Law Enforcement Leadership November December 2018

Man standing in front of whiteboard.

Mike Carpenter 

“…Down the Road”

We all look “down the road” towards retirement. Regardless of the job we have, most everyone has retirement dreams of (maybe) moving to an island, taking long walks on the beach and sitting at an oceanside bar for afternoon drinks.

Regardless of your retirement ambitions, you are not there yet. There are some small problems to overcome which lie between your current job and your future aspirations. Now, the good news for a lot of you is that, in many states, police officers have an option for an early retirement. Rather than wait for age 62 or 30 years in the system, many states or municipalities allow police to leave the job sooner than that. But, whether you have a 20 year/50 percent retirement plan or some other early retirement option, you can’t realistically retire when you’re in your early 40s on a 50% pension and expect your retirement dreams to come true. Often, at that time of our lives, either the kids are in college, or you are in the “toy buying” stage of life (chromed up motorcycles, classic cars, etc.), or you moved to a larger house (with a much larger mortgage) or…you get the picture. And, because of that, you can’t support your lifestyle in your early 40s on a 50% pension for the rest of your life.

Well, 41 is too young to retire anyway! And, this next step in your life can be very rewarding if you can use the skills and experience you develop when you are in your 20s, 30s and 40s. We all know officers who have retired and have great second careers which they really like. I’m not about to try to list all the retirement options which are available to you. However, I can offer some information about a specific second career which is rewarding, stress-free, pays well, and where you will get 20 weeks of paid vacation a year!!! Do I have your attention?

I had an interesting conversation with a police officer a couple of months ago. It was the first time I had met this officer so, after the usual small talk introductions, he asked, “So, what do you do?” I gave him a little background (that I had been “on the job”) and that, now, I am a college professor teaching criminal justice classes. His response was one I hear from other officers with whom I have had contact, “Hey, that sounds like fun. Maybe, I’ll do that when I retire. Let me know when there is an opening for a teaching job at your college and I’ll put my name in.” Hearing that response a lot from officers over the years, I thought that I would use this column to give you some insights into what could be a really good second retirement career for you.

I have to admit that, this past January, I went on vacation to a great spot and, as I drove by Key West Community College, I was really tempted to stop and see if they were hiring! That way, I could teach classes in the morning and walk the beach to the tiki bar in the afternoon! That sounds great, but what do you need on your résumé to make that happen?

Long Before You Retire

Long before you retire, you need to plan for your retirement. But, if you are planning on a second career teaching full-time at a college, you may need to start planning years in advance. What sort of things do you need to consider?

First, it is a huge adjustment in your life to switch careers. You are very comfortable right now. You make good money after all of your years in service. You know what to do and how to do it, no matter how bad a situation is. But, it’s time to retire or maybe you could retire if you had something to move into for a second career. The first thing for you to recognize is that you will definitely take a pay cut. No doubt you are near the top of your pay scale and maybe have a couple of promotions under your belt. That salary will be tough to leave. Realize, however, that a lucrative second career will allow you to bank your pension or only dip into it a little and still maintain your lifestyle.

Second, if you get a state sponsored pension, you (usually) can’t work for any branch of government in that state (including state colleges) and still collect your pension (or there may be a financial penalty if you make more than a certain amount of money). Don’t let that discourage you from teaching at a college. You may not be able to teach full-time at the community college down the road from you, but you could work at a private college in your state or at a state sponsored college in another state and still collect your full pension and a full-time professor’s salary.

Third, there are four criteria or items which you need to have on your résumé to be considered for a college teaching position and, in my opinion, these are listed in order of importance: 1) Advanced college degree; 2) Teaching/training experience; 3) Publishing or writing credentials; and 4) Experience.

After you pack all that into your résumé, then you can apply for a teaching job.

What you have done in your career so far is nice and I’m sure you have included it all on your résumé. But, remember, you are not applying for a second career in policing. You are applying for a second career in academia. You cannot put in your retirement papers and then drive to the nearest college and say, “Hey, I just retired and I want to teach college.” If you want to put a résumé together with all of these points, then you need to start NOW!

You Got a Degree?

It will not be easy to be hired as a full-time college professor – even though you may have achieved a high rank in your job or commanded 100 officers. Sure, you have lots of police experience, but you are entering the world of academia and you’ll need more than that to get hired.

If you’re going to teach at a college, you’ll need some college behind you. Let’s start with a minimum of a master’s degree in criminal justice. That may be enough to get you hired at a small community college. It will not be enough to be hired at a four year college or university. Plan on getting a doctorate degree in criminal justice for a full-time position at a larger college. Colleges across the country are pumping out “wanna-be” criminal justice professors by the hundreds every year, all with PhDs. So, you’re saying, “Well, I’ve got 20 years of experience and they don’t.” You are right; however, you still won’t get hired. Also, if you are going back to school to get your degree, make sure you are attending a recognized college or university, not a for-profit college. Where you get your graduate degree will matter.

Some agencies pay for tuition and books for you to go to college. Few officers take advantage of it. One agency near me has about 75 officers. Of all of those officers, only three are currently going to college – for FREE! Yes, it is a “royal pain” to work on the job, take care of family, work OT whenever you can, have some personal time, AND go to college. I know this from personal experience and I see many students in my classes trying to do this. But, ten years or so from now, the inconvenience of going back to college will allow you to leave your agency for a great second career. Even if your agency does not have a tuition reimbursement benefit, pay it out of your pocket. You are investing in your future!

Teaching/Training Experience

You will need teaching or training experience; however, you can get it while you are on the job. Here are some options:
1. As a school resource officer, you can make presentations in school classrooms on “what police do” or “which drugs are deadly” or such. You might think it’s not a big deal, but it is still teaching.

  1. How about teaching a driver’s education class at a high school? I am not sure what the exact qualifications are in your state, but, at one point, I looked into that in the state in which I worked.
    3. You could teach at an academy. Every police academy I know of uses police officers as instructors. They are on the job full-time, but come to the academy to teach a specific topic in which they are specialized. Most states require that you attend an instructor development class in order to be certified as a police instructor. Look for an upcoming “train the trainer” class and put in for it.
  2. If you have developed a certain expertise during your career (maybe accident reconstruction, or drug interdiction, etc.), you may be hired as a part-time police trainer by any of the private police training companies which are out there. For example, IPTM, in Florida, offers more than 400 courses and Southern Police Institute, a division of the University of Louisville, offers dozens of courses and they hire instructors to teach them.
  3. Become an adjunct instructor at a college (adjunct is college talk for “part-time”). If you have a four year degree (but preferably a master’s degree), you should contact the nearest college to you which offers a criminal justice degree. There may be an opening for a part-time instructor for which you could apply. Go in person and meet the full-time criminal justice faculty. Often, they are retired from a criminal justice career and will be glad to share a cup of coffee with you and talk. To give you some perspective, I teach at a small college with about 3,500 students – about 300 are criminal justice students. We have two full-time criminal justice professors and six adjuncts. Two of the adjuncts are retired state police officers; one is a current city police chief; one is a retired judge; one is a current assistant district attorney; and one works in the field of substance abuse. We also have about 20 résumés on file for people who want to teach, either full- or part-time.

(Part II of this article will appear in the January/February 2019 issue of Police and Security News.)

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