No, this is not a typo. You may have thought I was writing about Transit Authority cops. This week's column is actually about cops who move to follow work or whenever their conditions change. I want my readers to make proper choices and hopefully avoid some pitfalls.
Does the grass look greener on the other side of the fence? Is it real substance worth moving for, or is it Astroturf?
I was speaking with a group of command staff officers recently and they all had the same question: Why are we losing fine young officers to other agencies? There are a multitude of answers, but here is one: a lack of guidance counselors.
When I was in high school and college I was fortunate to have great guidance counselors. Even in the U.S. Army we had counselors (who were also disguised as the reenlistment NCO); they offered sage advice. Police work does not provide career counselors like we had at these stages of life.
We hire you, train you, and put you to work. We never seem to ask you what you feel your future should be (and I wonder if some don't actually care). But this is the reason so many young officers switch to a better job—or at least they think it's better. Some return to their previous agencies. Others have to deal with the ramifications of their choice to find employment elsewhere.
How can you as a young officer or an applicant make the correct decisions?
First of all, ask yourself if your reason for leaving is that you're jealous of another agency because they have cool cars or shiny uniforms. Hint here: You can't feed yourself or family with coolness.
Have you stopped and really asked the hard questions about this move? Do officers at your potential new agency work more for more money? What is their call load? Some may have exotic work schedules.
Fully discuss this with your significant other or spouse first. Coolness wears thin if child care and personal life are affected by this. Weigh all of the options, including all of the little benefits or perks of the job. Compare all the little things that add up. Compare both agencies' laundry allowances, court policy and pay, training, and ability to advance in the future.
Consider what seniority you may now have and what it would mean to start out all over again. Do you want to be a rookie all over again with an FTO? If you have a few years invested and have to start all over with benefits, some departments put off health benefits for six months or until you've passed probation. You may have to seek some personal insurance to cover the gap. What about the investment into your current pension, and are you close to vesting? Don't give up a sure thing here. Fully explore what you have and what you can lose.
Is this new wonderful department pending any futurist changes? Layoffs, annexations, changes due to budgetary issues, or mergers are but a few realistic points. Remember the old premise of last hired is the first laid off.
I am not against an officer who is seeking job satisfaction or happiness. I have known several who switched departments and it was the best decision they have ever made. I know some who regret switching. Others wish for a "do over" in life and we rarely get these.
The whole point of this column is to help you make the proper choices and not overnight or knee-jerk ones. This is a professional decision and don't forget, you can talk to the old guys like me. We want happy, productive cops for the future and you might even learn from our own mistakes.
Train hard and train for life.