It’s not easy to work in federal law enforcement. It can be dangerous and stressful, but also rewarding, to serve your country. It’s also not easy to leave federal law enforcement — whether it is for retirement, medical reasons, or a new career before retirement eligibility.
Law enforcement officers (LEOs) may decide to go into the private sector, work as government contractors, or simply enjoy life in retirement. Most LEOs are subject to mandatory retirement at age 57, or as soon as 20 years of service have been completed after age 57.[i]
When many LEOs retire, they feel they are at an age where they still have productive work years ahead of them. If they are paying college tuition for their children or even paying off a mortgage, they have an added incentive to keep working.
LEOs receive enhanced retirement benefits. But, their pension benefits may not be enough to pay the bills or maintain the lifestyle they want.
The psychological impact
The transition from “officer” to civilian can be difficult, just as it can be for military personnel. Officers in law enforcement agencies form a strong bond with each other. They watch out for each other’s backs.
LEOs are trained to be prepared to respond and anticipate possible worse case scenarios before they escalate. It can be challenging to change that worldview in another work environment. They can also be faced with suspicion from civilian “outsiders” who don’t understand law enforcement culture. For many law enforcement officers, it is not just a career; it is a way of life. Leaving the job can require considerable adjustment to avoid feeling depressed, isolated, or lost.[ii]
Preparing in advance for leaving a law enforcement career can make the transition easier.
How to prepare
Once you decide you are on a path to leave federal law enforcement, meet with a financial advisor who has experience in working with federal employees. The advisor can review your pension and determine the most advantageous timing to get the maximum benefit. They will take into account taxes, insurance, and plans for the future. This review will also help you set the stage for possible career planning.
The starting point for preparing for life after law enforcement is deciding what direction you want to follow well before you leave. If you’re going to keep working, do you want to work in the private sector, or be a government contractor? An LEO may feel he or she is well suited for the private sector. You may have an exemplary record, have moved up in the ranks, and received extensive management training. But, a private-sector employer may not understand the value of your experience. Some employers may be biased against a potential employee with no business work experience.
Your first job is to show a business employer your “Value Proposition” — why are you worth the company’s investment in your salary? You need to convey that you are a leader who understands their business from managing budgets to supervising staff.
Start well before you plan to leave your job to develop a network of contacts, including LEO colleagues who have made the transition. Consider hiring a professional service to write your resume to highlight your transferable skills. If you do have an interview with a prospective employer, do your homework beforehand. Show the company you understand and can meet its needs.[iii]
Becoming a federal contractor after leaving federal law enforcement
LEOs may decide to become a contractor for the federal government, and it is important to have the proper insurance coverage.
One of the areas many new contractors neglect is professional liability insurance.
Starr Wright USA provides professional liability insurance specifically designed for federal contractors. The insurance provides coverage for qualifying mistakes made while operating as a federal contractor.
Professional Liability Insurance covers many claims that General Liability Insurance does not. Professional Liability Insurance is not only a requirement for many federal contractors; it is critical for providing insurance protection for your career and finances against covered allegations of wrongdoing.
“Federal law enforcement officers have unique issues when transitioning out of working for their agencies. Starr Wright USA has been helping current and former federal employees protect their careers, finances, and reputations for over 50 years,” says Starr Wright USA Vice President Darrell Weber.
Article authored by and containing the opinions of Starr Wright USA; this article is offered solely for informational purposes.Starr Wright USA is a marketing name for Starr Wright Insurance Agency, Inc. and its affiliate(s). Starr Wright USA is an insurance agency specializing in insurance solutions for federal employees and federal contractors. For more information, visit WrightUSA.com. Starr Wright USA is a division of Starr Insurance Companies, which is a marketing name for the operating insurance and travel assistance companies and subsidiaries of Starr International Company, Inc. and for the investment business of C.V. Starr & Co., Inc.