Albert Robles, Jr.’s choice of a police career was, quite literally, due to a heady rush of inspiration. “Up until about four years ago I wanted to be a private pilot,” the trim 25-year-old said. “But then I attended my cousin’s graduation from the Police Academy at Madison Square Garden. And the integrity, pride, and commitment that I sensed there was really amazing. It was a life-changer for me.”
Robles is currently in the second month of his two-year stint as a probationary police officer. The first six months are spent at the Academy, he says, the next three in a training unit, and the last 15 months on the street in a unit with an experienced P.O. He intends to move up within the department, first become a sergeant, then eventually make detective.
“You begin to advance after about five years,” he said. “But it’s more than just a matter of time. Mainly, you have to do well.”
Robles embarked on his career after an extensive education, attending Dowling College in Oakdale, N.Y. then the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. However, there are two ways to become a police officer, he said. You either acquire 60 college credits or spend two years in the military. Luckily for Robles–who is slight–there are no longer height and weight requirements of any kind in order to qualify as a P.O. Still, you do have to be in pretty good physical condition to conquer a difficult obstacle course, he says. There is still an age requirement: candidates have to be between 21-35.
For a police officer, a high level of commitment is very important, according to Robles, as this is not a career to get rich on. The starting salary is $31,000 a year, with a chance to earn in the $50,000 range after five years. That’s not all that much for a job that is not only extremely difficult but also fraught with danger. “Its there, for sure–but you cant go out there on the street thinking about that,” says Robles. “You try to be alert, you always try to be aware of your surroundings, and practice tactics, tactics, tactics. But the danger stuff is like fear of flying. If you allow it to conquer you, you’ll never get anywhere.”
Robles advice to students thinking about a possible police career is to “first, stay out of trouble. Second, get into some law enforcement courses at your school. And third, always keep your morals and values intact, no matter what happens.”
“Look at 9/11,” he says. “I was a cadet then, in fact I was working in this very building. I saw the events unfolding firsthand–the Academy, since it’s located near the Towers, served as Headquarters for operations on that day. I heard that when everyone was running away from the Twin Towers, Police Officer Moira Smith was running in to help people.”
“It cost her her life. But how can you not be inspired by something like this? How can you not be proud to be part of such a profession?