Click here or on the link below to read the story printed in the Albany Times Union (NY) Newspaper on March 27, 2019.
This is an excellent article demonstrating why you should never, ever lie on your resume, embellish your experience, or otherwise misrepresent yourself when applying for any position.
Click here or on the link below to read the story printed in the Albany Times Union (NY) Newspaper on March 27, 2019.
Congratulations, you have served your municipality well. You have finally reached that seemingly ever elusive date to which all law enforcement officers strive. You are probably now a little worn out, physically damaged, and most likely somewhat mentally scarred as well. You have likely seen many things that the average person can never even comprehend. Although they are never afraid to tell you just how easy your job is and that they can do it better. You have probably attended entirely too many funerals for friends, brothers and sisters and officers whom you have never even met. Yet you have braved the rain, cold and heat to stand in line to honor them as they are delivered to their final resting place. Those officers will never have the luxury of experiencing the myriad of conflicting feelings you are experiencing today. The ability to retire is upon you.
So what should you do now?
Well, first things first. Take a deep breath and allow it to sink in. On the day that I was relegated to an early retirement from the NYPD, on a disability after 19 years, 4 months and 27 days, I wasn’t sure what I needed to do, and no one prepared me for what I was going to experience, both mentally, physically and emotionally. I went through the process, appeared at the Pension Section to complete my paperwork and receive some advice regarding my pension distributions as well as Headquarters, where I turned in my shield and ID Card, filled out some paperwork, and took possession of my new ‘Retired Detective ID Card’ and Pistol Permit. It was surreal, yet also so very real.
When I had completed all of the requisite tasks, I walked back to my car, opened the door and sat behind the steering wheel. It was at this time that I felt a surge of emotions. I ran the gamut from nervous to scared, to sad and then happy. Mostly, I felt overwhelmed. A part of me for the better part of the past 20 years was now over. No longer would I get out of bed, drive to Brooklyn and do all of the things that Police Officers of all ranks do. I was now a ‘civilian’ again. Vested “with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities thereunto appertaining”. I was now free to do whatever I wanted to do. I could smoke a joint, assault someone, even commit a murder and my pension would continue to be deposited in my bank account. I have to say, once I caught my breath and the day’s events sunk in, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I no longer had to worry about losing my job for some ridiculous reason, or because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or some politician wanted to use me to score some political points. So, what did I do as I turned the key and started my car? I drove home. No drugs, no crimes, no arrests. Hey, what can I say…..I’m too pretty for prison.
Once I arrived home, I greeted my wife and children. My oldest daughter had just entered the 8th grade, my middle daughter was in 7th grade and my youngest daughter was in 3rd Grade. I had quite a bit of life and the expenses that come along with them ahead of me, and to be honest, I started to panic a little.
We had just relocated prior to my retirement to a town some 200 miles away from New York City, in an effort to find a better place to raise our children. That removed me from all of the connections and contacts that I had developed over the years. I now needed to basically start all over. So I started a business of my own. Things went well and I was able to live comfortably with my pension and the income I was bringing in through the business. Then, a few short years later, reality set in. My oldest was starting out on her college search efforts. I took a look at the costs of many of the schools to which she was applying and realized that I should perhaps think about branching out and finding a full time job with a steady paycheck.
My largest hurdle at that point in time was that I had never, ever, had to interview for a job in my life. I became a police officer, like most of us did, at the tender age of 20 years old, after taking a written exam and a series of other physical and psychological exams.
Fortunately for me, I had a solid resume, which I was able to prepare for myself as part of my retirement business efforts had been earned drafting professional resumes and cover letters for other active and retiring law enforcement officers. So, I did what most people do and I started searching the online job ads. I sent my resume out to a bunch of prospective employers, not really receiving much of a response. The ones that called were generally the places with high turnover, looking for ‘sales associates’ to push their wares.
One potential ad caught my eye. It was for a sales position within a private investigation firm which was located in the same town as my new home. I sent in my resume and received a call from the Vice President, who said he was interested in interviewing me for the position. I got a haircut to clean up my retirement hairdo, dusted off my best suit and shined my shoes, and printed out a few copies of my resume. Two days later I suited up for my interview. My thought process going into this was that I really didn’t want the position, I just wanted to get a few interviews under my belt so that when the right position presented itself, I would be properly experienced and prepared to knock that interview out of the park.
So, I went to the interview and, while it went well, I was told that I “was not salesperson material”. Oh, well, I didn’t want to do sales for them anyway. But I got some great experience, especially regarding what potential employers should not do during a job interview. More on that in a separate article at a later time.
I know what you are all thinking. OK, enough about you. How does this all apply to me? Good question. It sets you up to understand a number of things. How you may feel when retirement time comes around, that there are options and opportunities available to you and there is life after law enforcement. But first, there are several things that you should do before you pull the trigger.
Once you have undertaken all of the steps listed above, and you are certain that you have addressed each of the concerns identified, along with any other issues that might be specific to your personal situation, you should be well situated to initiate the retirement process and begin the next phase of your life. Remember, there is life after law enforcement and the level of stress relief, freedom and personal satisfaction you can achieve, along with the level of financial compensation you can garner based upon the many skills you have amassed and experiences you have attained, will make you wonder why you didn’t retire as soon as you were eligible. It is time to start earning the kind of money you deserve. Go out and get yours and rest easy knowing that your pension will always be there for you and your family for the rest of your life.
For years I have always heard of the 'Us vs.Them' mentality in policing. There are an infinite number of studies on the topic, blog posts and other opinions relative to the question floating around the internet and in other media.
During my 20 years in the NYPD, I never really gave that position much credence. We had a job to do and there are some people who don't like the police, for a variety of reasons, and there are infinitely more who do support us and stand behind us. That said, there are also some people who enter into the law enforcement profession, as in every other profession, with, let's say, less than genuine motives, or who lack the requisite people skills to be effective. Those people need to be identified earlier, properly educated or trained, or removed from service. Keeping them on does a dis-service to the agency, the community and the officers who desire to do their job properly and serve with pride.
In more recent years, I have begun to re-evaluate my interpretation of this mentality. I see more and more, each and every day, law enforcement officers who engage in encounters with the populace, perform their duties effectively and efficiently, and yet become lionized by the media, the race-baiters and hustlers who otherwise earn their living by twisting, contorting and misrepresenting circumstances to better fit their narrow view of what is actually permissible under the law. I have watched pundit after pundit opine on television about how the police should respond to incidents, how they should act once on the scene and, further, how "their people" are not going to take this abuse any longer and are going to rise up against the police. The unfortunate reality is that, all too often, these folks have no clue as to what they are speaking about. They have never worked in law enforcement, have never responded to an emergency call for service, have never had to wrestle a gun from an armed combatant. They know their side of the story, their version of events and they are not open to anything that disagrees with their "Opinion". For there are facts and there are opinions, and there are opinions based upon facts and there are opinions based upon biases and prejudices. On each side of the coin.
This rhetoric has traversed from the streets to the pulpits of too many American churches, and to the first and second highest pinnacles in the country, the Congress and the White House. The thought that any respectable community leader, minister, representative or even the President of the United States would make assertions to the public that the police are the enemy, and that anyone should stand against the police is reprehensible. Particularly when so many of the law enforcement officers they rail against are later proven to have acted in accordance with departmental policy, local and even federal law. Those same laws that are written, passed and enacted by our politicians. The damage that comes from speaking prematurely, before all of the evidence is in, and explored, is detrimental to the overall cause of peace in our streets. We can all remember President Obama taking to the airwaves and announcing that "the Cambridge Police acted stupidly" when they arrested his friend, a supposedly erudite college professor. We can also remember when he took to the same airwaves and, very prematurely, and before any evidence was presented, declared that the police officer in Ferguson Missouri who shot the 'poor young boy' who had just robbed a convenience store through use of physical force and his overbearing size, then attacked and assaulted the same officer, was a murderer. He subsequently sent his Attorney general, the highest law enforcement officer in the land, out to visit and repeat his misplaced assertions. Disastrous bully pulpit diatribes such as these, not only from the president, but also from a seemingly never ending plethora of elected and appointed officials, is in no way shape or form beneficial to the greater good. It serves to separate, drive a wedge between the community and law enforcement and perpetuate the 'Us vs. Them' mentality among law enforcement, and conversely, also among the community.
We have watched in the last few years as violent crime nationwide has increased exponentially, particularly in cities and municipalities where Democrats hold the reins of government. The policies put forth by these administrations are culpable in causing the decay, disenfranchisement and overall decline of these once great urban centers. Law enforcement and the community are most effective when they work together towards the same goals. We also work best when we have a strong leader who understands this principle and does not seek to further political ends by driving the two groups further apart. Great things have occurred in cities across this country when the two have come together, led by the right leaders. No god comes from dividing the masses.
As time progresses, I wonder if the adage "It's Us vs. Them", relates more to the police vs. the race-baiters, politicians and pundits, than it does to the police and the public?
Law enforcement officers today face a myriad of issues and concerns each and every time they step out of their patrol vehicles, walk a foot post, or interact with the citizenry.
There are over 750,000 law enforcement officers in the United States. Each interacts with a number of people every day. The vast majority of those interactions go amazingly well, and for the most part, the police are problem solvers. They are called in times of need, despair, anguish and turmoil. They overwhelmingly respond with professionalism and act accordingly. At the end of the interaction, there is typically a resolution. Unfortunately, there is also oftentimes, a party who feels that they were on the short end of the stick. They were either arrested, summonsed, or had an otherwise unhappy interaction. Conversely, there is usually someone who is pleased with the response, who had an issue or problem and received service commensurate with their expectations.
Unfortunately, we very rarely hear about the millions of daily interactions between the police and the public that turn out well. We only hear about the one or two that can be portrayed by the media to be 'sensational' or 'controversial'. More often than not, once the smoke clears, the officers are found to have performed their duties in conjunction and accordance with the law. For that is what they are trained to do.
This article is directed to those officers who are responding to calls for police service, who must step out of their safety zones and interact with violent citizens. There are 5 essential things you must do each and every time you arrive on a scene.
1. ARRIVE ALIVE - Very plainly, you are useless to everyone if you wrap your patrol car around a tree, or crash into another vehicle when responding to a call for service. I speak from experience, I have been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Bottom line, drive with care and caution, using the skills you were taught in your EVOC course, and arrive alive to every call
2. TAKE CONTROL OF THE SCENE - Use verbal commands, a professional presence and your people skills to command control of the scene. A study was conducted of violent criminals who had shot, assaulted or killed law enforcement officers. When asked why they took the violent steps they did, the answer was a resounding "The officer gave me an opportunity, and i took it".
As a responding officer, you are of absolutely no good to anyone if you become the target of a violent criminal at a call for service. You do not have to be the biggest or the baddest cop to take control and convey a sense of command. I have seen small female officers control a scene with exceptional ease. It is all in the body language, your appearance and the manner in which you comport yourself.
3. USE YOUR LANGUAGE SKILLS TO COMPREHEND THE NEED FOR SERVICE - I can tell you at least one hundred stories detailing situations when the responding officers didn't listen to the information being presented, and the bad guy got away, or a report was filed in error, or there was a serious issue and the call was ended as unfounded.
When people call for the police, they are generally in a state of upset, shock or anger. Conversational language is best suited when trying to determine the circumstances, what needs to be done, and how best to do what needs to be done. Yelling and screaming is not the best way to converse, particularly with victims and witnesses. There is oftentimes a tendency to discredit witnesses and victims who do not speak English. A concerted effort should be made to secure a translator who can assist in determining the true cause of the call for service, so you can address it properly.
Use your people skills and remember that we are in a service oriented business. Most of us took the job because we had a desire to help people, not just because we look great in polyester pants and clip on ties.
4. BE PREPARED AND PROPERLY TRAINED TO USE THE NECESSARY PHYSICAL FORCE AS NEEDED - There will be times when you will not be able to talk your way out of a potentially violent situation. When this occurs, remember several things -
BONUS ROUND - REMEMBER THAT WE ARE ONE BIG, DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY - TREAT OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS LIKE BROTHERS AND SISTERS, AND TREAT OUR EXTENDED FAMILIES AS YOU WOULD WANT YOUR OWN FAMILY MEMBERS TO BE TREATED. CITY AND STATE LINES OR DIFFERENT PATCHES SHOULD NOT CAUSE US TO VIEW OTHERS AS STRANGERS. SOMEDAY YOU MAY BE STANDING IN FORMATION AT A FUNERAL FOR A BROTHER OR SISTER, OR THEY MAY BE STANDING AT YOURS. THE WORLD IS SMALL, AND OURS IS EVEN SMALLER.
One of the most detrimental aspects of law enforcement is the problematic connection between the professional law enforcement agency and the political class. Our law enforcement agencies are the arm of government with which most people interact most closely. Any citizen can walk into their local law enforcement headquarters, or police precinct and interact directly with members of the local police department. In most circumstances, the interaction between citizen and police is not an adversarial interaction. The citizen may have a problem, or a complaint, or a specific need and the police are empowered by our citizens, through our government, to provide services designed to facilitate the ability to resolve the problem, or to direct and refer the person to a suitable agency, service or other entity who can better address the situation when it falls outside of the realm of the law enforcement officer or agency.
Police powers are granted by the 10th Amendment to our constitution, which empowers the states to delegate their powers to their political subdivisions to protect the safety, health, welfare and morals of the community. As political governance shifts from one ideological party to another over short or long periods of time, the police, all too often and unfortunately, become a pawn in those changes in governance. One party may seize control of the government and decide that there are laws, policies and policing strategies that were in place, but counter the political philosophy of the party in power. We are experiencing such a dilemma in New York City, Baltimore, Washington DC and several other large cities across the country right now. Policies that were effective in reducing crime, providing for a safer community and, as a direct by-product, increasing the financial prosperity of the city, town or community. Safer communities are breeding grounds for successful businesses.
I can recall my early days in the NYPD, sitting through a training session at the Rodman's Neck Pistol Range, when a salty old instructor, whose name I can not recall, gave a lecture and told us about how the NYPD had changed since he 'came on the job'. This was in the late 1980's and there was a paradigm shift, described by our instructor, as going from being the 'Police Force' to the 'Police Department', our uniforms changed from a dark navy blue to a light blue shirt with navy pants. Our cars went from 'black and white with loud, ominous sirens' to 'Mary Jane Blue and Carvel White with softer, more soothing sirens'. His words seemed funny and entertaining to a young rookie who, at the time, didn't have a full understanding of the history of the NYPD, or a true appreciation of the importance of police officers being able to convey and ensure an overwhelming sense that no matter where they were, or with whom they were interacting, that the police are 'large and in charge'. This critically important component is also lost upon the majority of our politicians. Most of whom have never worn a police uniform and do not truly understand just how dangerous the world of a law enforcement officer is.
When a police officer arrives on any call, the most critical time is the first few minutes after their immediate arrival. This is when the officer takes control of the situation and uses their physical appearance, their professional uniform and their professionalism to convey to those present that the situation will be addressed properly and proper police action will be taken, if necessary. This is a critical factor, especially for those officers who do not have the benefit of working in pairs, or when back-up is miles or critical minutes away.
A study was conducted many years ago, in which the author conducted interviews with a broad sampling of inmates who were incarcerated after being convicted of shooting, killing or otherwise seriously injuring police officers. They were each asked a number of questions, but one questions stood out, as did the overwhelmingly consistent response from each inmate. They were each asked "Why did you assault the officer?" Each respondent stated, in similar language, that "the officer gave me the opportunity". They expanded, that the officers were not in control of the situation, and, had they been, they most likely would not have taken the action they did to assault or kill the officer. This information is typically overlooked when the political class consider making changes to the policies that provide the guidelines for those officers to respond professionally and safely to those calls for service. The professional, properly fitted, and para-military appearing police uniform is a significant part of that entire process.
When our politicians begin to make decisions relate to our police agencies, based upon political expediency, at the expense of the officers personal safety and the overall safety of the community, they are negligent in their sworn responsibility to enforce the federal and state constitutions, as well as the state and local laws. 'Softer uniforms' as put forth by our president, will serve to create a further risk to our law enforcement officers at a critical time on our nations history. Our police need to know that our government, at all levels and in all corners of the nation, stand firmly behind them. Removing effective tools and policies while also refusing to enforce the laws on the books creates a considerable risk and threat to those whom we entrust with enforcing our laws and keeping us safe.
It is almost comical that our politicians, who are also our legislators (you know, those folks who write the bills that they then pass into law and then expect everyone else to obey), followed by the judges who are tasked with sentencing those convicted of violating those laws who regularly fall short in their duty, and either sentence lightly or release recidivist criminals back onto the streets to prey again on our citizens, are never held to task when their laws fail and their sentences fall short. No, it is the police who are to blame in almost all instances. The same police who give life, blood and sweat in their daily performance of their duties. Yet now we think that dressing the police down will solve the nations problems. I beg to differ, perhaps we should focus on educating our children properly, teaching them to respect the police, since they are the face of government, and hold those who violate our laws strictly accountable for their actions. Softer does not work in law enforcement. Physical resistance must be met with heavier physical force, firepower with overwhelming firepower and talk with talk. Time has proven these responses to be effective, keeping police officers alive, which, at the end of the day, is of paramount importance. If the politicians want to wear calming colors and embrace violent crowds with open arms, i wish them all the best. Our police need to be able to properly respond and display their strength and professionalism, which is effectuated through the para-military police uniform.
These are the same politicians who have never run a business, yet believe they know better than those who have been successful. The same politicians who want to take over our national health insurance. Our national safety depends upon keeping that thin blue line properly attired. Let's leave law enforcement to the professionals, huh?
In our lives we often come to crossroads where we are tasked with making difficult and possibly life-changing or at least life-altering decision. One such decision is knowing when it is time to retire. Most people have to worry about keeping their jobs into their 60's. Law Enforcement is a different animal. Most law enforcement officers have an opportunity to 'retire' after a set number of years of service, often between 20 and 25 years. It seems like a very simple decision, do your time and get out, enjoy the rest of your life and reap the benefits of your pension for as long as you can. If you do retire, it would be a great time to start eating well, exercising and taking care of yourself so you can maximize that pension.
Many people outside of law enforcement think that this is a great deal for our retirees, since the general public has to work well into their golden years to be able to start receiving any benefits, such as a retirement plan or social security. What gets lost in the allure of the early retirement is that most law enforcement officers work through their careers for a lower wage than they would had they been in the private sector. That reduction decreases the payout on the pension, typically arriving at a number somewhere around 50% of the annual salary received while working. Another oversight is the statistical analysis wherein a retiring law enforcement is anticipated on average to live only 5-7 years after retirement. For those retiring in their early forties, that is quite an eye-opener. In addition, most law enforcement officers do not have the luxury to be able to truly retire. In the words of former President Bill Clinton, "someone's got to pay our bills". Usually by the time we are nearing retirement age, our children are heading off to college and there are some heavy expenses rolling in that need to be met.
An impending ability to retire, while sounding nice and relaxing on it's face, is an incredible producer of stress on most law enforcement officers. Add that to the fact that they, personally, might want to continue on in their position. Many law enforcement officers consider their career as a calling, rather than just a 'job'. Family stresses can also play into this decision making process. Spouses and children may want the officer (of either gender) to retire so they can reduce the stress borne each and every time the officer leaves to go to work, or when they hear on the news that an officer has been shot, killed or otherwise injured. Compound those stresses with the idea of leaving a 'job' that you have done for 20 or 25 years, which could quite possibly be the only job you know, or the only work that you may believe that you are qualified to perform. Imagine, as a non law enforcement officer, that you are told that you can no longer do the job that you have been performing for 20 years, and that you now have to either switch industries completely, or accept a lower paying position in a similar, yet less responsibility laden field. What would you do?
Law Enforcement officers are trained to deal with stressful situations, they make life and death split second decisions on a regular basis, and they are trained to pull the trigger and defeat a threat when it appears. Antithetically, retirement for law enforcement officers in every state, across the continent and around the world, is an incredibly difficult trigger to pull. The age old question, as posited by The Clash in their eponymous song of the the same title, is 'Should I Stay or Should I Go?'
It is not a decision to be made lightly and without proper analysis, evaluation and input from a number of advisors:
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