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To the academy? Or not to the academy?


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#41 Flying Pig

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Posted 22 November 2014 - 10:59

There are 3 initial questions to ask yourself if you are outside of LE looking at an air unit.  Do they hire experienced pilots externally?  Do they train their own pilots? Does the unit require prospective pilots to obtain their own ratings before they are considered?   If they hire externally, then there is your answer.  Becoming a cop there wont help you.  If they train their own pilots, they already have the funding set aside and already having a rating becomes less impressive or may have no bearing at all in the selection.  They will select the most qualified applicants for the TFO (Tactical Flight Officer-Observer) spot and then over the period of probably the next couple years, slowly start training that TFO to be a pilot depending on the needs of the unit.  Ive seen TFOs who just never had the chance to become a pilot because there was never an opening.  There is a misnomer out there that because you are a pilot, the dept will just assign you to aviation.  No, rarely is that the case.  Units are almost always budgeted for slots for every unit.  So a unit may be slotted for 3 pilots and 3 TFOs.  You can want in all day long, if nobody ever vacates one of those spots, you will never get a chance.  
 
You cant look at an agency being broke or well funded as an indicator as to whether or not they train pilots.  You would be very surprised at the agencies who pay for their pilots training and maybe more surprised at the ones that don't.   If you are not hired as a pilot specifically, then its imperative that an applicant  understands that they are not competing for a pilot slot, you are most likely going to be competing for a TFO slot.  And for the TFO slot, you will be competing against street cops.  Because thats what a TFO is.  They are a street cop who is being chauffeured around to do a job.  The TFO is the tool.  The helicopter, flown by the pilot, is how the TFO  gets to the job site. If the TFO could get to the job site without the pilot... I can guarantee you just about every agency would eliminate their pilot slots.  One of the biggest mistakes I have seen with TFO applicants who have a cert is that they spend the entire interview talking about the fact that they are a pilot and rarely mention anything about why we should select them as a TFO.   Ive also had people who wander down to the hangar with their newly minted CFI cert from the local school and generously offer that if we hired them on as a unit pilot, they would be more than willing to help the unit pilots obtain our FAA ratings.  Believing the urban legend that many LE air units have pilots who don't have FAA certificates.  
 
Like we discussed before, there is the sworn vs civilian discussion.  Its irrelevant.  We can debate it all day long but it doesn't have any bearing on your situation because agencies make their own decisions.  Ive seen places where the civilian pilot is hired, and stays a civilian partnered with a sworn TFO.  Ive seen civilian pilots hired and sent to the academy, and go straight to the pilot seat.  Ive seen them graduate the academy and then go to the FTO program where they fail and are terminated because they didnt have the basic abilities to act as an LEO.  Some agencies may send you through as a formality, and with others, you get the full ride with no slack.  No different than an experienced civilian pilot making it into Army Flight School and failing out of Warrant Officer School.  You couldnt make it through a basic patrol training program, but you expect the guys on the ground to take your tactical input from the air?  A lot of agencies run dual pilot crews meaning the pilots all switch off acting as the observer so you need to know how to think like a street cop on the days you act as a TFO. Some civilian hired pilots do it some cant.  Ive also seen pilots hired externally, told they would go straight to aviation, and once hired on, they find themselves going through an entire full field patrol training program. When they complained about the bait and switch (intentional or unintentional) told "Theres the door if you want to leave.  We hired you for your pilot skills, but you'll be a cop first."  You don't have to like it. Its just how it can be some times.  Many agencies aren't going to employ a pilot who can only be used as a pilot.  If you are down for Mx, weather, budgets, etc.... guess what you get to do?  Well, you get to do whatever they need you to do.  Other agencies, the pilots are completely off limits whether sworn or civilian.  
 
Does this all sound confusing?  Yes, as a whole it does.  But in reality its not.  All you need to do is look at the agency you ultimately want to fly for and figure out a way to understand their specific dynamics.  Ive worked for 4 separate LE agencies in 2 states. The first 2 agencies I didn't fly for.  I started as a deputy working in the jail.   I lateralled to another agency because I wasnt willing to spend 5-7yrs in the jail, then do 5 yrs in patrol before I ever had the chance to try out for Narcs or SWAT.  Huh?  Was that a typo?  No..... Although I had my Private Airplane before I got into LE,   I didnt get into LE with the idea of becoming a pilot.  I spent several years at my second agency, working patrol, Field Training Officer, Narcs and SWAT and generally having a great time doing it before I decided aviation was where I wanted to be.    Problem was, that dept didnt have aviation.  So I had to lateral to one that did, where I started back at the bottom of the food chain as a patrol deputy working midnights.   Since, I have flown as a sworn TFO and sworn pilot for one, and then became a civilian pilot for the another agency and am now the civilian Chief Pilot for that dept and Im getting ready to put the badge back on after a 18 months as a civilian.  
 
There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting into law enforcement with the desire to make it to the air unit.  You are no different than the guy who joins wanting to be a K9 handler, Homicide Detective or SWAT member.   For them, their goals may never pan out either.  The difference is that as a pilot, you have options outside of law enforcement to achieve your goals.  If your goal is to fly, then trying to go the LE route may be a long road that never gets you to your goal. Or you could end up like hundreds of other LE pilots nationwide, civilian, sworn, civilian to sworn, sworn to civilian (yes it happens) who go to work and chase bad guys in a flying patrol car.  They key is knowing the facts about how people make it into the unit you want to fly for and deciding how long you are willing to invest before you may have to accept that it didn't work.  By then you are older, making good money... probably married with kids and a house?  Is your significant other going to "allow" you to drop it all so you can go be an entry level CFI while she gets her new EBT card hot off the press?
 
Well good grief Pig.... great info but what would you do looking back in your infinite wisdom as both a pilot and a gun totting law man?  Well Im glad you asked.   If I was a guy or girl who wanted to fly in LE, but flying was my ultimate passion, heres what I would do.
Stay in the civilian market, gain experience,  do all the regular pilot things. CFI, GOM, Tours, maybe some EMS, Utility or Fire or wherever your career takes you.  Make an attempt to become a Reserve Officer or Deputy Sheriff somewhere if you can, and while doing all of that, not screw up your background with stupid stuff.  Then pursue one of the many external hired LE pilot positions that are regularly posted.  Or if you get brave, take a brief hiatus from flying full time, take your 3000hrs and go apply to an agency as a street cop, and here is an important detail.. for an agency that has an air unit, and see if anything works out for you.  How long you decide to invest into waiting is up to you.  Its going to take a few years.  But guess what?  Its going to take you a few years by becoming a cop and hoping you can get in too.  The difference is, if it never pans out, at least you are still a working pilot instead of being a pissed off cop who kicks their dog, drowns their sorrows in alcohol and women and curses every time the agencies brand new AStar flies over. 
 
Sorry.... this is what you people get when Im stuck at the hangar waiting for a storm to pass.  You know us LE pilots.... socked in IFR conditions is a single cloud at 5000'.  

Edited by Flying Pig, 23 November 2014 - 12:58.

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#42 Spike

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Posted 22 November 2014 - 13:00

Well said, Pig pal….

I’ll add some back-up. The desire to be an LE Officer must outweigh the desire to be an LE aviator. Not everyone can tolerate the LE environment and if this is the case, being an LE aviator becomes impossible……..

#43 takefootoff

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Posted 22 November 2014 - 19:44

i finally managed to get thru to the chief pilot at the philly air unit over the phone, i had written down a list of questions before hand, based off of what i have heard on this thread. it was a very knowledgeable phone call and i gotta owe that to everybody's posts.

 

he told me i asked good questions at the end of the call...



#44 Flying Pig

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Posted 23 November 2014 - 08:50

If you are willing to take on this adventure, have you looked at the PSP?  They actually have a pretty neat unit.   Great missions and equipment.  



#45 takefootoff

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Posted 23 November 2014 - 16:40

Yes indeed, I think PSP would be a great place opportunity. I have to still satisfy some college credit requirements in order to apply though



#46 Flying Pig

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Posted 24 November 2014 - 10:09

Well, the last thing you want to do is get on with one agency and then decide you want to go to PSP and end up having to do an academy all over again.  Most state police agencies require you to attend their full academy regardless of past experience.  



#47 OH58A

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Posted 24 November 2014 - 13:45

I forgot to add that sometimes the person selected by the unit selection committee doesn't pass muster with the administration and they can't take you even though you did the best on the interview etc.



#48 Flying Pig

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Posted 24 November 2014 - 14:00

We had a guy interview, we all pulled for him, he had all the makings of a great TFO. Had his private RW cert. He got in and on his first flight as a TFO it was beyond bad. After 6 weeks of not being able to even marginally make decisions as a TFO he was dropped from training. Back on the street he's as solid as ever. Another nonpilot TFO we had couldn't handle continuous tight orbits on binos or on NVGs staring at a FLIR monitor. Dropped out on their own. Another deputy we had who wanted to end up in aviation had his CFII RW failed street FTO and was let go. Last I heard he went the CFI route and is now flying tours. Glad that paths worked for him because he would have just gotten his partner killed as a street cop.

Some reasons TFOs don't make it? Personality clashes, unable to process information faster than the helicopter can fly to a call, getting to a call and unable to process the relevant information needed by the ground cops. If you get a bad rep as a TFO on training, you are starting with the deck already stacked. If you get selected as a TFO with a shaky street reputation, you'll get no slack. It's a bad day if the helicopter gets cancelled responding to a call because of
the TFOs reputation

Edited by Flying Pig, 24 November 2014 - 14:05.


#49 takefootoff

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Posted 24 November 2014 - 15:44

I actually did a ride along last Monday, it was in a pretty diverse district, most parts ghetto but some parts going thru the gentrification process.

 

I asked the officer to respond to priority 1's and we kept busy for about 4 hours straight, call after call, it went by so fast.

 

It was so much fun for me as a ride along, but I wonder now what it is like for the officer?

 

Could I handle the job description? I think so, but no way to tell yet.

 

 

 



#50 Flying Pig

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Posted 25 November 2014 - 09:26

As a ride along its fun.   Every time Ive been assigned a rider that always want to go out and tear it up.   I tell them we can jump some calls at my discretion, but Im not going to bury myself with excess work or expose myself.  Usually the issue is that after a couple hot calls, you end up buried in reports.  And in my dept, they have to be done by the end of shift.  So the ride along could end up spending the next 5hrs sitting behind the local grocery store backed up to the wall watching me type on my computer.



#51 aussiecop

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Posted 25 November 2014 - 23:19

ahhh memories. I loved being an FTO and once rookies were at the "learn the paperwork" stage, I would get them into all manner of sh*t storms, just so I could park in a dark lot and turn the computer to them and give them the "it's not going to write itself"look as I motioned towards the mounting call logs of the runs we had been on. That was the best part of having a rookie, the only paperwork you usually did all shift was their eval....



#52 Flying Pig

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Posted 25 November 2014 - 23:40

You ever have a trainee bail out ? And then you are responsible to write the reports? :). That sucked. After that, from then on if I had a trainee we didn't log off until they were all submitted.

#53 takefootoff

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Posted 04 January 2015 - 11:24

Figured id wake this thread back up.

Since my last post i passed my check ride, also must of turned up fine on the background check with IA and i have a date for my medical exam now.

#54 Flying Pig

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Posted 07 January 2015 - 08:20

One step closer.....



#55 takefootoff

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Posted 07 January 2015 - 17:10

Honestly I didn't know what to think after the day I interviewed with the detective. Towards the end of the interview she all of a sudden started chewing me out pretty bad for an inconsistency in my packet, then stood up smiled and shook my hand and walked me out.

I was relieved to get the email for the medical.

#56 Flying Pig

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Posted 08 January 2015 - 09:23

Yeah and one agency I applied to I had the most awesome interview ever. No joke I thought we were one step away from heading out for drinks and cigars at the secret cop bar location.... 3 weeks later I got a "thank you for your interest..." letter. And this is after I had already been a cop for about 8yrs :)

#57 takefootoff

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Posted 09 January 2015 - 18:43

Wow, that is baffling.

#58 Bonzo828

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Posted 11 January 2015 - 10:53

Thanks for keeping us posted on your progress.  I am in the same situation.  I have been a LE officer for about 4 years for a medium sized metropolitan department.  I knew when I hired on that I wanted to get into the air unit.  I have my private and am almost done with my instrument rating.  It's just a waiting game.  My agency has a couple civilian spots and mostly sworn positions.  When a spot does become available, it's very competitive to get in.  In the 4 years that I have worked here, they have not had an opening and may not for some time.  As some one else already mentioned, the hard part is being patient and still going in everyday and being a great street cop.  At the same time you have to stay out of trouble so you don't mess up your chanced for a transfer when the opportunity does come.  Anyway, I appreciate all the great advice and wisdom that's been posted here.  Stay safe.


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"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it" - The only thing we can control is our attitude.


#59 takefootoff

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Posted 17 January 2015 - 22:43

This forum has humbled me, taught me, inspired me and whipped my a$$ into shape since I started posting.

Passed the medical.

Now on to meet POLY...
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#60 Flying Pig

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Posted 19 January 2015 - 19:55

Poly hates all equally. However I have caressed her and been found to be worthy in her eyes 8 times so far :). She needs me.

Edited by Flying Pig, 19 January 2015 - 19:56.





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