12 important considerations before moving to ‘greener pastures’
If you feel you are policing in an untenable environment, avoid doing anything rash and irreversible without first considering all your options
Do you feel where you are currently policing is an untenable environment requiring a change?
If you have arrived at that conclusion, avoid doing anything rash and irreversible without first considering all your options. Rather than just resigning, first, consider taking your talents to another agency before you jettison your career in law enforcement altogether.
To determine if another agency is actually “a greener pasture,” gather information online and check the department’s website. Talk with officers from that agency and visit the area in person if possible.
After doing that, here are 12 more considerations before moving to another agency:
1. Is it a city with cop-friendly leadership?
Query the city’s name and a few key phrases like “defunding,” “qualified immunity” and “police shooting” to identify how positive or negative the rhetoric is that may be swirling around the agency you are considering.
In the articles, you will be able to get a general idea through quotes of the timber of the chief, the mayor, councilpersons and the local media, as well as members of the community. You may discover that a move would be only a change of address, but not a change of conditions.
2. Is there a prosecutor there who prosecutes?
Look for evidence that the agency has a good working relationship with a dedicated career prosecutor with a passion to serve and protect that matches yours.
Avoid moving to an agency whose prosecutor refuses to diligently prosecute cases. Such a prosecutor not only puts a community in physical jeopardy, but they place officers in physical and civil jeopardy when they refuse to follow through on legitimate arrests with vigorous prosecution.
3. Are there perks for your experience?
Many agencies offer experienced officers perks such as more pay and vacation time in reward for years of experience. Some consider your time with another agency in allowing your entrance to specialized teams, promotional opportunities within the agency and in calculating vacation time.
There are even agencies that offer entry-level command positions to outside agency officers with experience.
4. Are there any ”No-go” zones?
Cities whose city governments have designated sections of the city “no-go” zones for police should be a no-go for anyone looking for greener pastures to police in.
5. Are less than lethal force options banned?
If use of force options such as chemical munitions, less-lethal munitions, or electrical control devices have been eliminated by local government officials, eliminate that agency from your target list. The people who leave police officers with few less than lethal force options are the same ones who will persecute officers who are forced then to use deadly force justifiably even when there are no grounds to prosecute them.
Look for an agency that offers not only de-escalation technique training, but also a wide range of options for those times when words fail.
6. What kind of training is offered?
A major consideration for anyone changing departments would be to discover how much training is required on entry-level and how much ongoing training is done by the department after you are hired. An agency that cares about its officers’ physical, emotional and legal survival is an agency committed to ongoing quality training in all law enforcement disciplines.
7. What will your living conditions be like?
For your sake and your family’s sake it is critical that you seek out an area where you can:
- Afford to live.
- Trust your children will have great educational opportunities.
8. Are there opportunities for your spouse?
The place you move to should have career options for your working spouse as well.
9. What will your wages be?
You may initially take a cut in pay to make a move. If this is the case it should be an acceptable entry-level living wage. In some cases, however, a cut in pay may be offset by a lower cost of living in the area you are moving to.
10. Is a probationary period avoidable?
There will most likely be an entry-level probationary period no matter where you go. Some agencies may also withhold healthcare benefits for a period of time after hiring. You will have to decide if these risks are worth the possible reward of improving your conditions.
11. Is the retirement fund solvent?
Make certain that a solvent retirement fund exists.
On a positive note, you may live in a state where protective services have a combined retirement fund, meaning you can laterally transfer from one agency to another without impacting on your retirement, or “years in service.”
12. What about qualified immunity?
Qualified immunity protects state and local officials, not just police officers, from individual liability unless they have clearly violated an established constitutional right. This gives limited civil protection to police officers and other government officials acting in good faith. Colorado, Connecticut and New Mexico are three states that to one degree or another have struck a blow against qualified immunity.
However, because the House of Representatives passed HR 1280, qualified immunity for police officers is on the chopping block in the Senate. If that bill becomes law, it will be a game changer for many of you in the law enforcement profession.
Here is one more consideration
Take your time in making a decision to leave your agency and be even more cautious in your decision to leave the profession. Even though the difficulties facing many of you now are not what you imagined when you became a police officer, it is up to you to decide individually whether the present conditions signal that this is a time for a change or a time of challenge.
Here is one more consideration: It may be a time for you to find some superhuman patience and stay where you are to accept the difficult challenges facing you and your fellow officers. You can become an integral part of a profound change back to a sense of normalcy. In other words, consider staying where you are at to help to make your own pasture greener once again.
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