So, there we have it.

Officer Spies is a great guy who is clearly dedicated to his work. We were delighted he took time out of his busy schedule to participate in this interview. We think he made some excellent points about why he decided to become a police officer, how honest he was about his challenges with the police officer exam, and how realistic he was about what the career is like and how candidates should really think hard about whether it is the right career for them. We think the police officer interview went well and we hope that you found it as helpful as we enjoyed making it.

If you would like us to conduct another interview with a police officer and have some suggestions, do get in touch. We are hoping to make this a regular feature in the weeks and months ahead.

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