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Police officer: What I do and how much I make

Jamie talks about her work and compensation as a police officer and other opportunities in the field.

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Video transcript

My name is Jamie Carganilla. I'm 33 years old. I'm a police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department and I make just under 93,000 a year. I'm very fortunate to be able to call myself a Los Angeles police officer. It is the third largest police department in the country, and it's such a wonderful department because it offers such a huge amount of opportunities for a police officer within the organization. I did my first five years in patrol, and then I was interested in branching out. So, aside from patrol the department offers over 250 different opportunities. Conceivably anything that you are possibly interested in there's probably a spot for you, so right now I'm a recruitment officer and a candidate mentor. What that means is I aid and assist the candidates that are currently in the process, who are trying to become police officers. I monitor their progress, I reach out to them to help them get over any sort of obstacles that they're facing. I offer them guidance, give them some pointers and try to get them to the finish line so that we can get them into an academy class, and ultimately hired. At any given time we have 5,000 candidates who are currently in the hiring process. Within our office we have seven different candidate mentors and each one of us is assigned approximately 500 candidates. So, it's a lot of people to monitor but we just go one day at a time. A typical day as a candidate mentor would be coming into the office and checking our emails. We usually have at least 30 or 40 emails, and then checking our voicemails which is sometimes 50 and upwards of that. And then we return the calls, return the emails, and then I may call candidates who I see failed the interview in days prior. We'll offer the oral prep seminar which is a seminar that we have weekly to aid candidates in passing the interview, and then I'll set up a time with the candidates to meet with them for a one-on-one mock oral. We work with military bases throughout the year. We work with colleges, we do job fairs, we do hiring seminars. Some of our other recruitment officers will do street teams where they go out and they just speak to people on their morning hikes at Firemen Canyon or wherever it may be, and just speak to the public because that's really what it boils down to, whether you're working recruitment or whether you're on patrol. It's all about communication, building a relationship with the community, building trust. A lot of people I think never even consider being a police officer. That's really what it's all about is taking the initiative, being proactive within the community to try to get people in and to try to get them to think hey, you know, being a police officer isn't all about arresting people and interrogating people. That's not what we're going for. It's about serving the community and I know that that is kind of cliche but the fact that we have such a special job we have such an opportunity to impact people's lives on a daily basis. There's really not too many jobs out there like that, and I'm so passionate about sharing that with other people and that's how we get officers in, that's how we get people with a diverse background in is to kind of reach out to that aspect of what they wanna do. Annually, I make just under $93,000. That is the top step for my job class. My job class is a police officer two. When you start when you're a brand new officer you're P1, police officer one. Then once you successfully pass probation you move to police officer two. We start at just under 60,000 for a P1. Once you finish probation you get bumped up. If you have military experience or college credits or a college degree, you get paid more than that. And then every year you get several thousand dollars more until you reach the top step which is $93,000. So, after P2 you can get a pay grade increase if you wish to be a P3, a police officer three, which is typically a training officer, and then after that, should you choose to promote, you can go one of two directions, you can either be in the investigative field, which would be detective, or can be in the field, patrol assignment, which is sergeant. If you decide to be a P3, as far salary is concerned, you can expect to start somewhere around $97,000, ranging all the way up to about $104,000. The LAPD has amazing, amazing benefits. Medical benefits, one of the best in the country, so that is a comfort. It allows me to provide for my family, my young daughter without having to worry about medical bills or going to the ER if we have to, I know it's gonna be covered. We also get paid sick time. We get approximately 96 hours a year of paid sick time. We also get paid vacation which is something that everybody's interested in, of course. I think there's a common misconception that you have to fit a mold in order to be a police officer. I know that's what I thought prior to being an officer. I thought oh, I could never be a police officer, I don't have any military experience, I'm an actress, a singer, I have no idea, I don't know, I've never held a gun. I could never do that. And that couldn't be further from the truth. We want people from a diverse background, people with different cultural backgrounds, people with different employment backgrounds. Really the only thing that we're looking for in a candidate is things like honesty and integrity, respect. Those are innate qualities that we really need because we don't take the badge lightly, and we can't just hire anybody to police this city because it's a big responsibility the public and the department has on its officers. There are certain skills and a mindset that a candidate would need in order to be a successful police officer. One of the most important of which is a willingness to learn, and to keep an open mind because the academy does prepare you for, you know, a life of patrol on the street but it's a lot different being in a classroom learning about dealing with a suspect, and being in an alley with a parolee at three in the morning. It gets real quick. So, you really need a willingness to learn and a willingness to accept constructive criticism. Also, a police officer needs to have a huge sense of integrity. If we're working undercover narcotics and there's a large amount of money on the table, we have to know that that officer is always going to do the right thing even when nobody is looking. Respect is something that you absolutely have to have, and that means not just respect for victims of a crime, that means respect for the suspects as well. Respect for the community, respect for people, that's one of our main core values. One of the hardest days was when I responded to a child abuse call involving a four year old who was badly abused by her mother who was still there at the scene, and it's heartbreaking, it really it is. You see these innocent children. They can't defend themselves, and its difficult to see a toddler like that so badly beaten and crying. However, as hard as it is I take solace in the fact that we are the good guys and we're here to stop that. So, as hard as it is for us to see something like that it makes me so happy to be able to take her out of that situation and to arrest the mother and do what we need to do in order to keep that baby safe. One of my favorite days on the job would have to be when I was working Community Relations in Topanga Division. I was in charge of a program called the Junior Cadets for children ages nine to 12 who are interested in becoming police officers or who are maybe a little bit at risk, so we take them under our wing, and this one day in particular, I was a new community relations officer, so I didn't know the children in the neighborhood yet, so as one of my first things I taught them a dance, we did a dance class. So, I had 50 children who have never been to a dance class, never seen any live theater, and you should have seen how much fun these kids had because these are kids who don't really have the resources to go take a dance class. So, it really warmed by heart to be able to offer that to them, and to see the smile and the screaming and laughing. This is was a difference side of being a police officer and I was like wow, this is really what it's about right here. It was a good day.