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Book excerpt: Beyond the Thin Blue Line: Career Strategies for Law Enforcement Officers

Read about retired Deputy Sheriff Teresa Fitzgerald’s successful transition from law enforcement to the private sector, as told by author and police veteran Colin Whittington

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The following is excerpted from “Beyond the Thin Blue Line: Career Strategies for Law Enforcement Officers,” a book written by Colin Whittington, 2019 Virginia Deputy Sheriff of the Year and CEO of Recruiting Heroes LLC, which offers practical advice and inspiring stories to guide law enforcement officers through every step of transitioning from the thin blue line to civilian life. In the excerpt, learn about retired Livingston County (Ill.) Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sheriff Teresa Fitzgerald’s transition from law enforcement to the private sector. Order your copy here.

Teresa M. Fitzgerald exemplifies the very best qualities of the heroes who serve on the Thin Blue Line. In 2003, Teresa joined the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office in Illinois and served as a Patrol Deputy. At the time of her hiring, she was one of only two women working for the entire department. Teresa would not allow the fact that she had entered a heavily male-dominated profession to hold her back. Her work ethic, dedication, passion for her profession, and determination were evident for everyone to see.

Teresa made a name for herself almost immediately upon entering the law enforcement profession. While on a routine traffic stop in 2004, Teresa’s investigative skills and her desire to go the extra mile led to her seizing a significant amount of crack cocaine and making the largest narcotics arrest for the entire department that year from a traffic stop. A few months later, Teresa again showed her commitment to serving her community. While patrolling her sector, Teresa came across an overturned vehicle that had been in an accident approximately five minutes earlier. The drunk driver was unconscious in the vehicle, which had caught on fire. Teresa rushed to the man’s aid without concern for her own life. She broke out the window, freed the man from the vehicle, and was able to pull him to safety just moments before the entire car became engulfed in flames. Her heroic actions saved the man’s life. Teresa was named the Livingston County Sheriff’s Deputy of the Year in 2004 for both incidents and her consistent commitment to excellence.

A serious, job-related injury and poor department policy were both leading factors to an early end to Teresa’s law enforcement career. At that time, her agency did not offer injured deputies the opportunity to work on light duty, making it challenging for deputies like Teresa to have the time and support they needed to recover from their injuries. While she was determined to return to full duty, she realized that her future was outside law enforcement as she grew her life and aspirations for a family without any light duty policy. Teresa left the Thin Blue Line in 2005 after much contemplation and not finding support in the tough times from her administration. She reflected on that moment and shared that leaving the camaraderie of law enforcement was extremely difficult, perhaps one of the hardest decisions she ever had to make in her life up to that point.

This book is a comprehensive career guide for police officers, deputy sheriffs, correctional officers and federal agents considering leaving law enforcement.

Teresa attributes much of her success in the private sector to her emphasis on networking during her career transition. During the time she was leaving law enforcement, LinkedIn was not yet the powerful platform it is today. Teresa had to rely on emailing, calling, and face-to-face interactions to tell colleagues, friends, and acquaintances about her desire to start a new career. She asked people for their opinions on career paths she should consider, inquired about their profession and the steps she could take to enter that industry, and requested they keep her in mind for current or future opportunities. Her ability to network with professionals in the private sector ultimately led to her discovering her next career. She encourages all law enforcement officers to make networking a significant part of their career transition strategy.

Her tenacity and determination propelled Teresa into the world of finance, where she joined one of the world’s largest financial institutions. She began her new career as a New Finance Representative Support Coordinator and worked her way up to various director—and executive-level positions throughout the industry. From a patrol deputy pulling a man from a burning vehicle to a partner-level executive within a Fortune 500 company leading teams in finance, Teresa epitomizes the potential of those who have stood on the Thin Blue Line.

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Teresa has never lost the drive and determination she displayed during her years in law enforcement. In 2023, after 17 years of financial advising, planning, and consulting experience across the country with her clients, she founded her own company, Affinity Planning Partners. She is proud to own a financial planning and consulting firm that helps people all around America with their financial goals proactively and with open communication to better their current financial position. As a fiduciary, Teresa and her team believe in serving their clients with genuine honesty and integrity and focus on listening to what’s most important. They help everyday Americans think about their futures by preparing for worst-case scenarios and developing strategies for creating, building, and retaining wealth. Teresa greatly emphasizes determining the most important things to her clients, including their desired lifestyle and the legacy they wish to leave behind for future generations of their families. Teresa continues to support and appreciate the sacrifices our law enforcement officers make every day to protect our freedoms. She is proud to accept current and former law enforcement officers and first responders as clients and offers them a discount for her services. She’s also happy to pay it forward and help anyone network anytime.

Teresa has several pieces of advice for those leaving the Thin Blue Line, including the importance of networking, finding a mentor, believing in your dream regardless of age, and enjoying life outside of the badge. As discussed extensively throughout this book, your ability to network will majorly impact your chances of finding an excellent career outside of law enforcement. A mentor will be particularly important in the first months and years of your new career. They can share their experience and give advice for excelling in your new industry. Lean on the expertise and guidance of others, and never be afraid of pursuing new challenges. Whether you are 30 or 60, when you leave law enforcement, it is never too late to start a new career and identify new passions. Finally, enjoy your life and embrace the freedom that life outside of law enforcement can bring. While the urge to serve and to put others first will always be an integral part of who we are as former law enforcement officers, it is okay to think about yourself and allow a new generation of heroes to hold the Thin Blue Line.

About the author
Colin Whittington’s career spans both law enforcement and the private sector. In “Beyond the Thin Blue Line,” Colin shares his journey and the invaluable lessons he has learned.

Colin began his career as a patrol deputy with the Loudoun County (Va.) Sheriff’s Office, where his commitment to community service earned him the honor of being named the 2019 Virginia Deputy Sheriff of the Year. This accolade marked a pivotal moment in his career, prompting a challenging but rewarding transition to the civilian workforce. Recognizing the lack of guidance available for such transitions, Colin wrote this book to provide a much-needed roadmap for others.

Drawing from his extensive experience, including leading recruiting and background investigations for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and serving as the recruiting director for an information technology firm, Colin addresses the unique needs of his audience. The numerous messages he received from fellow officers seeking career advice highlighted the necessity for a comprehensive resource, inspiring him to establish Recruiting Heroes LLC, an employment agency devoted to assisting veterans and first responders in their career transitions. Contact Colin through his website here.