Career Connection

Switching the cubicle for gun and badge

As I was rummaging through file cabinets, desk drawers and wastebaskets during the execution of a search warrant, I was surprised when I found a series of handwritten numbers written in pencil on the back of a torn cable utility envelope. What were they? After I investigated and discovered they were bank account numbers, I laughed and yelled, Yes!

The other police detectives — who were pulling cocaine, marijuana, and heroin from cookie jars, ovens and cowboy boots — stopped and just stared at me. They were gathering pounds of dope worth tens of thousands of dollars, and I was holding up a torn-up envelope I found at the bottom of a trash can. I forgot that many criminal detectives don't get as excited as I do when dealing with financial account information. However, if you're overly enthusiastic about financial fraud examinations, this column might be for you.

I once worked as a civil investigator for a check-cashing and payroll company in the private sector until I decided to be an officer and fraud examiner in a police department. Here are seven reasons I made the switch.

1. To protect and to serve

A colleague recently asked me why I now work for a police department. I gave the standard answer that almost every police applicant recites: "Because I want to protect and serve the public." Cheesy answer, but true. Most law enforcement officials join their agencies not to make money but for these principles.

When I spent several years in a private-sector job, I saw many lose money to check fraud, identity theft and Nigerian lotto scams. I assisted on several of these investigations, and it didn't take long for me to realize that I couldn't help these victims as much as I would prefer. I didn't have authority to bust down the suspects' doors or make physical arrests. I didn't even have the ability to seek proper civil injunctions. I had to rely heavily on local, state and federal authorities to do their jobs and do them well. Civilian investigators can get frustrated relying on agencies and not knowing where cases will lead.

2. Rewarding

Whether it's helping bring a fraudster to justice, pulling someone from a burning car or reviving a child who's recently drowned in a canal, law enforcement can be incredibly rewarding. I get a wonderful feeling when I help those who might be unable to help themselves. Law enforcement offers several of these opportunities that aren't readily found in other career paths.

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