On Dec. 8, I retired from law enforcement after serving over 26 years, and joined the ranks of the LEOSA elite. The next day, I panicked and poked myself to see if blue blood was still running through my veins. Fortunately, I realized that while the body ages, the blue never fades. At least that's what I keep telling myself.
Similar to my ignoring the need to engage in financial planning, I hadn't focused on preparing for the full impact of separating from service. LEOSA issues were something I advocated for on behalf of our retired brethren, but hadn't thought of LEOSA ever applying to me. Now when I get dressed in the morning and grab my wallet and keys, I stare at my field carry handcuffs that remain idle in a drawer. If you asked me five years ago if I'd ever miss carrying handcuffs, I'd immediately think of all the torn jacket linings and respond, no. Now, it somehow feels like amputee syndrome.
During my law enforcement career, I carried all the major food groups as a plainclothes criminal investigator: tactical light, magazines, radio, baton, etc. Since retiring, I've gained a few pounds, but it feels like I've lost 20 by not wearing all that equipment.
The biggest retirement shock came only days after I actually retired. While standing on the Trenton, N.J., train platform after my train broke down, I heard from other passengers that a terrorist had just attempted to detonate a bomb at the Port Authority in New York City. I reached for my job phone for a status report, but there was no job phone. All the law enforcement first responder thoughts that raced through my head wound up racing like a mouse on a treadmill with nowhere to go. The reality that I was now officially a "bystander" sent shockwaves through me.
Pre-retirement, I would whine about the insufficient pension. Post-retirement, I'm whining about the exorbitant cost of LEOSA liability insurance.
While engaging in general conversation about any law enforcement topic that hits the news, I typically use "we" to express my point. Now, grudgingly, I have to transition to using "they." Actually, I still use "we," and always will. Nonetheless, it's a challenge being a fan of the game, and no longer serving on the playing field. There's still fire in my belly, but that fire has to be routed elsewhere.
Fortunately, there's opportunity to serve in non-profit law enforcement organizations, which keeps the blue blood circulating. I was given a thin blue line Valor bracelet and I'm proud to wear it every day. Also, I wear a Police Unity Tour bracelet honoring the ultimate sacrifice of 9/11 fallen hero Sergeant Ned Thompson. As I adjust to the LEOSA life, I realize there are still ways where I can serve in a support role.
As a career law enforcement tactical trainer, I still have the compulsion to flap my lips and lecture the young folks. The problem is that I'm app challenged and therefore unable to communicate effectively to the youngsters.
Now I find myself anxiously waiting for the next law enforcement conference to post so I can be the first to register. In preparation for those conferences, I work on my repertoire of stories about how I caught a bad-guy fish this big, but I realize that my fish catching days now are limited to charter boat ventures. This gives me time to fine-tune, aka embellish, my old stories since I won't be distracted by new ones that will no longer be coming.
Pre-retirement, I would whine about the insufficient pension. Post-retirement, I'm whining about the exorbitant cost of LEOSA liability insurance. Same goes for the price of a cup of coffee. I find myself cranking out my Mr. Coffee machine, and drinking extra cups of so-so coffee just to boycott Starbucks. Gotta have a mission!
Aside from my LEOSA lament, I do tell anyone within ear shot that if I had the choice of doing it again, I'd be first in line every time. Every law enforcement officer who makes it to pension leaves behind a legacy of honor and sacrifice that's invaluable. When we separate from service, we don't need a parade committee formed to honor our departure. Our parade is in our fond memories and in our hearts. God bless all those who have served and all our guardians who continue to uphold the Thin Blue Line.
Jon Adler is the president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association Foundation.