7 Tips for Cops Transitioning to Retirement


7 Tips for Cops Transitioning to Retirement

Most people think that transitioning from active duty law enforcement to retirement should be stress free. While it is a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, it should be approached pragmatically in order to avoid pitfalls.

As such, the following seven tips should help cops transition to life when the gun-belt is hung up.

  1. Prepare in advance. This sounds like a no brainer, but that is exactly why it is No. 1 on the list. Very few people prepare for retirement like they did their career. As a result, many are left unprepared. Plan how you will spend your time. You’ve heard the adage, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” The retiree that falls into that trap soon finds boredom is not a great replacement for constant activity.GovX
  2. Figure out how you will incorporate your circle of friends into your new schedule. The workplace is a natural setting for social interaction. Once it is gone, stimulating conversations can dry up. You will need to be intentional connecting with friends that refresh your spirit.
  3. Participate in something fulfilling. Even if you’re tired and worn out, the reality is that you’ve spent a career as an “adrenaline junkie.” Police activity needs to be replaced by something that will stimulate your mind and fulfill your sense of worth.
  4. Delay major life change in the first year. This may seem ridiculous, especially if you’ve meticulously planned for this moment for the past decade. Regardless, retirement alone is a major alteration in life. As such, there will be unexpected stressors that appear. It is wise to limit unnecessary strain as you transition to a new way of life. Avoid major financial change. Your income is likely going to decrease. Wait until retirement income actually arrives before committing to new spending ventures. Oftentimes, sources of income can be delayed or recalculated to figures that differ from your expectations.
  5. Take a year to evaluate your options. Circumstances may require a change in plans, or you may quickly discover that your preparation requires alteration. Use caution when making new commitments. The person that had nothing to do suddenly has way too much on the plate.
  6. Understand the emotional toll of replacing your identity as a cop. See No. 4. No matter how much you anticipate retirement, there will be an emotional let down. Even though “once a cop, always a cop” prevails with most of us. The reality is that you are now in the “has been” category of police officers. And the further into retirement you venture, the more you’re aware of this fact.
  7. Reinvest in the future. The quickest way to wither and die on the vine is to retreat from life. You possess a wealth of knowledge to be shared. As you sharpen the sword to remain relevant, express experiences with others in humility so they can reap the benefit of knowing you.

Jim McNeff, editor-in-chief, Law Enforcement Today

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Jim McNeff

Jim McNeff is a partner and managing editor of Law Enforcement Today where he has worked since 2016. Previous to this he served in law enforcement for 31 years. He retired as a police lieutenant after 28 years with the Fountain Valley Police Department in Orange County, California. Prior to that he served the 3902 Security Police Squadron in the United States Air Force, assigned to the 1st Air Command and Control Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.Jim holds a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice from Southwest University and graduated from the Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute as well as the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) course, Leadership in Police Organizations. He’s authored two books, “The Spirit behind Badge 145” and “Justice Revealed.” His third book, “Jurisdiction,” is due to be released in early 2019.Jim has been married to his wife Jamie since 1983. They have three adult children and three grandchildren. You can contact him at and learn more about his ministry work at You can also follow him on Facebook at "Badge 145 - Trending Truth" or Twitter @jimmcneff.


Number 6 really hit home. To wake up on your first day as a retired LEO is an awakening of your status is one thing… two years in to it, I feel like a total has been. I spent 32 tears being the police, and now I have no real identity.

Maybe this will be of some help. As I entered retirement I looked to the other facets of my persona for equal validation. I am a father, a son, a brother, a friend, and I also looked to those things that I may not have had time to do because I was so wrapped up in my police persona. Dr. Gillmartin published a book called Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement, go on Amazon and order it. When you understand why you feel this way, you will be able to make changes, and you will be more fulfilled. You only get one go at life so you have to make it count. Best of luck!

You forgot the most important plan which is to God the praise for the position that You are in.

I’m going through #3 & #5 right now. I’m about 7 months into retirement and I’m taking this time to decide what my next venture in life will be. At the start of my retirement, I applied for 2 law enforcement part-time jobs. Something that I could do to fill time and make a little money. I later decided those things weren’t for me and what I really want is something different. I spent my whole life in a uniform, going from the military then college then into law enforcement for 25 years. I’m ready for a new start, but I just haven’t found that road I want to travel yet.

Mike, I worked with or around you for years (as long as your the right Mike from Indy) and you made a difference. You will always have an identity if you look beyond the surface of being retired. I leave at the end of the year and am looking forward to time I was never able to adequately spend with Pam who is already retired. I admit I haven’t faced that first morning awakening yet after 37 1/2 years, but I believe I’ll always know who I am. Being an LEO is part of the equation to create the sum, but the bottom line for you is certainly large enough to stand on it’s own. You are no has been. Larry J

Interesting thoughts But 4 & 5 seem kind of contradictory. Plan ahead but also delay? This month marks 22 years in retirement and I missed out on most of your suggestions. I planned my move for 4 years and in the first few months, got married,bought a home out of state which means that I left my entire circle of friends and have not regretted a single minute of it.

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