As I prepared to put fingers to keyboard for this issue of PPOA’s annual Retiree Report, I reviewed the article I wrote exactly one year ago for retired members. Just in case you don’t recall everything written in this column word for word, my article was a riveting and exquisitely crafted (tongue firmly planted in cheek) piece about the numerous factors that go into retirement planning. Those, of course, were the halcyon days of 2019, when men and women in law enforcement had the luxury of planning for a smooth transition into a well-deserved retirement. That was then, this is now.
One look at recent headlines reveals that cops are not gently stepping into retirement as much as they are running away from their proud careers, driven by the current state of affairs:
- “Police Counter Protests, ‘Defund’ Push With Retirements, Resignations” (Washington Times, August 13)
- “SF Police Appear to Be Doing Their Own Defunding As Cops Leave in Record Numbers” (San Francisco Chronicle, August 16)
- “Chicago Police Are Retiring at Twice the Normal Rate” (Fox News Chicago, August 18)
- “More Than 200 Officers Resigned or Retired Since Colorado Police Reform Bill Became Law” (Denver Post, August 18)
You get the picture. And if you are still active but at the tail end of your career, you really get the picture. Friends and colleagues who have already retired will tell you that the motivation to retire gets stronger as you begin to envision your next chapter in life. That optimism is natural. Unfortunately, the motivation for thousands of cops nationwide who have been hastily retiring lately is not because of what the future holds as much as it is because of what the current job is up against.
Make no mistake: a pandemic mixed with civil unrest, knee-jerk scrutiny and political expediency (did I mention it’s an election year?) is presenting challenges this year that will adversely affect cops for years, and likely decades, to come.
Retirees often state they are relieved they “got out” when they did. That sentiment has never been more applicable, and I’m envious of all 3,000-plus retired PPOA members enjoying life on the other side. Six months ago, I was making final travel arrangements to attend the now-canceled LASD Retiree Roundup in Laughlin, Nevada, for my first time and reunite with former colleagues. I had planned to let my retired friends tease me about being a “working stiff” and complain to them that the environment couldn’t get much worse for law enforcement personnel.
Little did I know!