San Leandro, Ca., police Officer Nels “Dan” Niemi, who was gunned down last week, was part of a new breed in law enforcement — the rookie cop in midlife, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Before joining the force in 2002, Niemi, 42, held a sales position with a wine company and developed computer software for a small Silicon Valley startup company.
No statistics are available to track the trend, but middle-aged men and women have traded desk jobs for patrol cars; they now negotiate with suspects in the field rather than with mediators in boardrooms. Many agencies have no age limit for new officers. Former scientists, attorneys, accountants, and those who speak more than one language are hot commodities. In becoming officers later in life, some are fulfilling a dream they’ve harbored since they were kids. For others, it’s a matter of economics. “With the fall of dot-coms resulting in thousands of educated professionals suddenly unemployed, many are looking into law-enforcement careers, because police work offers good pay and benefits and job security,” said Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Chief Gary Gee. Niemi, who used his computer skills to crack cases, “received his calling later than the rest of us,” said San Leandro police Chief Joe Kitchen.