Career Day: Deputy Sheriff

Tell us a little about yourself and about your job.

I am a deputy sheriff in Virginia. Before that I was a barista in a coffee shop and had a whole bunch of political internships while going to college in Philadelphia. 

What does your job entail?

My particular sheriff’s office serves four primary functions – we run the jail; we run the courthouse; we serve warrants; and we transport inmates between our jail and other places such as other jails and hospitals. Right now I primarily work in the jail and am responsible for serving, protecting, and keeping an eye on 70 incarcerated males. 

Why did you want to become a deputy sheriff ?

Strange as it sounds, I didn’t really know I wanted to be in law enforcement until after I was hired. I was interested in the job, of course – I wouldn’t have applied if I wasn’t! – but being a sheriff at this particular time in American history is both exciting and incredibly challenging. I hope to continue to gain experience as a deputy so that, perhaps one day, I can be part of those that change this profession for the better. 

What kind of education/training is required? Any post-graduation requirements? What skills/personal characteristics are important to have/develop?

Initially I had to undergo an extensive background investigation. After that I worked in the jail for six months learning the basics of my job. Then there was a six-month law enforcement academy where myself and a hundred other recruits from local law enforcement agencies were put through the ringer physically, mentally, and academically – and then came another two months of training. As you can see, there’s quite a lot that goes into taking a girl like me – whose prior jobs were either in retail, food service, or dreaded unpaid internships – and shaping her into a full-fledged law enforcement officer. 

Beyond the job on paper is a whole litany of skills that they don’t teach at the academy. Honing one’s expertise in firearms and legal jargon is important, but more important is learning about other people’s cultures, how to adapt to situations, and how to make a decision and stick with it. These are skills that I’m still working on, but luckily the job itself provides excellent training. 

What is the best part of your job?

No two days at work are the same. Every day provides new, unique problems to solve, which is something that I thrive at doing.

What is the worst part of your job?

Sometimes, when you spend 12 hours in jail at a time, you can feel locked up just like the inmates. Unless you remind yourself that you get to get paid and go home, sometimes the stresses of the job can feel suffocating. 

Also, the demands of public safety are 24/7. That means at some point you will have to work holidays, birthdays, snow days, weekends, and every time in between. I really love the Fourth of July, but I can pretty much assume I will be working security details around firework displays for pretty much my whole career. 

What’s the work/family/life balance like?

I know it can be pretty hard for a lot of people to balance it all. As a single person I don’t have much trouble taking care of myself, but I know those with families have to work extra hard to make time to see each other.

What is the biggest misconception people have about your profession?

Unfortunately there is a narrative being woven in the news and on social media that cops only exist to take innocent lives, particularly innocent black lives. The unjust, illegal, and racist actions of a few police officers have ruined the progress of a profession whose ultimate job is to serve and protect. I find no joy in reading the stories of officers or deputies who have pulled the trigger and taken lives, no matter if the shooting seems justified or not. I mourn with the families of those victims whose lives have been unfairly taken, but law enforcement is a necessary facet of our society that ultimately keeps people safe and imposes justice on those who break our laws. I think as a culture we have forgotten that.

What stereotypes or criticisms have you faced as an educated Mormon woman with her own career?

When I tell people I work for the sheriff’s office, the first thing people assume is that I do something administrative. Not that there is anything wrong with administrative work in the slightest, but people are always shocked when I say I’m a deputy. Lucky for me, however, this admission is almost always met positively and has fostered some great conversations. 

What spiritual guidance have you felt as you have pursued your education and developed your career?

I felt extremely spiritually prompted to apply for this job. I never saw myself in law enforcement, but seeing as I was a jobless college graduate, I felt, for some reason, like I should do it. I am grateful to have followed that promoting, not only for the paycheck but for the opportunities and lessons I learn every day I put on my uniform.  

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