Like many police officers, Wallen transitioned into his career from serving in the military. An Afghanistan veteran and a proud son of immigrant parents, Wallen works daily to be a force for good in California law enforcement.
I’m a second generation Chinese American. I felt like I owed something to the country my parents strived to move to. I recognized the opportunities that America provided my immigrant parents, and so I felt like I should pay back the nation by serving in the military.
The events of September 11, 2001 also factored into my choice. It wasn’t necessarily a desire to seek revenge on Al Qaeda or any other terrorist group. I just identified with the idea of Americans standing up to defend their country. I wanted to do my part in the defense of my family and friends.
I served four and a half years in the Army as a Military Intelligence Analyst. I primarily worked in a battalion level or under. During deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan, I read intelligence reports and provided analysis for commanders. I also trained Afghanistan soldiers in simple operational tasks, and worked in a supervisory capacity once I was promoted to sergeant.
I initially had a pessimistic view of the war in Afghanistan. I questioned the nature of the mission when I saw the high cost in fallen service members. But after looking back on what I did and the lives I was able to change, I’m having second thoughts. Afghanistan is very much set in their ways, and rightfully so. You don’t go through thousands of years of history and not come out with an idea of what your nation should be. I believe we’re changing some of the nation’s negative traditions and rituals, such as the treatment of women. The way I see it, if we’re able to improve the lives of even a small percentage of Afghan people, maybe it was worth the sacrifice.
I left the military and decided to transition into a career that always interested me. I become a police officer. For me, the military was never meant to be a long-term career, but a stepping stone toward law enforcement. As proud as I am of my military service, I actually view law enforcement as having a greater significance. In the military, we indirectly protect our own by fighting in other countries and doing our best to keep threats away from home. But as a police officer, I get to directly protect the civilian population by being the first person to deal with domestic threats.
Being in the military gave me the boost I needed to transition into law enforcement. Skills like multi-tasking, communication, firearms/combative training were things I already had. Plus, having already gone through basic made police academy so much easier.
I’ve learned plenty of new things and faced several challenges in this work that I haven’t experienced before. Interrogating or gathering information from suspects, witnesses, and sometimes victims can be one of the hardest parts of the job. Sometimes you’ve got to use little psychological tricks to getting someone to offer information. That can be a challenge.
Overall, I love being able to help my local community. Too often, people think of interactions with the police as being negative situations, but I try to make many of my contacts a positive interaction. It’s a difficult task these days to have law enforcement viewed positively, but I enjoy the challenging of altering that perception with good work and honest interaction with people.
If I was to give advice to anyone interested in either military or police work, I’d say you need to find balance in achieving your career goals and your personal/family life. I’ve often neglected my family by going to additional training or working overtime so that I can become better at my job. I would sacrifice the time I have with my family to focus on my career and it’s a selfish thing to do. After the career is over, you’re going to want your friends and family to be around to share in your successes.
Additionally, I also wanted to speak on Team Red, White and Blue (Team RWB). After leaving the military, I joined Team RWB as a way of maintaining my fitness and getting to know other veterans in the Bay Area. Team RWB has since grown and includes a lot of civilians and military spouses. They are helping the veteran community connect with the local population (something that most veterans are having trouble doing after separating). I believe Team RWB’s mission will help the civilian population connect with and understand the military and veteran mindset.