LAPD officer finds passion in working with Southeast L.A. students

When he was younger, Derek Kosloski wanted to be a special agent in the FBI. Now a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer, he imparts his love of law enforcement on students in Southeast Los Angeles.

Kosloski was on his way to work for the federal government when a hiring freeze forced him into a string of jobs that ended at the LAPD’s Southeast Division.

“I’ve put two major pimps in prison with investigations, but those took over a year and a half per case,” he said. “It’s hard on your personal life.”

After working in the vice division for several years, Kosloski was ready for a break from prostitution and pimps. He was unsure, however, about accepting a job heading the new Police Athletic League (PAL) for children in the Southeast area. Working with children and teenagers who are often victims of violence seemed more difficult than dealing with hardened criminals, said Kosloski.

“When you’re arresting professional criminals, they know the program—business as usual,” said Kosloski. “They don’t give you lip; you do your job they do theirs. It’s really civil even with murderers and robbers.”

Nonetheless, he accepted the job. Instead of hunting down criminals, he now is on the constant lookout for extra hockey sticks, skates and practicing grounds.

The Road to the LAPD

In high school, Kosloski wanted to work for the CIA or the FBI. While finishing his degree at the University of California, Irvine, he got an internship with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The internship took place at the World Trade Center in Los Angeles right after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. By the time Kosloski completed his internship, a federal hiring freeze made it impossible to move straight from his internship to a job.

Out of work and sidelined from his goal of working for the government, Kosloski started working as a substitute teacher. While subbing, he maintained contact with his internship mentor, a special agent who told Kosloski to find job at a regular police department as experience for when the hiring freeze lifted.

Kosloski applied to the police academy and started another job as an assistant stage manager at Disneyland while he waited to hear back from the LAPD. Surrounded by lights, costumes and parades definitely wasn’t like law enforcement, but Kosloski started to get used to the fact that his future would revolve around entertainment. That didn’t last either.

“I was working at Disneyland on April 3 when I got a call from the police department saying ‘We want to offer you an academy date,’” Kosloski said. “It was a Thursday afternoon. They wanted me to start Monday and they gave me a day to decide.”

He ditched the colorful world of Disney for a black suit and a 5 a.m. academy appointment.

“Friday to Monday it was a whole different life,” Kosloski said.

‘Being Passionate about Your Work’

Life is still in constant flux for Kosloski. Outside of working for the LAPD, he participates in an intramural hockey team, plays in a cover band called Section 8 and travels as often as possible. He’s also in the middle of planning his next career adventure.

“When I came on [to the police force] I was thinking ‘I’ll do this for 10-15 years and see what comes next.’ I don’t know what it is, but now that I’m a little older, I want to start a bar and be the bartender.”

Kosloski laughs while sharing and says he’ll probably kick himself for giving up a job that allows him to play sports with children half of the week and pursue whatever he wants for the rest of it. Hard work isn’t a problem for Kosloski, but his personal time is valuable to him. Working so many different jobs helped put that into perspective.

“There’s a clear distinction between having your passions in life and being passionate about your work,” said Kosloski. “You can still go to work and passionate. For me, it also gives me the time and resources to do what I want with my life.”

Read more stories about the police department:
LAPD officers trade policing for mentoring with PAL program
Q&A: Hawthorne officer unites police department and community in fighting crime
Los Angeles boasts lowest homicide rate in 40 years

Graphic courtesy of LAPD