Planning a post-policing career: One cop's private sector move aims to keep departments safe from cyberattacks
Marc Coopwood, a 27-year law enforcement veteran, is committed to keeping the public sector safe, stable and secure in a different way than he did as an assistant chief of police
Did you know that ransomware attacks cost local and state governments over $18 billion in 2020? This startling statistic, along with many others, was featured in a report by Comparitech, a consumer tech information website aimed at helping readers improve their cybersecurity and privacy online.
The report also found that 246 ransomware attacks were carried out on government agencies from 2018 to 2020, and many U.S. cities spent millions recovering from the attacks.
Moreover, a recent report from SolarWinds, a provider of IT management software, found that external cybersecurity threats – rather than internal threats – are on the rise in the public sector for the first time in five years.
Marc Coopwood, a 27-year law enforcement veteran, who previously served as assistant chief of police in Beverly Hills, California, as well as a police captain in Sacramento, California, knows all about this. During his career, he saw how two nearby towns were affected by ransomware attacks. One town paid a $1 million ransom and the other, he said, did not. The town that refused to pay had information leaked and firings – including a city manager and police chief – followed soon after.
Now retired from law enforcement, Coopwood is just as committed to keeping the public sector safe, secure and stable as the vice president of the public sector for Apex Technology Management, a Managed Service Provider that provides IT and cybersecurity solutions to municipal governments.
I sat down with Coopwood to learn about his private-sector career transition, advice he would give other officers looking to make a similar change and tips on how to prepare for a post-policing position before retirement.
How long have you been with Apex and what's your main role/objective?
I'm four months into it now and one of the challenging – and fun – things is that I am learning something completely different. We're a Managed Service Provider (MSP) for IT solutions and cybersecurity protections. My main role as vice president is to talk to police chiefs, city managers, sheriffs, or county administrative officers about cybersecurity to assess how safe and secure they are.
I saw a need in the public sector for an MSP, where we come in (and they do have an IT director), but then we do everything else to support and augment that IT director. It's such a win-win. The first thing is: it's a way more effective and efficient solution. And then the IT director is able to do more of the higher-level work that they need to do to make that department or city more safe, secure and stable.
When you made the transition, was there anything you learned along the way that you would want a fellow LEO who's making a similar change to know ahead of time?
First off: you want to reach outside of your police department. You need to develop and foster external relationships, whether it's a vendor or one of the trade show booths you walk through during a law enforcement association conference. You want to sit around the fireplace, have conversations and get to know those people from other departments and entities within your industry. Because there is going to be a time where you're going to need to lean on them or they're going to need to lean on you, for whatever it could be. It could be while you're still working or like me now – when I'm not working in law enforcement.
LinkedIn is super important. I have a professionally done LinkedIn account, where somebody can look at it and get to know a lot about me – in about a one-minute read. You can also reach out to and work with executive-level recruiters for private sector placement. Connect with them on LinkedIn and take it from there.
As for your resume, have it professionally produced. Make it more about leadership and effectively motivating employees than law enforcement accomplishments. Be sure to highlight your external relationships as well.
The other thing is: don't blow off vendors. Every police chief and city manager gets hit up by vendor after vendor on an email or on LinkedIn. What I was taught by LinkedIn was just to send a one-liner back, "Hey Police1, I really appreciate you reaching out. Unfortunately, we subscribe to People Magazine (or whatever) and are not interested, but we'll think about you in the future if we change our mind. Best regards, Marc." You can cut and paste it and it takes you literally 13 seconds to do it. You never know when those people are going to come back in your life.
The last thing is leadership-based. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.
For someone in law enforcement who is looking to retire soon and line up a job similar to yours, is there a timeline they should keep in mind?
That is a fantastic question. It's the first one I asked when I was looking around. The answer is six months to a year. The interviews can stretch out for months – depending on how many you have. It takes some time. And then you have to tell your boss you're going to leave or retire. Then you need to take your two weeks or your month off – to catch your breath before you start your second career.
The other thing I tell people if you can is to let your boss know what you're doing. My boss, city manager and mayor were so supportive and gave me all the time off I needed to do all of this.
If you're in a position or you have a relationship with your city manager (or whoever is above you), let them know what you're doing. They could be a resource or reference for you and you're going to need to be away from work to do those interviews. Just know that it's not a quick process.
With this position and making this career change, what is your favorite thing about your job? What keeps you going day in and day out?
It's no different than law enforcement. It's the people within Apex and then really the calling for the service delivery we offer. I still do feel like I'm able to help communities, police departments and cities. I'm helping not only with the cybersecurity piece, but I'm able to free up some of their IT directors to do bigger and better things. We can handle the smaller, more mundane things, and then they're able to do more of their higher-level projects.
It comes back to that whole service delivery and serving others. And just like we do as police officers, serving our communities, I am serving a community again and helping others.