Police Retirement: The Impact of Change

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9780398057862: Police Retirement: The Impact of Change
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PREFACE

The woods am lovely, dark, and deep; But, I have miles to go before I sleep; Miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost

Yes, the woods are lovely, dark and deep. Robert Frost gives us these words to point to a safe place in life. So often, life becomes comfortable and secure and we don't want to leave the woods. For the police officer, the comfort and security of a safe place can come to an abrupt end at retirement. The transition into civilian life can change feelings of security into fear.
Somewhere beneath the experiences of police work, officers know that they must face the decision to retire. "What should I do? Go or stay?" There is no easy answer, no magic way to decide. This book was intended to help make retirement a positive experience for officers. Retirement can be the best part of a police officer's life, and it is hoped that this information will be used to explore new horizons and goals. Police officers are far from finished after leaving police work, in fact they are just beginning. Police work has provided retired officers with knowledge not found in institutions of learning; they know people, and therein lies their most valuable tool for helping society.
To the police officer reading this book: if no one has taken the time to say thank you for your years of police service, I do so now. However, let me add that I say thank you thus far for what you have accomplished. The best is yet to come; you still have miles to go before you sleep.

INTRODUCTION

RETIREMENT. The word itself denotes a sense of ending, of termination. It conjures up visions of sitting in an easy chair or behind a fishing pole at a peaceful lake. These are common perceptions of retirement. For many of us, retirement is far from comfortable chairs and afternoon naps. Our productivity does not necessarily end with our work lives; we go on to new horizons and goals.

For the police officer, retirement is far from the end. Eligible for retirement at mid-life, police officers are faced with the difficult decision of staying in police work or returning to civilian life. Police officers also face a problem not found in other occupations: the difficulty of separation from the brotherhood of policing. Civilian life can bring a feeling of fear and isolation and to many retiring officers leaving is similar to losing a family. They are no longer "one of the guys," in there helping with the battle against crime, and they yearn to be part of the action once more. During that first year, officers may find themselves wondering why they ever left the job. An older officer once said: "You can't get the job out of your system. Forget it."

Other perils of the civilian world await after retirement. There is the matter of finding a job. Some officers may think it is simple to find work but it is not. They find themselves taking anything that happens along, even a minimum wage job. Income is lower after retirement, and the retired officer no longer has benefits like medical and dental insurance. Some may think they made a terrible mistake in retiring from police work.

The experiences of retired officers emphasize the need for preparation prior to leaving police work. Officers tend not to plan retirement, but wait for some special insight to tell them when to leave. Many times, I have heard the comment from other officers: "you will know when your time to leave comes." Unfortunately, insight alone does not make a successful retirement.

My experience as a police officer has made me realize that officers need assistance and information on how to retire. A primary purpose of this book is to inform the police officer, whether already retired or thinking about it, what lies ahead and what to do about it. There have been many articles and essays written on retirement, but no one volume puts this information together in systematic form. One goal of this book is to provide that service for police officers.

A second and equally important goal of this book is to make academicians and the public aware of the effects of police retirement. We know from previous research that policing is one of the most stressful occupations in the world. We know about the dangers of police work and the myriad of tasks faced each day by police officers. But, we do not seem to understand how officers separate themselves from this environment. What happens to retired police officers?
Many theories and suppositions about retirement are mentioned in this book, but they are all concerned with the common application of the term. Retirement for a police officer is not the same as retirement from civilian occupations. These differences are what we need to further explore. Questions like "How does one retire at age forty-three?" or "What are the psychological and physical ramifications of early retirement?" or "What is different about police retirement?" require answers.
Throughout this book, I explore these and many other questions. My sources of data were past research and the thoughtful qualitative comments of police officers. I saw this combination of data as providing a more complete picture of the concept of police retirement.

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Published by Charles C Thomas Pub Ltd (1992)
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