Reflecting on the fellow officers who have quit The Job
Fifteen years. Nine years. (Another) 15 years. Twenty years. Eleven years.
These are the tenures of a few of my co-workers that have voluntarily rolled out the doors in the last year or two and hung up the badge to seek their fortunes (literally) elsewhere.
I’m not talking about chasing better pay and benefits or a higher rank at another department, mind you; I mean quit the profession altogether. Years of training and experience—kaput.
This has weighed heavily on my mind because police work, at the end of the day, has never been a “job.” It’s been described as legitimizing what you “are” by giving you the proper outfit, gear, and oath to do what you were meant to do all along. So to go that far, to be single-digit years from a lifetime pension benefit and pull the pin on the whole thing? I don’t understand.
I don’t have statistics here, mind you. I’m making this assessment as someone fully invested in The Job and with contacts in dozens of different agencies across the country. And before I go much further, this isn’t about the place I work either. This being interpreted as a hack job on my employer is why I haven’t verbalized this before…but if I worked for the kind of place that wouldn’t be able to take this objectively, I don’t think I’d particularly enjoy working there anyway. No, I’m talking about the profession as a whole, nationwide.
The first conclusion most people reach is, “Well, no wonder, you guys are dropping like flies. Why would you want to stay? It’s open season!” Eight officers were killed in 13 days (not nine) this last September, seven were killed in ten days during August, all of which obviously is as attention-getting for cops as you’d think it is. But in truth, when this was going on we’d actually had fewer line-of-duty deaths by that time of the year than in the same time frame (January to September) the year before. Just as sharks didn’t suddenly start biting people until the year 2001 (aka “Summer of the Shark”), it’s always been a dangerous job. We’re just having that acknowledged by the press now.
I just get the impression that there seems to be a shift in the Profession. Maybe it’s one that’s restricted to my generation (“X”) of officers, but I think it’s got me by the nape of the neck, because I too am experiencing a level of burnout that I never thought possible. I’m not quitting—it’s too late, and I have too many T-shirts and sets of jack boots to just up and donate to Goodwill—but seeing people nutting up and making these leaps to jobs that actually only last eight-to-twelve hours a day isn’t making my own phase any easier to deal with.
I thought about this once before, actually, while I was building my house. After I screened out the guys with meth sores and made my final picks, I would assist with framing and earthwork to save on labor, and as much as I enjoyed using my hands for something other than making fists or holding a pen, I was most amazed at the end of the day when these guys would take off their utility belts, toss them into a box, and head to the house, the job not following them home for the night.
There were no after-hours “hammer emergencies” for which to be on call. They just…stopped working for the day. Baffling, even 11 years later. Was that the lure of leaving, perhaps?
I’ll make it. The Profession will make it. There are always replacements, but still… this close to the finish line?
For once I don’t think I want an answer even if there is one, but someone had better consider looking into this before too long.
When officer Alexander D. Teach is not patrolling our fair city on the heels of the criminal element, he spends his spare time volunteering for the Boehm Birth Defects Center.