Joining a professional law enforcement association is a smart career move for those who take their job and their profession seriously. Professional associations offer members benefits that might not otherwise be available; they can be invaluable at helping members develop their careers. Professionals looking to advance their law enforcement career should join at least one such association.
Consider the myriad benefits to joining a professional association. By joining a professional association, you will expand your professional network considerably, gaining access to fresh, new perspectives on your profession. You will learn news and trends relating to your profession; leaders and experts will present topics of interest and import to members, allowing you to keep abreast of happenings within your field. You will learn how others in your field of law enforcement work; this will expand the way you look at your own job and the agency where you work. This sharing of information leads to new insights and discoveries of best practices that you might be able to apply in your own workplace. And people will meet you and learn from you, providing a prime opportunity for you to highlight your work experience. In turn, you will hear about job opportunities first-hand.
Joining a professional association typically requires an annual membership fee. Consider this cost an investment. In addition to the above benefits, your membership fee can also provide other benefits and services, such as receiving the association’s newsletter, group insurance, legal counseling and advice, training opportunities, and other industry-related freebies or discounts.
Beyond all the obvious benefits, you should also be as proactive as possible and make your membership work for you. Take time to read the newsletters, as they discuss key industry issues and hot topics. This is an excellent way to stay current and informed. Learn about the principals in your industry: who they are, where they work, and what their role is in the association. Introduce yourself to the association’s leadership, and greet them at subsequent meetings. You will soon become a familiar face to them, and they might think of you when looking for new participants or volunteer support in association events. Connect with other professionals you might be able to use as references when searching for a new job. And get to know those who could potentially be your competition for future jobs by finding out what training and/or education they have.
If you recently joined an association, you might feel more comfortable attending your first few meetings with a colleague or co-worker until you get to know more of the members. Set a goal of introducing yourself to several members at each meeting. Have your business card ready, and ask other members for their cards. Open a discussion about your respective jobs, and when you feel comfortable enough, you can discuss more personal matters, such as where you both live. By being proactive, you might be helping another new member who, like you, was nervous about starting a conversation. Remember, everyone starts out as a new member. When you proactively start a conversation, people will remember you as friendly and open and will welcome opportunities to talk with you at future meetings.
Another way to help yourself and your career is by helping the association; volunteer to serve on one of the association’s committees, for example membership or professional development. This will allow you to see and be seen, to meet other members, and be a proactive supporter of the association.
Professional associations abound. They cover every job and specialty and range from city-based to regional to global in scope. Examples include:
- The International Police Association, a worldwide fraternal organization that promotes international and cultural friendship among peace officers;
- The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, exclusively for federal law enforcement officers;
- The Airborne Law Enforcement Association, which supports and encourages the use of aircraft in managing public safety;
- The International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, advancing public safety for educational institutions;
- The International Association of Chiefs of Police, an organization of police executives from more than 100 countries, representing international, federal, state, and local agencies;
- The American Correctional Association, serving all disciplines in the corrections profession;
- The National Criminal Justice Association, representing state, local, and tribal governments on crime prevention and crime control matters;
The Park Law Enforcement Association, representing park law enforcement officials to improve law enforcement and visitor protection in parks.There are associations for forensic science, criminology professionals, women police, and black law enforcement officers. The list of associations goes on and on. To learn more about the numerous professional associations, check online or visit the public library, where you will find both local as well as national directories that list the hundreds (thousands?) of associations available. Join a law enforcement association now to start reaping the benefits immediately.