Police work is very demanding but can be very rewarding. It’s not easy to get a job as a police officer especially in an accredited department. It takes months or even over a year from the time you apply to when you start the academy. I remember my police academy orientation in 1989 (Honolulu Police Department). The lead instructor frankly told the class (which included spouses and significant others for the orientation) that half of the class would not make it to graduation. Well, he was right. We started with 50 recruits and only 24 graduated. I recall vividly the five months of intense classwork, tests, quizzes, finals, lectures, PT, defensive tactics, firearms, etc…
I made it to graduation day! What a day… Everyone in their full dress-blues. Fellow officers that I’ll be friends with forever beaming with pride and a great sense of accomplishment. Finally, the time has come and we earn our commission. My wife, very pregnant with our first child, pins my badge on my uniform with a big smile on her face knowing all the time, effort, and sacrifice that was put in to the police academy was worth it.
The fun just begins in FTO. This is where the rubber meets the road and everything you’ve learned is put to the test in the real world. A few of my classmates don’t make it through FTO. Police work is tough, and you’re making life and death decisions every day. Every Chief knows his/her job is on the line everyday and can be impacted by any officer on their department. This is a 24×7 reality, so police administrators ensure they do the best job possible that officers they put on the street know what they are doing. Fast forward one year… I’m through with probation and working as an ATV patrol officer on Waikiki beach. Holy smoke, I thought I had the best job in the world.
Why am I writing about this? Many seasoned law enforcement officers forget about how pumped they were as a new rookie officers. I wanted to take you down memory lane to think about your police academy days and FTO. Being a police officer is a special job. You do and see things that only police officers are exposed to. Much of it takes a toll both mentally and physically and there are events that may get you thinking about changing careers.
Think very carefully if you want to “pull the plug” on your police career. If you’re retiring with a full pension and benefits, the biggest thing you’ll be giving up is the camaraderie of being a cop. For the mid-career police officers (10+ years on the force), you’ll be giving up a lot and let’s start off with leaving a job that was so hard to get in the first place. Are you ready to turn your badge and equipment in and say goodbye to police work? If the answer is still yes, you need a plan. Not a plan you come up with over the weekend. You need a plan that you’ve worked on for a month or so with milestones and contingency planning that spans at least a year out. A plan that includes your spouse/significant other, your kids, your family… A year may sound like a long time but just ask someone that left law enforcement at mid-career, didn’t plan and now regrets it. I know a few that have and will see if they are willing to share their story on this blog.
Remember, no matter how bad things may be in your department, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence. Sometimes it is greener, but you find out it’s astroturf ;-).