Since leaving my job with the Edmonton Police last year for a major life shift, countless people have asked me; Why did you leave? Did you like being a cop? Would you do it again?
After answering this question to disapproving people, supportive people, friends, family, strangers, and most importantly myself, here is just a raw compilation of thoughts, emotions, and plans for my future out of the uniform.
If you’re interested in a deeper dive of my reasoning for leaving, some of the realities I learned about policing, and where I am today.
Grab a copy of my ebook Wearing the Badge
During my 5 years working in the police force (I’m allowed to use that word now, I don’t care if it seems “too intimidating to the public” ) I found my own way to do things. A way that stayed within the boundaries set out by the job (for the most part) and stayed authentic to who I was. Some of the biggest lessons I learned in my time in uniform?
- Just be yourself, people will respect you for it – If someone thinks the justice system is messed up, and you agree, tell them you agree. If someone is yelling at you, ask them “why are you yelling?”, try it, most people calm down. Point being, when people sense you’re putting on an act (we’ve all seen the macho cop trying to be tougher than he is) they’ll lie to you, they might try to fight you, and it all usually ends up on the news and you know the news is never good. So be yourself:)
- Work hard – Not because it’s going to get you anywhere, (I’ll touch on that later) but because of the reputation you will build. Even after leaving the police force, one of my old sergeants, who is a huge role model of mine to this day, wrote me a bulletproof letter of recommendation to use in my future endeavors. Now I’m not sure I could live up to all they made me out to be, but I am forever grateful for the kind words, and I truly believe it was genuine hard work that earned this letter.
- Lessons are everywhere – I love education, training and finding ways to better yourself, mentally and physically. What I learned from my time working in a few different roles as a police officer was that skills and lessons could be found in anything you do. For example, my time working as a dispatcher, using 5 computer screens and multiple computer programs, all while managing our athlete social media, writing on this blog, pitching freelancing articles all on the side…… well that made me quite a computer multi-tasker. How useful for landing me an SEO job shortly after moving abroad:) So while it might not always be clear, you can find a lesson or benefit in anything you do.
Now fast forward a bit, to when my sights shifted from advancing my career, to planning my exit from the police force. With no family in Edmonton, and a new found passion for the outdoors (something that Edmonton just does NOT satisfy) I knew it was time for a change. After a little bit planning, lots of dreaming, and some research into where we could pivot our lives, I was ready to leave. This was not a lightbulb moment, or a knee-jerk reaction, it was a slow development that brought me to the decision that a career spent as a police officer was not what I wanted.
So why did I leave?
Policing a conveyor belt profession
That badge number you get the day you sign up is your number in line. You can answer your phone on days off, come into work overtime, be proactive and take on things far beyond your seniority, all in all, work your ass off, but when it comes down to it, in the policing world, seniority trumps all. On multiple occasions after submitting an application to go on a training course or be transferred to a new position, I received the email saying “we went with the two most senior people, better luck next time.” The internal politics in a government environment (especially one filled with a bunch of alpha dogs) is brutal. And instead of examining people for who they are, what potential they show, or what work they’ve achieved to date, why not just pick the next number in line and not have to look like the bad guy. This structure simply didn’t jive with me. If someone is a hard worker, that hard work must be rewarded, not taken advantage of.
Health and fitness in Policing falls way down the list of priorities
I know what you’re probably thinking… what??? But to be honest, aside from a few short lectures once or twice a year about how to take care of your health and stay in shape while working night shift, many people let themselves slide once they’ve graduated from recruit class. And this lack of self-care comes on many levels. The individual, some people simply stopped working out at all after they finished being told to work out in recruit class. An organizational level, when it came to any type of requests for improved equipment or changes to schedules to accommodate healthy levels of sleep, they were placed about as high on the list as renovating that 3rd-floor washroom. Lastly, I cannot leave out the overall shift in society to a level of health dependent on our “free” healthcare. Yes this “I’m going to eat what I like while I’m alive” mentality works its way into policing, and though I desperately wanted the will power of the police service to rise above this mentality and stand tall saying “we will be better,” people give in and McFlurries and Baconators become all too common. Want to know the truth, there is absolutely no mandate for police officers in Edmonton to maintain a level of fitness. If you fail your fitness test, if you physically can’t do a pushup or run across the gym….. well it doesn’t really matter, no one really cares. So when it comes to a citizen relying on us to chase a guy down for them, well, there’s a good chance the cop will run out of breath before the bad guy.
Long term detriments of being a Cop
This one might seem similar to the last point, but I’m talking more about the long term aspects of it. Everyone knows smoking is bad for you right, so what do we do? We quit. Everyone knows working shift work is bad for you right, so what do we do? … Keep doing it:S?:S? Personally, I didn’t want to see how much I could age myself working night shifts for the next 20 years. And has anyone ever put on a police officer’s duty belt before? They are quite possibly the LEAST ergonomic accessory to wear, and that’s before we add 5-10lbs of gear to it. My hips are already tight from running so much, but you wear that back breaker for 11 hours and we’re just adding to the aging and crippling effects. Let’s step back and look at this, we are in an era where we carry a smartphone on our wrist, no one can think of a better way to carry this stuff? Anyways, I came to the realization that I put too much effort into my fitness, that to let it all wilt away because of logistics such as these was just not a game I wanted to play.
Ineffective Justice System
When I joined, I wanted a job where no day was the same, and I went home knowing I made a difference. After a few years getting to know the game, it started to all blend together. Maybe different names and different addresses, but the calls were all the same. The people you arrested yesterday, got out because Canadian judges are too scared to lock anyone up, and you’re chasing them again today. You realize the work you do today rarely changes the shape of tomorrow, and all in the effort, people record you on their phones to try and sewer you when they have the chance. Maybe I’m weak-minded or impatient but I thought it was a waste of my time and a bit of an uphill battle that’s not even worth fighting.
"Wearing the Badge" Ebook
Read Jonathan's story about why he left policing, the realities of the job not often talked about, and where he is now today.
This post ended up being longer than I planned so let me finish things up with one final thought. Policing is, unfortunately, necessary in today’s society, and to those who see the bigger picture and where they fit into the net, I tip my hat to you. I, however, have chosen to go in search of work more suited to my beliefs and values, those which value the person doing the work, their well-being, their growth and success, and most importantly the role they play in the universe. (Interesting read on the topic of finding work after policing –> Why I took policing OFF my resume) To the police officers working across the globe, god speed and if I can ever be of assistance I will do my best.
Honestly and respectfully written,
==> I also wrote a reflection 1 year later, if you’re curious about what life is like after quitting policing