One of the hardest transitions into civilian life was the feeling that my identity as a law-enforcement
officer was shrouded in a dark veil. What would I do, professionally speaking, with all the training and experience I had amassed over almost 15 years as a police officer? I knew private security and loss
prevention were options, but in the few interviews I had, I felt that my experience would make me more proactive than desired in a corporate setting. Plus, many corporate loss-prevention policies prohibit employees from even verbally confronting suspected shoplifters. That’s something I would have struggled with. Then there was the likely scenario that — despite my training and experience — I would start in an entry-level position as I would only be available to work part-time. This is a hard pill to swallow for an individual who achieved moderate rank and accolades in his career. Many of the positions that I applied for needed more hours from me than I could give. I even tried several part-time jobs unrelated to law enforcement or publicservice. This included working for local businesses (think retail), doing tasks requiring little mental activation — essentially showing up, working, and going home. It was difficult to find any sense of worth in these positions or to adapt to the private sector. The businesses I worked for, while local, still had corporate supervision overseeing the operations of their local branches. Many of their policies and procedures are designed to make the
company run smoothly and keep people safe (e.g., requirements that workers use safety scissors). But, coming from law enforcement, a dangerous profession where one can experience life-and-death
situations daily, the policies just annoyed me. That’s not to say the work itself was meaningless or didn’t serve a purpose, or that the companies themselves were bad. It just wasn’t my “calling.” What I found lacking in these jobs was the opportunity to apply the critical thinking and deductive reasoning skills I had built up during my policing career. I discussed with my therapist my dissatisfaction with my post-law-enforcement career. She was crucial in getting me to accept that at this particular moment, I might not find something completely satisfying. She also explained to me that my situation was similar to other officers she had known. For the time being, I just had to accept where I was.
Late last year, I saw a part-time dispatching vacancy with the Clintonville Police Department. What really stuck out to me was the position required a minimum of only four shifts a month, which worked well with my disability limitations. I applied, interviewed, and was offered the position. I started in late February of this year. Right off the bat, I noticed how accepting the Department was of me, as a former officer, and of my situation and limitations. As of this writing, I am in my last week of field training before starting my regular part-timeshift rotation. Clintonville, Wisconsin, is about 50 minutes northwest of Oshkosh, but I am familiar with the area as I grew up in New London, Wisconsin, which is just south of Clintonville. Clintonville staffs dispatchers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. While 911 calls go through the Waupaca County Sheriff, Clintonville handles all non-emergency calls. Furthermore, dispatchers also process some DMV transactions such as registration renewals; type officers’ report dictations; accept and log fine payments, burning permits, and lost-and-found property (including cats); and answer many nonpolice- related phone calls. They do all of this while monitoring on-duty officers and their locations, dispatching them tocalls for service, and providing them with necessary information such as driver’s license, wanted person, and vehicle statuses. I immediately fell back into answering questions and calls for service, and I found dispatching and communicating over radio as easy as riding a bike. Using my training and experience in an applicable setting was deeply satisfying and rewarding— I was again doing something that mattered in a profession that I knew. It doesn’t bother me that I’m not physically responding to the calls; I am just using and applying my law-enforcement knowledge in a different way. I am also learning different procedures and policies strictly related to the Department and positionthemselves. The job is not entirely the same as what I did in Oshkosh — so it’s new, challenging, and refreshing — but it still has the basic template I know and have grown to love. In a way, it’s similar to a movie franchise, for instance Star Wars. There are original films, prequels, sequels, remakes, reboots, legacy sequels, standalones,prequels to the sequels — you get the drift. Everyone is different. Some people can retire from their main career and find something completely different and satisfying. I guess that isn’t me, at least right now. Maybe for me, law enforcement really is a calling. If my lawenforcement career was a movie series, I’d call this latest entry a “legacy sequel.” My review: It is just as good as the original, with a few new additions, cast members, and storylines to make it fresh and current. That sounds like a pretty good movie to me.