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Paul Clinton

Paul Clinton

As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.



William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.
Careers

When to Leave a Department

Before you leave your role, carefully consider your options.

October 10, 2011  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

Photo: konstriktion.
Photo: konstriktion.

This is probably the most dangerous career question I must answer. I received an e-mail from a young lad who was unhappy with his department and career; he wanted to leave and start over somewhere else. I think he wanted my blessing for his potential career move. For him, it would not be as simple as sticking it out.

Police careers are much like any other career in life. One day you're on the top of the heap, and the next day you are the heap. Is this your first downside? Did you get a little discipline and now want to take your toys and go somewhere else and play? Did you not get an assignment or promotion? As it was on the school yard, is it time to find new best friends? I always tell officers seeking advice on this point that this too shall pass. There will be times that try your soul, and sooner or later things will get better. How patient are you? What are you really seeking? Unlike the song, breaking up is not hard to do. Starting over is the real bite!

Consider giving up your seniority, time invested toward tenure, vesting towards retirement, and some stored benefits. Plus, you're a known entity with institutional knowledge and a comfort zone. You know the ins and outs of the department, the precinct and the system where you are working. I was once told that if the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, it's probably AstroTurf. While it's easy on the eyes, if this is what you eat, you've royally screwed yourself.

Before you quit or tell them to take this job and shove it, make sure you have employment before you go! Police jobs are getting harder to get; far too many departments are reducing staff or leaving vacancies unfilled. Know before you go!

What about taking the new gig? Most departments worth their salt will place place you in a recruit school, Field Training Officer (FTO) program, or on recruit status. Can you handle this? Can you take being the FNG (Fabulous New Guy) again?

You now have no seniority, as well as no vacation, comp time, personal days or sick days on the books. You may have a gap in health insurance. Whatever "time in service" or progress toward the next promotion you had is gone. Many agencies limit opportunities for assignments, training and overtime to those not on probationary status, can you handle this? Some of you believe that staying longer means you're destined to stay for your entire career. This may be the case, I don't know your plight. Once you start, time flies and, before you know it, you're a few months from vesting your retirement.

Decisions such as these are made everyday; our life situations change and can force a career change. Just be sure you weigh the alternatives and talk to those you trust with your career. If you take a close look at all the options, you'll make the correct decision.

Tags: Career Advancement


Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

Erik @ 10/12/2011 10:13 AM

This is good sound advice. Ive often told new officers to remember that organizations will change - sometimes for better, and other times for worse. They have to roll with the changes, esp. the bad ones, suck it up and move on.

Today, with layoffs being a distinct possibility in my state, I tell officers considering transfers to be careful - Id hate to see them lose seniority, then be bottom guy at a new PD and laid off months later. I made a transfer almost a decade ago (which was a good move), however, layoffs were very uncommon at that time.

Guns2000 @ 10/14/2011 9:34 AM

I would agree both with Eric and Harvey. On a side note, I would add that there are times that the fit between you and the organization is no longer a viable option.

As Harvey stated, "...our life situations change and can force a career change. Just be sure you weigh the alternatives and talk to those you trust with your career."

Do your research and have a plan prior to jumping ship to ensure that you are still taking care of you and if you have a family--consider that this will affect them as well. This economy is not getting any better and good job opportunities seems to be in short supply.

My situation was a bit different in that I retired from the Marine Corps after 20 years of service, and then jumped into a law enforcement career. Although, starting at the bottom was a humbling experience, it was still a new experience.

Consider what you are willing to give up and what you are certain you can not do without, and the water should get a little clearer on what decision is best for you.

Again, best of luck and great advice was given by those who have experienced change at various levels over a long period of time.

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