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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.

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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.

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