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Salary: $79,000

Age: 45

Years on the job: 8

How he got started: From high school, Colt Bracken went into his family's plumbing and heating business. After his father died, he decided to make a change and took entrance exams to become a Baltimore County police officer. He was accepted into the police academy and graduated in 1993. He's always worked out of the Towson Precinct, first as a patrolman and since a promotion in 2001 as a detective.

"I was always fascinated with law enforcement. I decided to give it a shot, and I'm so glad I did."

Typical day: Bracken switches weekly between the day shift, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the night shift, 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. He works Monday through Friday and is on call nights and weekends.

He must investigate any crimes that occur in his precinct, including theft, kidnapping, fraud, stolen cars, robbery and homicides. He often specializes in car thefts and thefts from automobiles. Bracken works on 12 to 15 cases at any given time and is one of four detectives working out of the Towson Precinct.

It's his job to do the legwork of solving the crime. As a lead investigator, he interviews witnesses and others involved, performs surveillance, examines the scene of the crime and investigates suspects. If he's not taking the lead on the case, he'll help by interviewing witnesses and gathering facts for the investigation.

He works closely with the patrol officers who respond first to the scene of a crime and keeps in regular contact with the precinct commander to report weekly updates.

Much of his day is spent riding around problem areas and where crimes have been reported, always on the lookout for suspicious activity.

About half of his job is spent behind a desk following up on leads, making phone calls and writing reports. He usually starts and ends his day with paperwork.

"If you're not a fan of paperwork, this is not the job for you," Bracken said. "It's hard sometimes, because you want to be out on the streets but you know you have to finish your reports."

Although he sometimes must testify in court, much of that responsibility is now handled by a court liaison officer.

Danger: Bracken said the job is inherently dangerous, especially in hard economic times, but that a little common sense can go a long way. .

Second job: About four years ago he began his own business, SecurityDawgs, to provide security services and transportation to area executives.

He provides transportation services and security to two executives around the clock. He transports them in their own vehicles and hires fellow police officers as independent contractors to fill in when needed.

He charges $45 an hour for the service or a flat fee for long-term jobs. Bracken estimates that he works an additional 40 hours a week at the second job.

Mostly, he is transporting the executives and their families to meetings, events, concerts and dinners, but Bracken said he's there to help with whatever they need.

Changes in policing: "It's a videotape world. You have to always handle yourself as if you're being videotaped."

The good: "Every day is different," Bracken said, adding that he's a people person. "I enjoy getting out there and meeting people and talking with people."

The bad: "You see people at their worst. You only get a call when something negative has happened."

Also, he has had to miss family outings because he can be called in at any time if there's a break in an investigation.

Philosophy on the job: "Treat people the way you want to be treated."

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