Greener Pastures

In looking back, I have the advantage of hindsight, some maturity, and greater objectivity. I recognize now that the more I wanted something, the more disappointed I tended to be when I got it.

Author Dean Scoville Headshot

OK, so I've been put out to pasture, without so much as the favor of pulling stud service. No regrets, though. I left the department on a high note, and am appreciative for the opportunity to have done so.

But I haven't forgotten about some of the men and women I worked with. Some who I had earmarked for going on to bigger and better things are on their upward paths—and deservedly so.

Others aren't. In some cases, they've been screwed, victims of fate, circumstance, and the political machinery that dictates who gets what. In some cases, they've just grown disenchanted with the whole deal, and are content to ride out their careers with as little fanfare or aggravation as possible.

But there are others who are still doing the Lord's work and their fellow officers', too. I spoke with one the other day.

I've known Joe from well before he was a cop, from when he went on civilian ridealongs with me. That was more than 20 years ago. Having since gone on to become a deputy sheriff for most of the intervening time, he observed that many people think he should have promoted or transferred to a choice assignment some time ago. With 2,500 arrests under his belt, he's more than paid his dues.

Yet Joe still continues to be a good aggressive street cop, sometimes putting in 70 hours a week. I'd hate to think how many hours it would take for a less qualified individual who did half as much work.

Throughout, he's known the score. He knew who was more likely to gravitate where and how. But being more diplomatic than me—and a helluva lot less bitter—Joe refuses to use words like "sycophant" or "leg-humper" when referencing some of the more politically aspirant. Nope, Joe just figures people have different strengths and interests, and gravitate accordingly.

The fact is that he has no interest in promoting or transferring elsewhere.

"I've found my calling," he told me. "Do you know how fortunate that makes me feel? And I'm not even close to wanting to quit."

Hearing what he said, I felt a pang of envy. For what he said made sense—so much so that I performed the latest in a series of post mortems on my own law enforcement career.

While I did not regret my retirement, I did resent some of the factors that precipitated it.

Usually, it involved disappointment. At a macrocosmic scale, it was no different than what others experience, regardless of the vocation. Nepotism (there was no shortage of horror stories…the daughter of a former department head being given the answers to a sergeant's exam, the discovery of which negated the entire process…the aggressively hetero son of another executive being shuttled between various assignments to insulate him from the inevitable sexual harassment complaints…), cronyism ("You're in the boat, or you're not" was a popular refrain), every possible permutation of discrimination, favoritism, etc.

But while my otherwise unique disappointments might have been shared with or similarly experienced by others, I noticed that much of it had to do with the sometimes unrealistic expectations that I brought to the table.

Sometimes, it was the nature of the work or with whom I worked. Often, I thought that somebody who I got along well with away from the job would work well with me, too (big mistake). Or the assignments that I anticipated would allow me to effect change were, in fact, entrenched in a static protectionism.

In looking back, I have the advantage of hindsight, some maturity, and greater objectivity. I recognize now that the more I wanted something, the more disappointed I tended to be when I got it.

Conversely, some of the things I'd ducked, skirted, dreaded, and cursed, but nonetheless found myself saddled with turned out to be blessings in disguise, possessing virtues so well concealed that they were worthy of award recognition for best camouflage.

I wonder, too, about those who have also gotten what they wanted, working hard in their own way to get it.

But there are always those who abide by what they know in their hearts and minds to be true, while others press on in embodied denial. I've observed this in transfers to coveted positions, promotions, and inter-agency laterals. They return to where they came from, occasionally demoting of their own volition along the way.

Sometimes, I think that officers should be offered greater exposure to what they yearn for. An opportunity to get a realistic appraisal of what they're in for without being so vested that they're committed for the long haul to the detriment of everyone involved. Hell, it might've saved me 25 years on the job (just kidding).

Joe doesn't need to taste it, to sample something exotic to determine if it suits his palate. He knows what he's destined to do, and does it, and will continue plugging away. No greener pastures for him. Let others pursue the ivory towers and crash the glass ceilings. He's staying put right where he is.

You see, I think Joe knows something a good many people don't know when it comes to greener pastures: Sometimes it's nothing more than the fertilizer at work.

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