Things change after you put up the badge…

The alarm goes off and you jump up to put your uniform on.  Your circadian rhythm is still tuned to that shift work. It is an empty feeling when you look over at your closet to find it absent of that blue garb which was your daily suit. It isn’t there.

Your badge is tossed in a drawer or displayed in a shadow box.

Waking up without a cause is an adjustment. Having no caseload and purpose can also be an alarming feeling.  Furthermore, you don’t have any work to occupy your mind. Yet, it still doesn’t shut off.

It is almost like a good mind without a conviction: a lost and empty feeling. Sure, there are things to get done around every household, but the intellectual stimulation is absent. And, occasionally you will have to report back to court which brings you back into the law enforcement game from time to time. Some find this bothersome, while other feels it keeps the wound open- slowing closure.

Ultimately, reality sets in. You literally have stopped one career and are rebuilding toward another or full retirement.

They don’t call. They don’t write.

Soon your cop friends stop visiting you. One day they stop calling you. Maybe all your contact with them is reduced to social media or a small circle of friends. It isn’t like the good old days unless you meet for coffee on a weekly basis.

Transitioning out of police life has its ups and downs. It seems like instantly you have lost your identity. The decompression time varies from person to person, but there is always that time when all of sudden you feel like a fish out of water. Many former officers are ready for this moment and the shift into civilian life goes quite well.

There are still the common questions we all think about after leaving law enforcement. Who are you now? How many of your colleagues will keep in touch?

What will you do in the “afterlife”?

There is plenty of time to get your mind right before and after the law enforcement exit. Some former officers will shift right into full retirement, soaking up the sun on some beach and playing until the cows come home. Beach life requires money and freedom. Many of us do not have that luxury, or we can supplement those dreams as a vacation-not embrace it as a life.

Others are not able to leave the workforce entirely because of financial obligations. Then, there is that dirty thing called “health insurance” which is not always covered for retirees. That’s a chunk of change to shell out each month.

Have you thought about civilian life? Have you planned for it or is the retirement date here and you will figure it out as you go? Think and act fast if that date is approaching and you haven’t given it a second thought. Some just want out. That’s ok too.

It is important to have a plan, even if it isn’t a well-developed one. Cops develop a fantastic networking system of professionals. Call them up! Look ahead to your possibilities and options.

Civilian life is challenging at times but has it rewards…

If you are really stuck out there with a hopeless feeling, stop the doom and gloom. Law enforcement is optimal experience on a resume to many employers. Public service is what we are all about. Here are some ideas for cops seeking employment after retiring from the force:

  1. Private investigation. Whether you open your own business or work for an attorney, investigating for hire is an easy transition into something you are an expert in. Both private attorneys and government appointed ones-prosecutors and defense attorneys-are in need of good investigators.
  2. Security. What better way to be your own boss than start a home security business which assesses risk for private citizens and businesses, then installs security measures such as home alarms, lighting, and practices. Does this sound like too much? How about working for an established security company as a guard? Many federal court houses hire former cops. You may or may not find a position allowing you to carry. On the upside, your expertise is valuable.
  3. Writing. How about writing for a reputable law enforcement website or magazine? Cops have stories, experiences, and expertise in all areas of policing which is appealing to the masses. It is important to keep updated and discuss best practices. Many times the retired officers can speak for those still in the uniform who are barred from speaking on a national platform. Writers keep others informed and educated in modern law enforcement.
  4. Pursuing your interests. All these years you have thought about the perfect career other than law enforcement, and now have the opportunity to go after it. It is never to late to pick up a new trade, go to college, start your own business.
  5. Teaching. Cops fit perfectly into academia life because of the schedule, but more importantly, the ability to train and educate others. All aspects of teaching from Kindergarten to college level students is appealing and rewarding work. Be prepared to get engaged and work to exhaustion. It isn’t easy being an instructor. However, in the end, you are giving back and feeling accomplished.
  6. Talents. Picture this. You have a craft which can be mastered into a professional gig. Are you a great carpenter or furniture maker? Do you have a unique talent which can be marketable to generate cash? Why not develop it into a profession? This can be a very lucrative entrepreneurship.
  7. Human Resources, Human Services, Veteran Affairs, Disability Services. Working with people is what cops know and know well. It is a natural transition to seek positions in other sectors of public service. You can start a second career by branching out into a different area of service in a local government or non-profit organization.

Real world options are out there for the making and taking.

These are just a few of the endless selections out in the “real world”.  I guess I consider this list an easy way out. Do you have something opposite of public service in mind? Go for it!

Our personalities, integrity, and talents can be a great asset to many organizations. You can adjust to about anything if you set your mind to it. Yes, it will be completely different from your police life and culture. The most difficult things about life after the badge is change and the loss of blue line camaraderie. It does reinvent itself with new alliances in a new place.

There is life after the badge. The world is there for you to explore and enjoy. That might sound a little corny. However, the rewards of other job opportunities are really abundant and you are not just locked into law enforcement related options.

Consequently, when we are in uniform, we are in our own unique world, boxed in by design. We like it there. It is a great world, but there is more out there as well. You are never too young to pursue your other interests.