After hearing stories about police work from an instructor at Southeast Arkansas College, Pine Bluff Police Officer Natalie McCool decided to give it a try and is happy she did.

McCool finished up her first year with the department in April and is assigned to the department’s swing shift (3-11 p.m.).

“I love the hours,” she said. “There’s never a dull moment.”

McCool received an associate degree in criminal justice from SEARK and applied for a job with the department right after graduation.

“(Former) Capt. Greg Shapiro talked about the job and was very realistic about the things that go on,” she said. Shapiro retired as a captain with the Police Department and joined the faculty at SEARK where he teaches criminal justice.

McCool said the application process took about three months and she was hired by (former) Police Chief Ivan Whitfield who retired in February.

After a four-week rookie school conducted by the department, McCool was sent to the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy for 13 weeks.

“I had a great time building relationships not only with my fellow officers there but also with officers from other departments and networking with them,” she said. “There were 100 plus in our class and they woke us up every morning at 5:15 a.m for P.T. (Physical training).”

Before being released to solo patrol last October, McCool worked with several field training officers, including officer and now-Detective Donald Griffin.

“I’m so proud of Donald for making detective,” she said.

McCool described her job as a “constant learning process. You’ve got to learn how to read people.”

As an example, McCool said she has encountered people she has had to arrest because of a failure to appear warrant or a hold being placed on them by the department of community corrections. She said she tries to assure them that things will work out.

“I tell them this could be a blessing in disguise,” she said. “They can get it taken care of and not look over their shoulder and try to give them something positive instead of negative.”

McCool also gives a lot of credit to her supervisors, Lt. Jose Thompson, Sgt. Jeremy Brown, Sgt. Brad Vilches and Sgt. Cassandra Briggs-McAfee.

“I’ve got some great supervisors, and I’m grateful to be a part of the department,” she said.