I still remember the day I found out I had been hired. After a long, grueling process of applications and interviews, a goal had been realized. Hundreds of applicants competed for one opening in this coveted and necessary profession: law enforcement. I had won; I was in.
My sense of accomplishment faded fast. You learn quickly that getting hired is only the first step in the journey. Academy, FTO, then learning every day thereafter a better way to do things in real-time on the streets, is a constant reminder that it is in fact a journey and not a destination.
As an officer, being valuable to your community and your team requires diligence, dedication, consistent work, and perhaps most of all, passion. Your community expects you to hand out stickers to children, then rush to a scene where another had just lost their life. Your teammates expect you to be a friend at breakfast, and an asset in times of high stress and anxiety. In good times and bad, you’re required to perform. You’re expected to be perfect and never make a mistake. You’re expected to have all the answers a split second after a question or problem presents itself.
You volunteer to say goodbye to your family, vest up, and do these things to the best of your abilities. You begin to love it, and it’s easy to allow the sense of mission and dedication to consume you and start to take the place of other things that should be more important.
Police work never defined me. I’ve always done things outside of law enforcement and measured myself by other metrics. I also got into policing later in life, and although I had passion for the work, I never wanted it to encapsulate me as a person. I frequently told new officers to allow who they were as a person to dictate how they policed, and not allow being a cop to dictate who they were as a person. However, I’d be lying if I said the camaraderie and sense of mission doesn’t become addicting.
Pressure makes diamonds; doing hard things together builds teams.
I had some incredible times in law enforcement and the experience has changed me forever. I’ve met amazing people throughout my career, and I’m blessed to call them friends. Even the bad times added value to my life.
For me, many of the diamonds that were created during my law enforcement career began to cloud. The passion and drive that once excited me began to fade and the reality that my chosen profession was in fact voluntary, became clearer and clearer.
I had done just about everything my department had to offer that was of any interest to me. Early on, I fell in love with investigations. I loved the ability to work a puzzle, outwit opponents, and conduct operations that effectively held people accountable and brought closure to victims. I dedicated myself to this aspect of the profession for most of my career. My lack of continued motivation, however, told me it was time to rethink my position.
When you’re working for a community and as part of a team, you need passion and desire to truly fulfill your commitments to both. When passion and desire are lost but you continue to perform in a high risk, high stress environment, it takes a toll on you. Your soul must be in it. Once your soul is subtracted from your all, you need to rethink your commitments and force yourself to take note of what really matters in your life.
When the seeds of change begin to grow, add water.
For me, I began searching for an exit before things really shifted in the way law enforcement was perceived throughout the country. I turned down a few offers that weren’t ultimately what I saw myself doing, but luckily, I had already put in a lot of work to make a departure before I was at my breaking point. I had years of networking, applying, interviewing, planning, and research under my belt before stepping out and committing to a change.
That change, although calculated, was a bit outside what most would consider reasonable for themselves. My wife and I decided one weekend to make the change and knew step one was to pull the trigger. Our house went for sale the following week, it sold in one day, my wife quit her job and in three weeks my family was caravanning from Washington State to Arizona for a fresh start.
I stayed working at my department for a short time, traveling back and forth, but ultimately set a date, said goodbye, and joined my family. We had taken the time to set ourselves up financially to take a risk, and knew it was our next right step. I didn’t have my next role set in stone, but I had a few prospects and knew my Cop to Corporate journey was going to be a success.
I was pretty sure I wouldn’t miss the job; I knew I’d miss the people.
After fourteen years of service, I hit send on a goodbye email to my department, drove out of state and never looked back. To this day, people ask me if I miss being a police officer. Now that some time has passed, I can honestly say I do not. Not only do I not miss it, but my department continues to do good work without me. And the people I knew I’d miss when I left, I’m still connected to and stay in touch with regularly.
In today’s world, being physically apart means very little to relationships that were forged by years of creating diamonds together. Those are the gems that never cloud and one of the true treasures in life that need to be guarded. Jobs come and go, but as the saying goes: diamonds are forever. Fear of losing friends after leaving law enforcement is just that: fear. Doing what’s best for you and your family will never weaken strong friendships and will ultimately shine as a beacon for those on their own journeys as they decide their futures.
Today, I’m proud to say our calculated risk was worth it. The trigger we pulled collectively as a family fired a shot that hit the target and we couldn’t be happier.
Dreams don’t come true until you chase them.
I never wanted to leave law enforcement to do something that didn’t interest me. A lot of what drove me to leave was a lack of passion, and I wasn’t going to put myself in the same position. Everyone has dreams, but to make them a reality you must pursue them. Very little good in life just happens to you. You must be the catalyst for change and be disciplined in the pursuit of your goals. A fruitful life comes from aggregated experiences, which you’ll never have if you don’t step out of your box, take some risks, and see what’s next.
I put the skills and knowledge I gained throughout my life and career in policing to work for me. I’m currently working with Altia, an international software company based in the UK. Altia specializes in investigative solutions for law enforcement and other public sector organizations, and their mission allows me to work with those who are still dedicated and passionate about committing law enforcement.
There are opportunities outside law enforcement. Even if you don’t ultimately know what you want to be when you grow up, make decisions, gain experiences, and start figuring it out. There are a lot of people who have successfully made the transition to the private sector who are willing to help. If you feel in your heart that it’s time to reignite a sense of passion and drive in your work life, start reaching out to these people, building your network, and putting in the work it takes to find your next right step.
Courage has rewards, not all of which can be quantified. You’ve got this.