Career Story: Police Officer
Jamie, a police officer, explains the many opportunities of her career track. Find out how she’s balancing a savings strategy with the rising costs of parenthood.
In order to be hired and make it into the police academy,
it is a pretty long and and rigorous hiring process.
It's a seven-step hiring process,
so right now we start with a questionnaire, it's online.
After they do that, they come take the written test
and once they pass the written,
then it's full speed ahead.
They have their initial background,
where they sit down with a background officer.
If the candidate has no problems
or if they've rectified the problems that did exist,
They'll be moved on to the polygraph,
the department interview, the medical.
They'll be assigned a background investigator
who will do an approximate three-month-long investigation
where they look at every place you've ever lived,
every employer that's ever hired you,
your references, your neighbors, your friends.
They'll look into your social media accounts,
everything that you can possibly think of,
to make sure that we really know who we're hiring.
Once you pass the seven steps,
you're certified for hire.
It doesn't mean that you will be guaranteed a spot
in the academy,
it just means that you are eligible to be considered.
We're hiring every 28 days,
a class of at least fifty candidates,
and then they enter into the six-month-long police academy.
The police academy I think holds a special place
in all of our hearts.
It's six months long, it's personally
the most difficult thing that I've ever done.
But I'm extremely proud to be able to say
that I went through it.
For six months you start at 6:30,
however you have to be there around five
to shine your shoes, shine your gear,
make sure everything is immaculate,
your hair is done.
You finish the day around 2:30,
but most of the class will stay after for study halls.
After that, you graduate, hopefully,
after your six months.
I mean it's pretty rigorous,
you have PT, it's a lot of running,
a lot of push-ups and sit-ups.
So we really urge our candidates to be physically fit
and not just, yes I can run a mile without stopping,
but this is really, really difficult.
So that's a big, big portion the academy.
Then you have shooting, you have tactics, law,
building searches, there's a lot of moving parts to it.
So it is very stressful,
but once you get to that finish line and you graduate,
you wear that badge,
then they're assigned to a division,
where they start their probation.
Not every candidate who goes through the academy
will successfully complete the academy.
In a perfect world it would be 100% retention rate,
that's really what we're all going for here,
but we realize that sometimes candidates
have personal issues that they need to deal with,
so they need to resign.
Many times they're not physically fit,
and then sometimes you have candidates
that they, what we call double fail things.
So in the course of their academy life
they have to take many, many different tests,
and sometimes the recruit officers will have trouble.
For example, if they feel a shooting test
they are given another chance,
and if they fail again then unfortunately
they have to resign.
However, one of our main responsibilities
is to not let that candidate go off into oblivion,
we want to get them back into another class
as soon as possible so they don't lose that momentum.
As far as the candidates that we receive,
we have such a diverse array of people
that are applying for this job,
and that's exactly what we want.
You do not need to have any sort of special degree
to be a police officer,
all you need is a high school diploma.
You need to be a US citizen,
or at least show proof that you have applied,
and are in the process of getting your citizenship.
You need to have a background that's befitting
of an officer,
and that's something that they'll look into
in backgrounds as well, but no felony convictions,
no domestic violence issues, things like that.
A lot of people ask us,
do I have to have a criminal justice degree,
or will that help me?
And my answer to that is, it will never hurt,
but if you're waiting to get a degree to apply,
I would just urge the candidate to go ahead and apply,
because the department offers tuition reimbursement,
so if they would like to pursue that
later in their career, that's available to them as well.
My story of how I became an LAPD police officer
is definitely not typical.
I started working as a professional actress and singer
when I was seven years old.
I toured all over the world, all over the country as well
as one of the lead roles in many different Broadway shows,
and that was what I was always going to do.
That was my plan all through high school,
I was going to go back and be on Broadway,
because it's just that easy, right.
I graduated from high school
and then I moved to New York
and I went to NYU, got my degree
in music and vocal performance,
and I did a couple regional shows there.
I was waiting tables in between auditions,
the typical actress story,
and after a few years it started dawning on me
that this was difficult as an adult
trying to pay my own bills, make my own way in New York,
which is extremely expensive,
you have a tiny closet of an apartment for $2,000 a month.
Waiting for a break that may or may not come,
and I just had to do some soul-searching
and I thought I'm not willing to spend my whole life
waiting for something that's not a sure bet.
I wanted something more.
I wanted a career that really fulfilled me.
Yes I love singing, yes I love acting,
it's a huge part of who I was,
but I wanted it to be fun
and it was starting not to be fun,
because I was stressing over
how was going to pay the rent.
So I move back to California,
my father was an LAPD officer for 34 years.
He just retired on Tuesday actually.
And I talked to him about what I was feeling
and I said I don't know what to do,
all I've ever done is sing and act.
And so he threw the idea out there,
he said, well you could always be a cop,
and I will never forget, I laughed at him,
I said, you gotta be crazy, a cop?
Dad, I love you but that's not for me,
I could never do that.
And he called me out, he said why not?
And I said well, I don't know I'm just not
police officer material, they'd never take me,
and he said, why not?
And I said well, I don't have any military experience,
you don't need that.
Then I started thinking about it
and he said look, I looked it up,
there's a recruitment seminar next week,
just go check it out, I'll take you out to dinner,
if it's not for you, it's not for you.
So I said alright, I'm getting dinner out of it,
I'll go to the recruitment seminar.
So I went and I remember there were blue balloons up
and they had coffee and pastries,
I thought, oh this isn't so bad.
And then I sat down and I listened to a Sergeant
speak, it was a female Sergeant
who's actually now my supervisor, small world.
She was speaking about her story
and she had been a professional fitness model.
Her background was very similar to mine,
she had never dreamed that she would be a police officer
and I found myself seeing a lot of me in her
and I thought, wow, that's really impressive.
I was looking at her uniform,
I was looking at how happy she was to be a police officer.
She was talking about how stable her life was.
She always knew when her paycheck was coming.
She was talking about her kids,
how she's so happy to be able to provide for them.
To take vacations if she wants,
to still do her fitness career if she wants to,
and I thought, wow, well maybe I could do that,
and still do my singing,
and this does sound like a really cool job.
This is it an exciting career.
They showed us videos of, you know,
foot pursuits and getting the bad guy
and investigations, working with your partner,
and I thought, I want to do that.
So I took the written exam,
I got hired relatively quickly,
and before I knew it, I was in the police academy.
So once I was a B2,
I did about five years of patrol.
So I did get a lot of experience,
and it was always in the back of my mind
that I would love to work recruitment,
because of the impact that it made on me
coming through the process.
I wanted to be able to do what that Sergeant did for me,
to inspire them because this is such a special job
that I'm so passionate about
and I wanted to share that with other people,
and I said, this is an assignment that I would love to have
because, you know, you're still doing,
you're still working with the community,
but your focus is with candidates
and I think I would enjoy that.
So what I did was I started doing a little bit of research
within the department to try to learn as much as I can
about Recruitment Employment Division,
and I just started talking to people,
asking people, I had a classmate that worked the unit,
so I asked her, you know,
what would you suggest that I do?
And one thing about life and work in general,
not just the department,
is that you have to be proactive,
you can't wait for opportunities to come to you,
because you'll be waiting a very long time
and they may not come.
So it's a very competitive thing.
I had to make some connections,
I did have to have an interview
in order to come into the unit.
After my interview I actually waited about a year
to get the spot,
and it was finally presented to me
and I was extremely honored and happy to take it.
As a police officer within the LAPD
there are over 250 different job assignments,
aside from being of patrol officer.
You can be on the dive team, mounted unit,
which is on horses.
We even have an off-road unit, K9 Officer,
Community Relations Officer,
Gang and Narcotics, Detectives, Media Relations Officer,
the list goes on and on and on.
As far as my aspirations go,
I always keep an open mind
just because of the number of opportunities
that the department has.
I'm interested in possibly being a detective.
A detective is assigned cases,
you review reports that are taken by officers,
and you try to solve them.
You prosecute them, you file these cases
with the District Attorney or the City Attorney,
depending on the level of the crime.
You testify in court, you interview witnesses,
So I think that would be pretty interesting.
Someone who's interested in being a police officer
should definitely think about the decisions
that they're making
and how that will affect them long-term.
Like I said, we do have a very
thorough background investigation.
I would definitely caution people
to think about who they're hanging out with.
So bad associations.
We will be looking at friends,
what you post on social media,
even if you are not directly posting something,
if you like something that's controversial,
we'll look into that.
Also schooling, even make sure you're getting good grades,
showing that you have discipline
and your completing your assignments.
Also obvious things like not getting in trouble with the law
and also things like drug use
you have to really be careful of that.
You don't want anything that will tarnish your background.
My name is Jamie Carganilla.
I'm a Los Angeles Police Department officer,
and I make just under $93,000 a year.
I feel very secure and money means stability to me.
It means being able to provide for my family.
I have a young daughter, so knowing that I will be able
to pay for everything that needs paying
is a really good feeling.
Prior to being a police officer,
I was a waitress making minimum wage,
scrounging for tips, so I'm very fortunate to have this job.
I went to NYU, which is a notoriously expensive school.
However, I used money that I earned in my childhood.
I was an actress, so my mother, thankfully,
saved all of that for me so I was able to use that,
so I'm very happy that I don't have any student loans
and I'm now saving for my daughter
so she can pay for her school.
The City of LA offers something called
the Deferred Compensation Plan,
which is a really wonderful tool
in order to save for retirement.
You have two options, just like an IRA or 401K.
You can save traditional or ROTH.
I chose ROTH because it makes more sense for my family.
I'm relatively young so it makes more sense
for me to pay the taxes now and then take it all
when I'm ready,
and what you can do with deferred comp
is you can take a portion of that as a loan,
up to 50% of the balance that you have,
so I have $30,000 in there right now,
so I could conceivably take up to $15,000 out
and pay myself back over time with interest.
You pay five percent interest on top of the loan payment.
For this house that we bought,
it had pink carpet so we needed to put wood floors in there,
so we ripped that carpet out.
I took $6,000 loan out of my deferred comp
and then I pay back $55 per paycheck
for a period of, I think it's five years,
until it's paid off.
Living in Los Angeles is not cheap.
It is one of the most expensive cities.
It's comparable to New York.
I know rent is increasing every month.
I think for a one bedroom apartment,
I heard on the radio the other day, it's almost $2,300,
which is just insane to me, so.
Los Angeles is notoriously expensive.
So annually I make just under $93,000 a year,
which translates to about $7,700 a month,
and then of course you have taxes and payroll deductions,
my $55 wood floor loan is factored into that,
so with the deductions that's $2,600 of deductions
out of my paycheck.
And then I have $500 in my savings that goes
to my deferred comp every month,
and my take home pay, that leaves me with about $4,600.
So my mortgage is $2,400.
For gas and electric, it's about $100.
That fluctuates, obviously, every month.
My TV, internet, and phone is bundled together
for a total of $300 a month.
My car payment is $350 a month.
I pay $100 in insurance and about $100 in gas.
I don't really have any loans.
I have some credit cards that I do pay also,
about $100 a month, and then I spend $600 in groceries.
I have a $90 water bill, which I'm trying to get down,
and about $200 in discretionary savings
that I can buy whatever I need to buy,
clothes for my daughter or makeup or whatever it is.
My financial goals, number one is to save for retirement.
I see a lot of people getting into their retirement years
who have hardly anything, and I don't want that to be me.
I want to be able to retire from the city,
to have my pension, thank goodness that I'll have that.
That's another huge perk.
And then I want to be able to travel the world.
I want to be able to enjoy my life after retirement.
I don't want to be confined just to my house
and the neighborhood, so I have a lot of aspirations,
and that requires money, so I am trying to save
as much as I can as early as I can
to give it time to compound and grow.
Another goal is to save for my daughter's future.
I want her to be able to have opportunities
to go to whatever school she wants to go to,
so I try to make sure to monitor her accounts
and to deposit as much as I can in her accounts.
Also to be careful with credit cards.
It's very easy to just use it and say I'll pay it later
so I try to be very careful with how I use
my credit cards and then which credit cards I pay.
I try to pay off the one with the highest interest rate
first, even if it's a smaller balance,
so those are the main things that I try to focus on.
I am saving for the future.
I'm saving $500 a month in my retirement account,
and I do have an emergency fund.
Right now it's about $3,000.
It needs to be more.
I need to have about eight months of an emergency fund
if catastrophe strikes and I lose my job or something,
but we're working on it little by little.
Since starting my time as a police officer,
which has been six years now,
I have learned that it's fascinating
how when you make more money you spend more money.
When I started my time here as a recruit officer,
I was making about $1,300 per paycheck, $2,600 a month.
Now I'm making double that,
so what I've been trying to do is withdraw
several hundred dollars in cash,
keep it in my wallet, and pay for things with cash
because it's very hard to part with that $20 bill
in your hands when it's in your hand.
You want to keep it there.
But if it's a piece of plastic, it's very easy to swipe.
so easy to scan the barcode.
Oh what's eight dollars for a breakfast sandwich
and a coffee?
So that's why I'm trying to really monitor,
using cash, how much I spend.
That's the main thing that I'm doing right now,
and just to really be more responsible
with my budget and looking at how much I spend
because a lot of times I don't want to know how much
I spend at a restaurant because I know it's going
to be a lot, but you have to look.
You have to know about your money
because when you know where your money is going
and how you're using your money,
that's when you have the power.
If you don't, the money has power over you.
I wish that I knew more about saving for retirement
when I started.
They really don't teach you that in school
unless you're an economy major
or something like a finance major.
They don't teach you how to balance a checkbook.
They don't teach you what interest does,
and if they do, it's very cursory or very quick,
so I wish that I had known that time equals wealth
because I was 27 when I started
and I only started putting $25 in my deferred comp.
I could have easily done more.
I didn't have a mortgage, I didn't have a car payment,
but I thought oh, I guess $25 is good,
and had I started with $100,
I probably would have had $9,000 more than I do right now
just because of how time and compound interest works.
So I'm trying to rectify that now,
but it's a lot harder to play catch up
than it is just to start early,
so I try to tell, you know, my young cousins
that you know you're 20 years old.
Just start now because by the time you're 50,
you could easily be a millionaire,
easily, with hard, without any hard work,
just by putting some money away early.
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,
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.