Don’t Give Up, Don’t Be Content and Push Foward with your Dreams
By: Donald Hagan, Okeechobee City Chief of Police
In this message I want to discuss an unnoticed issue plaguing our society. I have noticed the amount of people interested in becoming law enforcement officers has significantly reduced over the years. This is a national problem that agencies all over the country are facing. When I started my career in law enforcement in 1991, I wanted a job that was challenging and something different every day. I also wanted to serve my community and defend those who cannot defend themselves. My career has been fulfilling and I’ve made a difference in peoples lives. It has ultimately led to me becoming the head law enforcement officer for the City of Okeechobee. In this line of work you gain another family and become part of a national brother/sisterhood.
If you are interested in making a difference and want a job that is far from boring, I encourage you to look into a career as a law enforcement officer. It offers decent pay, great benefits, and health insurance. Most agencies offer a pension plan that allows you the option of retiring in 25 years or at 55 years old. Jobs that are not classified as high risk, you must work much longer to obtain the same benefits. Most agencies allow you an assigned take home patrol car which for some is a huge benefit.
I am sending this message because I had someone urge me to explore a career with these types of benefits. I’m now passing that message and hope this reaches another young person like it did me. My grandfather retired from the Air Force, State of Florida and a private employer. He was able to accomplish that because he was so young when he got started. He encouraged me to look for a job with a similar pension plan. I initially joined the Army but was rejected on account of my poor vision in my right eye. So, I came home and was hired by the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office after bouncing around some insignificant jobs. My point being, I pulled myself together after my dream of following in my grandfather’s footsteps when the career in the military was crushed. Sometimes in life things happen because God has a different plan for you. So, for all that need to hear this, don’t give up and don’t be content, push forward with your dreams and be the survivor that we all can be.
To be a law enforcement officer you must attend a law enforcement academy. There are 2 commonly used in our area, Indian River State College in Ft. Pierce and South Florida State College in Avon Park. After completing the academy you must complete and pass the State of Florida exam for law enforcement. You then apply with either a city or county agency. State agencies require you attend their own academy and are assigned a work location after completion. During the hiring process a background investigation is completed, you must pass a polygraph or voice stress analysis at most agencies (be honest and forth coming, most of the times your mistakes may not eliminate you but lying will) and a physical/drug screen. After you pass the hiring process you must complete a Field Training Program. During the program a Field Training Officer teaches you the duties and responsibilities of the department and community of where you work. This can vary from agency to agency. Officer safety and dealing with high stress situations are paramount.
I look forward to seeing more interest from our community. The Sheriff and I would love to see more Okeechobee residents becoming law enforcement officers. We have been hiring a lot of officers that drive from the coast because of a shortage of local certified officers. If you are up for the challenge, we have a job for you.