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Is it your job, or is it you?

Whether you’re a street cop, a detective, or a supervisor, if you want to be a more productive employee or improve personally in any role, it starts with YOU


It’s time to look in the mirror.

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By Greg Lindsay

It’s 6 a.m. You have your station coffee, the briefing has just begun, and you find yourself thinking, “I don’t want to be here!” Perhaps it’s your first year on the job, or maybe, like me, you’re in your 17th year of a career in law enforcement.

Side note: If you’re only in the first year and already feel this way, it’s time to seek another job. No amount of money, gym memberships, rank, or department perks will make you happy. Moreover, starting out with that attitude won’t improve your department.

This piece isn’t about how terrible police work has become or how to stay motivated when you’re miserable. It’s about YOU. I can’t motivate you if you’re unhappy. If you genuinely feel miserable, it may be time to explore a new career.

Actively disengaged workers

A Gallup poll discovered that, on average, 17% of U.S. workers have been actively disengaged over the 18 years they’ve been tracking. I mention this to let each of you who are feeling exhausted, burnt out, frustrated with your current administration, upset about current case laws, stuck on the night shift (again), or anything else, know that you are NOT alone. It’s not just policing either.

The real question is whether the problem lies with you or the job. Now, I’m not suggesting that we ignore the fact that law enforcement has become more challenging in the past five to seven years. It certainly has, but I don’t believe the physical tasks of police work have become more arduous. The criminal element has always existed. There has always been a thin blue line separating right from wrong, justice from injustice.

However, I will say that the mental aspect of our job has changed dramatically. Officers are now expected to be excellent writers, technologically up-to-date, counselors, experts in all case laws, teachers, kind and gentle, yet still able to face danger and protect the public. This can be ... exhausting. I believe this has significantly impacted officers and their work in recent years.

Looking in the mirror

Having addressed the complaints, it’s time to look in the mirror.

First, be honest about your physical and mental state. Have you gained a few pounds? Is the job really that bad, or is it your attitude at fault? Is it time to find a gym or a therapist? These questions must be asked – not just to make you a better employee, but to keep you safe mentally and physically. When you’re mentally and physically fit, you’ll be ready for street survival and officer safety. You’ll be able to love yourself and your family well, and ultimately, you’ll be a more productive human being.

I understand that bad days are normal; life can be tough. However, I can attest that when I finally acknowledged the need to be more physically active, engage with my family, participate in my community, be involved in my church, and be engaged at work, things changed.

The grass isn’t always greener

I left a department after approximately 15 years of service. I felt like I was on an upward trajectory, and leaving wasn’t part of the plan. However, my wife and I decided it was the best decision for our family. I didn’t leave because the department was bad or because I was miserable – quite the opposite. I now understand that changing jobs or assignments wouldn’t have changed the person I saw in the mirror. I needed to work on changing myself, which I was in the process of doing.

I often share this with new officers and partners and when leading staff development sessions. People tend to look at someone else’s situation and say, “I want to be there; the grass is so much greener!” But let me tell you something: WATER YOUR OWN GRASS! This is a metaphor. You can switch to a different department, a different assignment, or even a different career. But if you’re not nurturing your own well-being, that new job, assignment, or department will become as miserable as your current situation. I think you understand the metaphor and the point of this article by now.

Taking self-inventory

Whether you’re an administrator, a street cop, a detective, or a supervisor – no matter where you’re assigned – if you want to be a more productive employee or improve personally in any role, it starts with YOU. Take an honest inventory of yourself and your family by asking these questions:

  • What does your alcohol consumption look like?
  • Are you physically active?
  • What are your inputs? Are you constantly watching the news and social media?
  • When was the last time you took a break from the news and read a book?
  • When was the last time you took your kids to the park and played with them instead of looking at your phone?

Furthermore, find time to do the following:

  • Leave your phone at home and go fishing or engage in any other outdoor activity you enjoy.
  • Spend time with positive friends or co-workers and talk about anything but work.
  • Have a drink (in moderation) and engage in safe activities like axe throwing.
  • Take your partner out on a date or simply stroll through the park together.
  • Find a position or assignment that you’re passionate about and pursue it.

So, is it you or is it the job? Only you can answer that question. If you’re truly done with law enforcement, that’s okay. Even finding a new job or “retiring early” might be the right move. However, don’t make that decision out of anger without taking stock of yourself. Do it because it’s the right thing for you and your family. So, go be the best version of YOU! Take inventory and take the necessary actions. By doing this, you’ll experience a deeper sense of joy, and believe me, both you and your department will be better off for it.

So, is it you or is it the job? It’s only YOU who can decide.

Topics for discussion

1. Self-care and professional fulfillment: Discuss the importance of maintaining physical and mental health as a way to improve workplace satisfaction. How can activities like regular exercise, engaging in hobbies, and spending time with loved ones help to manage stress and improve overall job satisfaction?

2. The changing nature of law enforcement: The article highlights how the demands and challenges of law enforcement have evolved over time, particularly in the mental aspect. Discuss how these changes have affected the well-being and job satisfaction of law enforcement officers. What measures can be taken to help officers adapt to these changes?

3. Job satisfaction vs. personal satisfaction: The article suggests that dissatisfaction with a job may sometimes be a reflection of personal dissatisfaction. Discuss the difference between job dissatisfaction and personal dissatisfaction. How can individuals distinguish between the two, and what steps can they take when they realize the issue is more about their personal state than their job?

About the author

Greg Lindsay is an 18-year law enforcement veteran. He currently serves as an investigator with the State of Idaho Attorney General’s Office – Internet Crimes Against Children Unit. He was previously employed with the Ada County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) and Ventura County Sheriff’s Office (VCSO). Greg’s passion is that of juvenile crimes and personal development for both staff members and individuals. While serving as a supervisor at the VCSO, he put together a large-scale jail training for the newer deputies and civilian staff. Greg was named Crisis Intervention Officer of the Year in 2017 and Employee of the Year in 2015 as an SRO. Greg’s experience ranges from custody, patrol, juvenile crimes, SRO, major crimes detective, supervisor and investigator. Greg is also a certified personal trainer and enjoys doing obstacle course races (OCR).

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