Worst-case scenarios: 10 things every cop should do for their family and self

Because the future is uncertain, police officers must make arrangements today for whatever worst-case scenario may befall them tomorrow

You can handle whatever comes, right? Let me remind you that you’re not immortal. Like all superheroes, there’s a flaw built into the fabric of that uniform. 

You’ll probably outlive your career, but there’s a chance you might not. And there are other threats besides being KIA, like injury and job loss. For the wellbeing of yourself and your family, you need to handle these ten things as soon as possible.

1. A will. Unless your experience with the government has led you to believe they are the best caretakers of your money and your children, you need at least a basic will. Tell your loved ones where it is. Wills are not expensive unless you have a huge estate — and you very likely don’t. But you do need to direct any assets to care for your designee and to have your children cared for. Another loving thing to do while you and your spouse are talking about these weighty issues is give your spouse permission to move on if something happens to you. They may have a lot of life to live if you’re gone – don’t make them live it in guilt. 

2. Advanced directive. You might not want to be tethered to life support for a decade or buried with all of your organs and tissue that might have given life or sight to someone waiting. Make those decisions now and make them known. 

3. An attorney. Not just the name of an attorney — you need to go meet with one. Find one that will be ready to stand with you after you’ve shot someone, gotten a civil subpoena, been suspended, fired, or accused. Ideally, she or he will be willing to come to a scene at three in the morning. A specialist who works with cops is good, but it might be that obnoxious defense attorney that you grudgingly admit you’d hire if you were arrested. Ask him or her if you should add an umbrella liability protection to your homeowner’s insurance. By the way, you don’t have to always be a defendant. You have rights to sue for loss, too!

4. Life insurance. You should be familiar with the Public Safety Officer’s Benefits Programswww.psob.gov. But do not trust that or your employer’s coverage as your family’s only source of financial security. Buy a lot of term life insurance when you’re young and healthy to make sure your kids have resources until they get out of college.

5. Disability insurance. The tragedy that is most statistically likely for cops is disability. If you think the powers that be are dedicated to taking care of disabled officers, I can point you to a few thousand disappointed former cops who learned the hard way that is not the case. A trusted independent insurance agent can help you understand your department’s coverage and its limitations, as well as market options that you can purchase to insure proper care if you become unable to work.

6. A membership. Do you have a group of people ready to stand by you outside of your department when you’re suddenly in the spotlight and knee deep in an internal investigation? I have experienced the reality of colleagues necessarily distancing themselves for their own careers’ sake. If there is a professional support group in a union or fraternal organization you can join, that can help. A faith group can also be a great source of support. Developing support for the blue line from outside of that blue line can help keep you encouraged and sane.

7. A budget. Yes, this is America, but it is possible to be out of debt and have some money in savings for an emergency. If you are fired or suspended without pay, how many weeks or months can you survive? Planning now can not only enhance your retirement, but help you withstand unexpected expenses and live within your means. One place to start is at www.daveramsey.com, where you can find budgeting tools and inspiration for financial planning.

8. Updated notification on file. If your home address, relationships, or preferences have changed since you signed all those papers prior to getting sworn in, then you need to review that information. You don’t want your ex-wife to get the chaplain visit before your current spouse does, right? Is your mom in poor health and wouldn’t handle bad news well? 

9. A resume. How independent of your current job or agency would you be if the unexpected happened? And, if your income is partly dependent on a second job doing off-duty work, what would happen to that if you were injured, suspended, or fired? Consider getting a new skill, starting a business, or studying for a degree in something other than police-related material. 

10. A concealed carry permit. Your enemies don’t go away just because you’ve been fired or suspended. In fact, they may increase. Suddenly, carrying that pistol like you’ve done forever becomes a crime. Your backup plan for your backup weapon is a concealed carry permit that will remain even if you have to hand over your badge. 

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