Moving to a better agency is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. As someone currently in the process of changing agencies, I have heard the positives and negatives of leaving for “greener pastures.” Some will say that you must move on and leave poor leadership behind. Street Cop Training and I are firmly in that camp. Others believe that agencies do not like seeing an officer move around, showing a problem with the officer. They only look at it at face value and offer nothing of substance. They are likely happy with where they are or have chosen to stay out of fear of the unknown.
The message is clear. If you are unhappy, leave. Find something better. When you apply, be honest. Articulate why you are going. When you leave, be professional. Do not cause drama out the door.
Find a Better Agency – Finding a better agency is easier said than done. There is no cookie-cutter solution to this problem, and it is one each officer must address on their own. What I do is make a pro-con list. I write down what I do not like about where I am and list the positives. Going from that, I would start my research about other agencies. I called them and asked to speak with recruiters, someone in admin, or a supervisor. You can get an idea of what the agency has to offer, or at least what you hear from biased sources. When possible, ask to do a ride-along. Please go out and hit the streets with someone and ask them the questions that are important to you. Talk to as many people as you can. Research the area, and go on social media. See what people think of the law enforcement in that community. Use all that information and compile a pro-con list for the prospective agency. If it feels good, apply for the agency. Once you apply and go through the process, you will find more information, especially during the interview.
Something to consider is that pay isn’t everything. I’d instead take a pay cut and work for a place that supports its officers. (You will be a happier person as a result.) When in the interview, ask why the position is available. Did people promote to other jobs, retire, or go to another agency? In my case, the agency I found had several officers get promoted after officers retired. In law enforcement, we call that a clue.
Be Honest – What I have found out through my experience is that the myth of “You won’t get hired if you don’t have longevity at the same place” needs to go out with the dinosaurs. I will concede that it is partially true. If you bounce around and don’t articulate why, you are probably the problem and not the agencies you keep fleeing. Think of the old saying, “If you meet an asshole in the morning, you met an asshole. If you meet assholes all day, then you are the asshole.”
Explain to the prospective agency why you want to leave where you are. Just be professional and leave the dirt slinging for a wet down after being hired. Tell them that your cons are from your pro-con list. In my situation, It was a lack of training opportunities, inconsistent leadership, and a lack of forward-thinking in decisions. I went into better detail but did not bad mouth the agency. I made it clear I was unhappy and why. Cops respect honesty. It also allows you to see how they react. As I described my reasons for seeking employment elsewhere, they expressed concern about my situation. They did what they could to absolve any worry I may have about coming over to work with them. Remember, during the interview, you are interviewing them too. You already have a job. They are trying out for you as much as you care for them.
Leave Professionally – I know we all want that sweet, sweet exit story. Give the finger to admin, tell people exactly how you feel, and have a mic-drop moment. That may feel good at the moment, but it will bite you on your ass later. Luckily I can say this NOT from personal experience but by seeing others make this mistake. I knew someone that had their beautiful exit. It trailed him to another agency. Cops love to talk, especially about other cops. We gossip more than the Harper Valley PTA. Wouldn’t you rather have a reputation of being a professional over a loudmouth? He lost a lot of trust running his mouth on how he did on his exit. Some of his new coworkers happened to be friends with some of the people he unleashed on. So when you leave, leave respectfully.
The goal here is to make sure people understand that leaving is okay. It’s okay to want to better yourself, be better in your career, and be happier. Do not stay where you are not satisfied just because it is easier. It is a pain in the ass moving to another agency, time-consuming, and it is like starting over again for the most part. It’s better to make moves than to stay stationary. Yourself, your family, and your career will thank you. Put value in yourself and go where you are wanted, not where you are needed.