Officer describes first year in law enforcement

A career in law enforcement means meeting people on their worst days, which is something Temple Police Officer Lisa VanGilder has experienced from both sides of the badge.

“When people call us, it is often during the worst moments of their life. I actually had one of those days, and when I look back on it, the officer who responded helped ease the pain a little bit,” VanGilder said. “I remember how he treated me. If I can be that officer for just one person to help them through their worst moment, it will all be worth it.”

Now with a year of law enforcement experience under her belt, VanGilder looked back on what she learned during the recruiting process and her first months as a police officer.

The process of becoming a police officer starts with the application, which VanGilder said is a detail that shouldn’t be overlooked.

“For people who are looking into this job, the application is a really important part,” she said. “It’s very tedious. It took me about a week to do the whole application. The biggest thing I can tell people is don’t give up.”

Recruits will then take the Civil Service Exam and will face a series of interviews before making it to the police academy.

“There are multiple interviews to get into the Temple Police Department, and they can be intimidating,” VanGilder said. “Do a little bit of research and have background on what types of questions they’re going to be asking.”

Then on to the academy, where recruits learn how to be police officers.

“The academy was just like school. It was five months of waking up, working out, going to school and then going home to study. For five months, that is your life because you have to pass everything in order to become a peace officer,” VanGilder said. “You don’t want to look back and say, ‘I was really bad at that subject’ and then go into the field. You want to do the best you can there while it’s a controlled environment.”

After graduating the academy, recruits become certified police officers, but they aren’t on their own just yet. They start their career in a field training program where they’re paired with a veteran officer for five months before hitting the streets on their own.

“The most liberating day was the last day of field training, but it was also the most stressful day, because that’s when I realized now I’m doing this on my own,” VanGilder said.

The Temple Police Department is currently in a hiring process. Police Chief Shawn Reynolds encourages applicants considering a career in law enforcement to learn more about themselves and their communities before pursuing their dream.

“My advice to anyone desiring to serve in policing is to do your research on agencies that you are applying for and to understand why you want to serve,” Reynolds said. “Being able to provide some insight into the community that you will be serving is incredibly beneficial and having a strong desire to serve others is perhaps the most inherent aspect of policing.”

VanGilder said a single shift can take an officer on a rollercoaster ride, but she’s always able to go home with a feeling of accomplishment.

“This job can be frustrating and it can be draining – both mentally and physically – but on the other hand, it is exhilarating and so fulfilling,” she said. “Those exhilarating days far outweigh the draining days. But it will, absolutely be the best job you ever had.”

To learn more about becoming a Temple Police Officer, go to