My career in law enforcement began right out of college when I went to work at my local police department. Over 24 years, I had a very rewarding and challenging experience. I served as a K-9 officer for 14 years, was promoted to a supervisor position and later became a detective sergeant. I enjoyed challenging myself and helping others.
I took pride in helping people when they were at their lowest. Once, we received a call about a family that hadn’t paid their utility bills at their apartment. When we arrived, we realized that they didn’t speak English and had just moved to the United States. They didn’t understand that they needed to pay their utility bills separately from their rent – it was an oversight. They had young children, and no electricity during a very cold winter. Instead of just shifting the responsibility and saying “it’s not our problem,” we worked with them. We got them a hotel, dinner and assistance through community partners.
The feeling that you could make a difference and impact your community in a positive way was the best part of serving in law enforcement. But there were many challenges, the biggest being its effect on your own family. You miss a lot of birthdays, holidays, sporting events and times when your family needs you. Sometimes you work longer shifts and you can get called away in a moment’s notice. And nobody ever calls first responders because they’re having a good day – you see a lot of bad things, society at its worst.
Law enforcement is a unique calling, and it has a shelf life. At the end of my career, I was faced with a dilemma. How do I translate my experiences and training from law enforcement into a successful civilian career? Sometimes we can get pigeon-holed into our respective career fields and that can limit us, making us feel that our skills aren’t useful in any other job. That’s not true. First responders are great decision makers, and excel at conflict resolution and interpersonal communication. In our law enforcement culture, we work to a high ethical standard and can bring many positive traits to the private sector.
After I retired, I was fortunate to find a job at L3Harris. It’s a tremendous relief having work/life balance and weekends to spend with my family. I am proud to be a member of the Supporting Emergency Responders and Veterans Engagement (SERVE) Employee Resource Group (ERG) and hope to mentor fellow first responders as they transition from public service into the private sector. I came here feeling like I would still have a purpose. I still have a role in helping others and I hope other first responders will understand how valuable their skills can be in the business world.