Today’s interview is with Lt. Chrystal Tibbs of the Prince George’s County, Maryland, Police Department. View a previous blog post from one of IACP’s former fellows here.
How did you get to where you are today?
I always knew I wanted to be a detective. I was a big fan of detective shows growing up. I went to Howard University and received my undergraduate degree in Management. I worked in radio all through college and stayed on after graduation. But, I was still drawn to law enforcement, so one day a friend and I decided to apply. I ended up at Prince George’s Police Department (PGPD).
After the academy, I went out on patrol. I still knew I wanted to be a detective so I built bonds during that time with other detectives in the agency. Eventually, I became a district level detective. I then moved on to the Community Policing Unit and eventually to the Investigations Bureau. Getting promoted at that point was not on my radar, but I did eventually decided to go through the process and became a Sergeant and headed back to patrol. After another promotion and a few moves through other units of the department, I ended up in Homeland Security. There I focused on issues such as infrastructure security and suspicious activity reporting. I also work with the joint analysis and intelligence center, where we analyze data and communicate necessary information to the districts.
What qualities do you think are important for someone wanting to pursue a law enforcement career?
I’ve held numerous roles in PGPD, and there are some qualities that are common to all of them. First, you have to have a heart to serve. To be a good officer, you have to be a good servant. Being a police officer is more than just a job, you have to be willing to give a lot of yourself in order to do this kind of work well. It’s not about you; it’s about the community you serve.
Another quality is communication. You have to be able to talk to people from all different backgrounds. You also have to be able to see the bigger picture. You also need to be patient and flexible.
What does a typical day on the job look like?
When you’re on patrol, there is no such thing as a typical day. You are responding to call for service, which could be anything, so you have to expect the unexpected. This is why you have to be flexible and able to adjust. Detectives and other positions are slightly different. There, you may know what you’re responding to, and will have a better idea what your days will look like.
What advice do you have for someone trying to enter the law enforcement field?
Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Your care will be your office for the first couple years. You’ll need to get used to going to court. Shift work can be hard to adjust to. You’ll be dealing with people who don’t like you.
To prepare yourself, go on a ride-along with some local police departments. Pick different times to see different shifts. Also, do your research. Research different agencies to see what opportunities they provide. Talk to recruiters and other officers and ask questions. Think about how you would handle difficult situations that may arise. Lastly, don’t watch television shows to get a real-life perspective. Real law enforcement work is not like what you see on television.
Also, know what your strengths and interests are. I always enjoyed puzzles and putting pieces of information together, so I knew I would be best suited to be a detective.
What is the most satisfying part of your job?
Solving crimes, locking the right people up, and knowing that you are bring satisfaction and closure to victims and their families.
What is the most difficult or frustrating part of your job?
Seeing how harmfully people can treat one another.
What else would you like to share with those interested in law enforcement?
Remember that police officers are people too. Just because you have a gun and a badge does not make you superior. We can get pulled over, get tickets, and we pay taxes. So when we pull you over or come to your house for a call, do not get upset. Instead, know that we are people too and we are just doing our job.
For more information on the Prince George’s County Police visit their website.