Making Sure Your New Department Is Better than Your Old

When you are just starting out in law enforcement it can be difficult to get your foot in the door, often leading to new officers taking anywhere job (or jobs) they can get. Many times these officers know this only a stepping stone and plan on moving on to bigger and better from the start. Other times officers only realize after working somewhere awhile that it is not a good fit and start looking for greener pastures. Regardless of the reason, you are moving on it is important to make sure that move is a good one.

If you are lucky enough to start out in your dream department you are better off than most. Believe it or not many officers will change departments at least once during the course of a career. If this move is due to professional opportunities such as available special assignments, pay or advancement then chances are you will have a specific department in mind – an “if it becomes available I’ll go scenario”. But if you are simply unhappy you might start looking for any opportunity to change uniforms, and sometimes you can end up worse off than before.

Before making that jump take the time to learn as much about the prospective department as possible. Here are some tips to help you along the way.

1. Learn about not only the department but its people as well. What do the current employees think of working there? Are they as happy, or unhappy, as you are at your current position? A good way to do this is to actually visit the department, see things first hand. Sometimes this can be accomplished during your oral interview, if not schedule a visit on your own. Better yet see about doing a ride along – trust me the real story will be told after a cup of coffee and a few hot runs.

2. Ask yourself why is the department looking to hire me? Every one of us wants to think of ourselves as the hottest thing since sliced bread, someone every department would be happy to have- and hopefully, this is the case. But chances are the prospective department did not seek you out with a lucrative recruitment offer so why do they want to hire you? Are you a specialist with extensive experience in a particular field? Do you show promise that they feel they can take advantage of down the road? Or are you simply a warm body to fill a cruiser? Don’t get me wrong being a warm body is not always a bad thing, but if this is the case you should then ask “What happened to the last warm body?”

3. Trust your instincts. You already know what a bad department, or at least one you do not care to work for, looks like. How is this new department different or more specifically how is it better? Better pay? Better schedule? Shorter commute? These are all pluses. But are there negatives as well and, if so, what are they? Do not let your emotions of hating your current position overwhelm your fight or flight instinct. If things do not look right find out why and if it does not look like something you can live with the next 15-20 years run.

Starting out at a so-so department and moving on is understandable, many of us have been there. You may even get away with moving 2 or even 3 times, but sooner or later it catches up to you.

At some point, you will either be labeled as unable to get along, difficult to work with or simply looked at as the guy who will not be around long enough to even know his name. Regardless of the specific circumstances, this will eventually make moving one harder to do. So make the right choice early.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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