Late Bloomer: Michigan man joins police force after 35-year delay

His childhood dream was to be a police officer. But life got in the way. Then, seemingly out of nowhere opportunity knocked.

Photo of Detective Sean Reavie of Phoenix

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Photo of Detective Sean Reavie of Phoenix
Blues brother: Well past the normal recruitment age, Sean Reavie became a rookie cop in Phoenix. Now a detective, he investigates crimes against children.
Photo courtesy C.J. Tyler / Phoenix Police

Sean Reavie stared in disbelief at the unexpected email in his inbox. Could he really turn his life around this late in the game? Was this the miracle he’d been wishing for or just another false hope?

He was approaching 40, alone, in debt, financially and emotionally bankrupt. His dream of being a police officer had loomed in front of him, unreachable, for so long. At times, he’d been close, but he’d never quite made it. Was it possible that this time would be different?

It would take a whole lot of faith and a whole lot of hard work to find out.

Sean grew up in tiny St. Ignace, Michigan, with a banker father and a homemaker mother. It was there Sean had an experience that would alter his life. It was a seemingly small thing: His dad’s friend, Paul Sved, a Michigan State Trooper, drove Sean’s father home from work in his police car. Sean was an impressionable 5-year-old, and he was smitten. “The car, the lights, the uniform–it was so exciting to meet this larger-than-life hero in the flesh. Here was a man who was ready to put himself between a total stranger and harm’s way. That very day, I made a pledge to Paul that I would follow in his footsteps.”

Many young boys dream of becoming policemen or firemen or pilots. Then, well, most of them grow up and develop other interests. Sean was different. He held onto his vision for years. Until, that is, a well-intentioned high school English teacher squashed it. The teacher argued that he had natural writing talent and owed it to himself to put it to good use. “Don’t waste your talent being a police officer,” she told Sean.

Swayed by her logic, he put the dream aside. But still, “She broke my heart,” he says. He would ultimately earn a journalism degree from Central Michigan University. Soon after, he would take a job as a reporter and marry. But his heart really wasn’t in the job or the marriage. “Nothing in my life was satisfying me back then,” Sean recalls. “So I just kept looking, hoping eventually something would click.”

He quit that job and took another, but nothing felt right. That’s when he realized he’d never really given up his childhood wish. He still wanted to be a cop.

This time it was his wife who talked him out of it. “She thought it was too dangerous,” Sean explains. “I was trying to make the marriage work, so I agreed not to pursue it. But I was so unhappy. Every time a police car passed, I knew that’s where I belonged. It eventually took its toll on our marriage.”

After the couple split in 1999, Sean was ready to start fresh. There was nothing to stop him now, so he took the test for the Michigan State Police and passed with flying colors. But then, incredibly, just as he was supposed to start his training, a hiring freeze went into effect. “It was so crushing,” Sean reveals. “To be so close and have it disappear.”

A girlfriend convinced him a fortune could be made in the mortgage business. “I thought that would fill this void in my life,” recalls Sean. “But, of course, money can never do that.”

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  1. No regrets. Go for your dreams and don’t let anybody stop you. I’ve been an Ofc for over 20 years and I still enjoy meeting and helping people. My Dad was an Ofc back in the 60’s and his stories of his patrol adventures still play back in my mind. He was my hero and I just wanted to make him proud. I love this story and I have heard hundreds like it over the years. Phoenix and Glendale are hiring all the time. Put in your application and see if you have what it takes. Every shift is a new adventure. It can be scary, it can be boring, but in the end it’s what you make of it. We are a tight family but will welcome you with open arms. Hope to see you soon. Mike C.

  2. This story hits home for me. Very similar story with exception of a few things. I became a Police Officer at 36, proudest day of my life! Even over graduating from college. If this is your dream, don’t give up, keep improving and keep trying. Greatest job I’ve ever had….and I’ve had a lot of jobs!

  3. Thank you for sharing this story. Sean should meet my husband, because his story and my husbands are very similiar with a few variances. My husband is also from Michigan, also delayed his dream of being an officer. He became a Phoenix Policeman in 2008 at the ripe age of 38. I love these stories where dreams do come true. Thank you again for sharing.

  4. Wow this sounds like the same spot I am in. Very inspirational. I have wanted to be a police officer since I was a child. I have pursued many different career paths and keep finding myself wanting to be an officer. I can not let go of that dream and until today I thought I was to old (36) and that I have to give up on that dream but maybe I can still fulfill that one missing piece in my life.

  5. Awesome – my brother also from Michigan is a Phoenix police officer. I know from watching the graduation video that successfully completing the acacemy is no easy task. This is an amazing accomplishment!


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