Being a police officer is a huge responsibility. This job is unique and changes numerous aspects of an individual’s life. People working in the police face numerous dangers. Thus they have more power compared to others. At the same time, police officers enjoy their job because it’s more than just a job; it is part of their lives. As a result, when a police officer retires, he faces numerous challenges causing huge discomfort and stress.
In some cases, police officers can be forced to leave for different reasons, which is even more stressful. Hence, they must be prepared to become civilians with no police power and a feeling that they are no longer a part of a huge family (Kinnaird, n.d.). It can be claimed that retirement is an act of giving away a part of own personality. Thus it is always difficult, and usually, ex-police officers cannot accept this fact and pretend that nothing has happened. As can be seen, retirement is one of the most difficult steps that police officers take.
Problems Experienced by Police Officers When They Retire
The first important thing that should be discussed is the psychological stress experienced by people when they retire. Retirement makes people believe that the major and the most important part of their life is over. Therefore it causes them to experience constant psychological stress. Retired people can also face certain communication problems because their social interactions will become narrower. They will have more free time. However, they will think they are spending this time without any purpose and that their job has given their life meaning. Apparently, people can live in constant stress after retirement, which leads to various unhealthy mental and physiological conditions.
In some cases, this stress can lead to suicide, especially among people who work in highly stressful jobs. Police officers have higher age-adjusted suicide rates than other workers (Gershon et al., 2002). Additionally, police officers have higher rates of heart-related diseases in a postretirement period. It can be explained by the fact that it is quite difficult for retired police officers to integrate into society. Police officers may even feel useless and powerless, which causes psychological discomfort, depression, and stress. Hence, many police officers don’t want to retire and continue working for over 20 years (Berger, 2011). Many police officers work as much as they can to avoid retirement. Though they can retire, receive a high pension and start their second career, police officers prefer to do their job. Of course, they have more opportunities for assignments like counterterrorism and undercover work instead of patrolling (Berger, 2011). From another point of view, working in a stressful environment after 20 years can cause even more health-related problems when a police officer finally decides to retire. Therefore, it is important to maintain a balance between a healthy life and a desire to continue working as a police officer.
Starting a Second Career As a Police Officer
In this case, if a police officer decides to start a second career, numerous options are available. Among the available options are security, construction, own business, and cyber security. Experienced police officers are valuable employees who can easily find a less stressful job. According to Forbes Magazine, there are over one million cybersecurity job offerings (Morgan, 2016). The number of cyber crimes constantly increases because companies become increasingly computerized. As a result, there is a huge demand for experienced people who can become professionals in cyber security. Therefore, more and more ex-police officers may become cybersecurity professionals. Employers can find retired police officers quite attractive as a labor force for several reasons. Firstly, they receive a high pension. Therefore they won’t ask for top wages, saving the company money. Secondly, skills gained by police officers are quite valuable in different fields. Finally, there are several organizations, like the National Association of Retired Police Officers, representing tens of thousands of potential employees, so it would be quite easy to find the candidates (Morgan, 2010). As a result, retirement shouldn’t be considered an end of life but rather a beginning of a new life full of opportunities.
Such factors as social status, marital status, financial needs, and children also significantly impact the emotional and psychological condition of a police officer after retirement. Retirement may not be very harmful if an officer is married because it will bring the couple back to the beginning of their relationship. It is likely that children will be grown up and will live separately. Hence, there will be more time for entertainment and romantic relations, positively contributing to retired officers’ emotional and psychological condition (Digliani, 2010, p. 227). As mentioned above, retirement can also lead to emotional abandonment, meaning that police officers will feel like the department staff and former coworkers abandoned him or her. Officers may feel that they’ve given decades to their job, and now they are left alone, and no one cares about them.
Programs for Retired Police Officers
Police departments have developed different programs to address this issue. These programs are focused on involving retired police officers in different activities organized by the police department. So retired officers can work as volunteers, access the police building, and communicate with different people (Digliani, 2010, p. 226). These programs are highly useful because they help overcome stress and provide ex-officers with a feeling that they are doing something useful and still belong to the police. Unfortunately, these programs are not very widespread. In most cases, retired police officers must find solutions to the challenges they face.
Unfortunately, it often happens that police officers leave their careers involuntarily. Injury, political and personal reasons of the chief may result in an early transition to the civilian role. Such unplanned retirement causes more stress than voluntary retirement. If the officer has a mental or physiological injury, making it impossible for him to continue working, he may experience grief. This grief is associated with losing a career and other aspects, including loss of income, social benefits, comradeship, and status.
Moreover, the officer experiences grief for the loss of the “healthy self” (Diglani, 2010, p. 226). The severity of stress and grief depends on numerous factors, such as financial status, family situation, and personal factors. The category of officers who have retired involuntarily is highly vulnerable. Therefore they require additional support and care. It is difficult for a person to become a civilian with disabilities after having a successful career as a police officer.
Strategies to Reduce Negative Effects of Retirement on Police Officers
One of the most effective strategies to reduce the negative effects of retirement is to increase awareness among police officers that retirement is a major psychosocial stressor. Therefore, it is necessary to prepare for it and use different stress-mitigating strategies to avoid depression (Shannon, 2016). During the last year of the career, an officer may become quite nervous about the future by realizing that huge changes are coming and that life will never be the same again. The most effective way to prepare for these changes is to find another law enforcement career (Shannon, 2016). Another recommendation is to find hobbies and new friends. Of course, it can be difficult to meet new people, especially if people are unrelated to law enforcement. However, hobbies are great for making people closer and giving them interests to share.
All the above facts indicate that stress after retirement is almost inevitable. Retirement is a huge challenge to every police officer, and no universal strategy could work for everyone. While some officers may experience stress for several days or weeks, others may experience it for months and years and even develop depression. Therefore, developing different programs focused on improving the psychoemotional condition of retired police officers is essential for preventing unhealthy behaviors and mental disorders. Additionally, psychologists working with law enforcement professionals should provide consultations and support for police officers preparing for retirement. Developing a complex approach focused on preventing stress and any other negative effects associated with retirement is essential.
Berger, Joseph. “Still on Patrol After Two Decades, Valued but Rare.” The New York Times, 13 2011.
Digliani, J. (2010). Reflections of a Police Psychologist: Xlibris US.
Gershon, Robyn RM, Susan Lin, and Xianbin Li. “Work stress in aging police officers.” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 44.2 (2002): 160-167.
Kinnaird, Brian. “Life After Law Enforcement | Brian Kinniard | UIW Virtual University.” University of the Incarnate Word | School of Applied Sciences, sas.uiw.edu/life_after_law_enforcement. Accessed 16 Nov. 2016.
Morgan, Steve. “Are Ex-Police Officers The Next Recruits To Help Fill 1.5 Million Cybersecurity Jobs By 2019?” Forbes, 13 Apr. 2016, www.forbes.com/sites/stevemorgan/2016/04/13/call-the-cops-to-help-fill-1-5-million-cybercrime-fighting-jobs-by-2019/. Accessed 16 Nov. 2016.
Shannon, Jeff. “Retirement for Cops – Part I: The Challenges.” Las Vegas Police Protective Association, 1 July 2016, lvppa.com/article/2016/retirement-cops-part-challenges/. Accessed 16 Nov. 2016.