From Local Law Enforcement to a Civilian Role in the US Coast Guard

150X150Law_enforcement_to_coast_guardBy Dr. Robyn A. Kapperman, Purdue Global College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Law Enforcement – Protector and Social Worker Are Just a Few of Its Roles

In my career path, it was a challenge to narrow down the various applicable jobs. Many years ago I was a law enforcement officer in a couple different states. The misconceptions at that time seem minuscule in comparison to the isolated incidents seen in recent years. I have always had a strong desire to help people. I also thought there would be “more action” on many of my assigned shifts. I soon discovered that the television shows we watch may have exaggerated on how quickly a crime can be solved.

Part of the job required being a something like a social worker. You are often placed in tense situations with the public and with the victims of multiple types of crimes. I had a college degree in criminal justice that provided me with courses that explored human nature along with how the criminal justice system worked. Prior experience combined with the educational background served me well. Many aspects of the job were satisfying. Solving a crime and ensuring the person was held accountable for a crime, especially if they were a danger to society, was extremely gratifying.

Transitioning to a Public Safety Civilian Job and Some Clarified Some Misconceptions Along the Way

Today, I am a member of the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Reserves and have been in the reserve program for almost 29 years.  It was a natural fit to gravitate towards a USCG civilian job. I started to apply for multiple Department of Homeland Security (DHS) federal civilian jobs, predominately utilizing the USAJOBS website. I had multiple interviews and was actually offered jobs from numerous different agencies. I selected the offer from the USCG.

This position has cleared for me some of the public misconceptions concerning federal civilian jobs. For instance:

Another misconception or myth concerning federal civilian jobs is once you are in the door you are “golden.” Civilians are evaluated and have assigned duties alongside, in my case, the active-duty personnel.

Some have the misconception the Coast Guard predominate focus is search and rescue but they are a valuable department under DHS, maintaining the safety and security of the maritime domain. I also serve as the executive secretary of the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) Area Maritime Security Committee (AMSC). Assisting the port partners in training, especially emphasizing cyber, and sharing best practices is one of many examples that make the job a unique and satisfying experience.

Building Upon Education and Prior Experience as a Key to Success

My master’s degree (criminal justice and public administration) and doctorate (Doctorate in Business Administration specializing in Homeland Security) along with my prior experience have provided me with the tools to succeed in my current position as a Port Security Specialist (PSS) at the USCG District 8 office.

I also have the opportunity to utilize a risk analysis model that is mentioned in the course I have been assigned to teach at Purdue Global (HM 502: RISK, VULNERABILITY, AND CAPABILITY ASSESSMENT METHODS). Education and experience have prepared me for responsibilities in my professional career, such as:

  • Directing security exercises which highlights the incident command system 
  • Assisting with the validation of port security grant applications
  • Updating and writing contingency plans to include risk assessments and continuity 

Looking back on where I began in law enforcement into  my current civilian role, I can say it’s been a journey that I have continuously prepared for as I built and leverage my skills and experiences.  Both professions may have public misconceptions, yet both are fully gratifying in responding to a calling to serve and protect.

Dr. Robyn A. Kapperman is a faculty member at Purdue Global. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Purdue Global.