Philip J. Swift is currently serving as a City Marshal in the DFW area of Texas and has been a law enforcement officer since 1998. He holds a Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology and his areas of research include behavioral learning theory, cognitive schemes, group psychology, and historical trauma theory. He has several published works and regularly speaks locally and nationally regarding his research and expertise in law enforcement and criminal culture.
In the summer of 1998, I sat down for my first interview panel in what would become a successful attempt to become an officer. I vividly recall sitting before the panel when a panelist asked me why I wanted to be an officer. Even though I have been asked this question many times by people who could not understand my desire to enter this field, the question caught me off guard. To avoid looking unprepared, I blurted out “I have lived in this community for ten years and I want to give back to it. I have always wanted to be a cop, as long as anyone can remember, and I am looking forward to this opportunity.”
Although a truthful answer on my behalf it was by no means a complete one. My “why” then and now is much more convoluted and includes what I will simply call the warrior or guardian factors.
I have since learned that this reserved answer is so common that when the “why” question is asked this answer comes across as “canned” even though service really is a common “why” of officers. If questioned further, few officers would deny that the warrior or guardian factors are part of the reason they love their work. In a recent Police1 survey, 75% of officers stated that they wanted to be an officer to serve the community. Additionally, both the variability of the job (52%) and the challenging nature of the job (48%) were acknowledged as fundamental factors of their “why” when entering this profession.
The Importance of ‘WHY’
The commonality of the “why” question and – in some sense the “canned” nature of the answer – highlights its importance. In law enforcement an officer’s “why” can have a lasting impact on the communities and agencies that they serve. An officer’s “why” can literally be the difference between life or death for officers and the people they interact with.
Beyond the greater impact to the community an officer’s “why” is the mechanism that allows an officer to cope with the inhumanities they face and to find meaning in their careers. Every officer can point to at least one experience that made their career worth it.
Why ‘WHY’ May No Longer Be Enough
In the current charged environment in which officers have been living in. respondents to a recent Police1 survey stated that “serving the community” and “fighting crime” are their main reasons for staying in this profession.
If an officer’s “why” has remained relatively unchanged during their careers, why does this “why” no longer sustain officers like it once did? The answer is that the importance of a “why” has been lost in the commonality of the question and response.
Many officers do not understand that their “why” is the public expression of the meaning of their careers. Officers are not being asked why they do the job, rather what meaning do they find in it? When officers cannot describe how they derive fulfillment from their career and fall back on the tried-and-true answers they no longer have a meaningful “why.” A lack of fulfillment and meaning leads to burnout, indifference, and in some cases resentment of those agencies and communities that officers serve.
Resetting Your ‘WHY’
When an officer is asked the “why” question, they should have a unique answer that describes the meaning they find in their career. It is important that the officer’s “why” is simplified to a point where they can find fulfillment in each step of the journey rather than solely in the destination. If this is not the case, the officer needs to reset their “why.”
There is nothing wrong with an officer describing their “why” as “fighting crime” or “serving the community” – the danger lies in how that “why” is defined. If too broadly defined, the officer can be left questioning if the means justify the end. For instance, if “fighting crime” means lowering crime rates, the officer in unlikely to be able to achieve that goal on their own, resulting in a lack of fulfillment.
However, if “fighting crime” means doing their personal best daily to fight crime, they are likely to regularly feel fulfilled enough to ward off burnout, indifference, and resentment.
If an officer’s “why” is to serve their community and they are not finding fulfillment and meaning in the current environment, they can ask themselves: “What greater service is there than serving a community that does not understand the necessity of your service?” This allows the officer to reset their “why” in a manner that allows them to find greater fulfillment in their work.
Nurturing Your ‘WHY’
As with all things, nurturing your “why” is easier said than done. The following is a list of strategies that officers can use to nurture their “why”:
Be introspective and honest with yourself about your “why.” Do not let others define your “why.”
Understand that your “why” can change from situation to situation. Some days your “why” may be the paycheck – and that is ok.
Resist isolation or segregating yourself from diverse perspectives. Isolation and segregation create “group think” and limits critical thinking.
Practice critical thinking. The most important thing to understand about a subject is how others understand and perceive it.
Give yourself grace. No one is harder on you than you!
Remembering Your ‘WHY’
Your “why” should never cause you undue suffering. If your “why” is causing you misery, take a minute be introspective, give yourself grace and ask yourself “why?” If your “why” is to be of service, then find ways to be of service every day and revel in them. If your “why” is to fight crime, enforce the law and arrest the lawless but realize your responsibility ends there. If your “why” is to earn a paycheck, then go out every day and be the best employee you can be.
Your “why” is yours. It is personal. Never let anyone else define it – and always be honest about it.
Here’s One More Reason to Love Being an Officer
One thing that attracts many officers to law enforcement is the desire to protect others. To help police officers secure and protect their gear and their families, California Casualty is sponsoring the Safe and Secure Giveaway. This year, three first responders will win a brand-new Liberty Safe filled with 5.11 gear. Enter here for your chance to win.
One day, you’ll retire and leave the fast-paced life of a first responder. While that day may seem far off, it’s never too early to start planning.
Taking the first steps now will help you make the most out of your retirement later. Here’s what to consider.
What Retirement Will Cost
When you retire, you’ll want to be able to live a similar lifestyle to the one you enjoy now. Starting with the costs of your current lifestyle, you can estimate how much you’ll need for retirement. A general rule is that you’ll need about 80% of your current monthly salary to cover your needs in retirement.
Begin by estimating these costs now and in retirement. When thinking about future costs, you’ll also want to account for inflation (about 2% per year).
Housing (rent/mortgage, utilities, real estate taxes, home insurance, household maintenance)
The average American life expectancy is nearly 85 years old. That means, if you retire at age 65, you’ll need about 20 years of retirement income.
So, how much retirement savings do you need? Depending upon the cost of living where you are, you will likely require between $1 million and $2 million total to retire comfortably. If that figure alarms you, you’re not alone. Retirement can be daunting if you’re not prepared.
How Much Money Will You Have?
You won’t have a job when you retire, but you will have sources of income. This includes money in savings accounts, investments, retirement accounts, and more. Calculate how much money you will have based on these income sources.
Putting money away each month for retirement really does pay off. That’s because, over time, you earn interest on your interest. Financial experts recommend banking 15% of your income each year. While historically, many people set up savings accounts at the brick-and-mortar bank where they have their checking account, you won’t earn a lot in interest. Consider a high-yield savings account offered at online institutions that are insured by the FDIC.
Social Security Benefits
Social security is a government program that provides income to retired Americans. It’s based on your lifetime earnings. You pay into the social security system every year that you work and then are eligible for money back when you retire. While social security is a great foundation for retirement, most Americans find that it’s not enough to cover all costs. You can calculate your anticipated social security here. (Note: Some states do not participate in social security for public employees. In those cases, the state offers a public retirement system. If you work in Alaska, Colorado, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Ohio, you may not receive social security.)
Retirement Savings Plans
If you’re a first responder, chances are that you have a 457 Plan. Similar to a 401(k), a 457 plan is offered by state and local public employers. In both plans, you can contribute pretax money from your paycheck, which then grows without being taxed until you withdraw it. You also may consider setting up a Roth IRA. While your contributions are not deductible, you are not taxed when you withdraw the money. Know which plan you have and its benefits. In many cases, you can choose low, medium, or high-risk plans, which can impact how much you will earn over time.
While pensions are increasingly rare, some employers, usually public sector and unions, still offer them. With a pension, you will receive some percentage of your annual income based on how long you worked for the company. You have to meet the vesting requirements, which means that you have to work a certain number of years in order to qualify.
Many retirees work part-time to supplement their income or simply to keep busy.
Prepare for the Emotional Transition
You’ve spent your whole life serving others in a fast-paced, high-stress job. Retirement will be different, and as a result, could leave you with feelings of emptiness. Stepping down from your job could cause you to feel you’ve lost your purpose. Make sure that you prepare for the emotional transition as well as the financial one.
Figure out where to spend your time
You may wish to travel, spend time with your grandchildren, or volunteer. You may want to work on the house or the yard. You can take continuing education classes at the local college or offer to teach them at your community center. Ask around to find out about the opportunities in your community. Structure your days into a retirement routine that gives you a sense of purpose and an opportunity to enjoy life.
Connect with former team members
First responders are more than just coworkers. You’re a tightly-knit team, and when you retire, those bonds don’t suddenly disappear. Schedule time to connect with your former team members on a regular basis. It will do wonders for your mental health as you tackle retirement together.
Practice healthy habits
Keep yourself healthy through retirement by eating right, exercising, and staying on top of medical screenings. Staying healthy will help you to enjoy retirement to its fullest.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.
Your home and the personal property inside are your most valuable assets. If the unexpected were to happen, give yourself peace of mind by knowing your personal possessions have an extra layer of protection by placing them in a home safe.
Keeping a durable safe inside your home is one of the best ways to ensure your valuables, personal belongings, and other important documents inside remain secure in the event of a burglary, fire, or natural disaster.But buying a safe that is water, fire, and/or theft-resistant can be quite a monetary investment.
If you are questioning whether it’s “worth it” to purchase a home safe, here are some important factors to remember.
You’ll have quick access to important information
If you need cash or important documents like your Home Warranty, you won’t have to jump through any hoops or wait to get the information you need. All of your important information will be in one place that is quickly accessible to you and your family.
Your important items will remain safe
In the event of a disaster, there may not be time to grab all of the items you would like to bring with you. With a home safe, no matter the occurrence, your important possessions will remain secure.
You can also use it for firearm & weapon storage
If you keep weapons in your home, you can rest assured knowing that they will be locked away in your safe, out of sight and reach from your children and any guests (wanted or unwanted).
What Kind of Safe Should I Purchase?
Not all safes have the same functionality. Before you purchase a safe of your own, do your research on what will work best for you and your family. If you live in a flood or wildfire-prone area, be sure to invest in a safe that protects against water or fire. If you chose to use your safe for weapon storage, remember to find a safe that protects against humidity.
Home safes also come in many different sizes, with the average home save being 1.2 – 1.3 cubic feet. If you have an area of your home that you know you would like to place keep your safe (out of the eyes of an intruder) be sure to purchase a safe with the correct dimensions, so it will fit properly in your space.
The size of your safe should also take into account what you will keep inside of it. For example, if you are storing multiple family heirlooms, along with all of your emergency documents and a full emergency kit, you may want to invest in a larger safe.
Here are some examples of what you can keep in your home safe.
Items to Keep Inside Your Safe
Personal Documents – Birth certificate, passport, social security card,marriage license, vaccination & medical history, tax returns
Important Information – Passwords, health insurance information, legal documents, wills, death decrees, immigration paperwork, & external hard drives
Money & Bank Information –Cash,bank account numbers, checks, credit cards, bonds, stock certificates, & precious metals like gold or silver
Home& Auto Information – Insurance information, contracts, warranties, permits, deeds, & titles
Owning a safe is one of the easiest ways to make sure your personal property stays protected. Save yourself worry and stress by investing in a safe for your home today – your future self will thank you.
Community engagement is critical to ensuring that your police department is trusted, respected, and supported by the communities you serve. Building and maintaining positive relationships with residents, business owners and other community members help peace officers more effectively carry out their mission to serve and protect. It also helps citizens better understand emergency and public safety response and how to access help, as well as become better prepared for disasters, emergency situations, and other events affecting the whole community.
Covid has meant that engagement efforts must look different (i.e. socially distanced and with precautions) than before; however, that doesn’t mean they should stop or slow down. In fact, in times of crises like this, community engagement is more important than ever.
Here are some ideas for your agency to strengthen the bonds with your community – while keeping everyone safe.
Host virtual events
Many events that used to happen in person can be transitioned online fairly easily. Use platforms such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype, Google Hangouts, or even Facebook Live from your department’s Facebook page.
Community meetings – Whether a town hall or something less formal, virtual meetings allow your department to meet with your community on specific topics, questions, or concerns they may have. They also allow you to share news, announcements, and new campaigns or initiatives.
Meet and greets – Let your neighborhoods meet their peace officers! Showing your officers’ human side – personalities, humor, and all – goes a long way toward relationship-building. This can be as simple as short self-intro videos to virtual ride-alongs in a squad car and campaigns designed for young audiences.
Virtual tour – Offer a virtual tour of the department and its facilities – everyone loves getting a peek behind the front doors.
Connect with kids and youth
Forming good relationships with youth is key to creating a community environment where citizens can live, work and play free from fear of crime.
K9 tour – Service dogs in canine units are a perennial hit with kids. You can share live videos of the dogs training with their handlers, as well as tours of their kennels and a peek inside K9 vehicles. What are the most common questions about the dogs? – answer those in your video! Check out some examples here, here, and here.
Storytime – Make an early, positive impression on kids by reading and sharing their favorite books. Check out other departments’ videos here and here. You can customize for any age group or by topic – the possibilities are endless! Channel some Mr. Rogers, and you’ll have fans for life.
Bring it outside
With a little creativity and the proper safety precautions, your department can do many of the outdoor activities you used to, shift some previously indoor activities outside, or even start a new tradition or two.
Events at the station – Depending on your station’s outdoor facilities, you can host meet and greets, K9 with kids, town halls, press briefings, and more – anything where groups can stay small and socially distanced.
Community walks – Police chiefs like this one and this one have made a point of walking their neighborhoods as a way to meet local residents. By answering questions and learning about residents’ experiences and concerns, police leaders are able to better understand the community’s needs and challenges. These friendly one-on-one conversations also foster goodwill and help citizens feel invested.
Screens, airwaves, and other virtual channels aren’t going anywhere, even when the pandemic ends. They give you a ton of options for new and sustainable ways to connect with your community.
Social media – Your department’s social channels are great for 2-way communication, allowing you to push out information that you want your community to know, and also to hear directly from citizens. A simple social media strategy will help advance community outreach, problem-solving, and crime prevention efforts.
Traditional media – Even in the digital age, “old school” media still plays an important role in helping your department spread messages, disseminate information, and raise awareness and community engagement. Build your media relationships to leverage local TV, radio, and newspapers.
Make it fun, make it meaningful – make it about them
Despite there being an end to the pandemic is on the horizon, these are still stressful times. A bit of levity can help immensely and reminds the citizens you serve that your peace officers and your department are an integral part of their community. Directly addressing the concerns, questions, and interests of your community will go a long way toward building those relationships and trust that’s paramount to your department’s success.
Support different languages
If your community is a diverse one, make sure to offer critical information in multiple languages on your virtual channels. This cuts down on information barriers and helps improve public health and safety in the entire community.
Community engagement remains one of the best ways to foster trust and respect between community members and peace officers. With a little retooling of your outreach programs, as well as some new ideas and thinking outside the box, you and your colleagues can continue building those relationships – while staying safe and keeping your community safe.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.
To many police officers, a degree of hostility from suspects and others is par for the course while on the job. However, recently the degree of animosity toward police has grown and collectively many officers are now facing a rising tide of threats. Some are even going as far as targeting off-duty officers in their personal lives.
These threats are not just physical. Due to the availability of personal information being used online and the increase in web traffic due to the pandemic, many cybercriminals and scammers are also targeting police officers online. Unfortunately, there may not be a way for officers to make these threats disappear, but there are many steps you can take to reduce danger for yourself and the people you love. Here are seven ways you can protect yourself and your family from physical, psychological, and financial threats – in person and online.
1. Secure your premises. It should go without saying, but personal safety at home starts with securing your property and your possessions. The best way to make sure you and your family stay safe from threats at home is to invest in a monitored home security system. A security system will give you 24/7 access to who is entering (or trying to enter) your home. To further protect your belongings from uninvited guests, you should avoid giving out your home address, properly secure your home – doors, windows, locks, etc. – and invest in scheduled personal property coverage.
2. Keep a low profile at home and online. Avoid any kind of threat to your home or family by maintaining a low profile.
At home: Steer clear of displaying overt symbols at your home that could indicate a police officer lives there. Avoid driving marked cars home, or leaving them parked in your driveway, change into civilian clothes when off duty, and enlist trustworthy neighbors to be on the lookout for suspicious cars or pedestrians.
Online: Do not put your department name or badge number anywhere online. Be cautious of posting any photos of yourself in your uniform on any personal profiles, and never give out any personal information to anyone on the web.
3. Communicate with your family. As much as you may try to shield your spouse and children from fear and worry, it’s important to make and share a safety plan with them. Sit down together and discuss what to do (or not do) if they feel unsafe or if they encounter a threat online.
You can also take other measures to ensure your family’s safety, like location tracking and phone monitoring apps.
4. Use social media wisely. The internet has made it easy for hostile individuals to find personal information about police officers and their families, a process known as doxxing. The data they dig up can be used to harass officers and their family members online and in person.
The best way to deal with doxxing is to be smart about what you share on social media. Avoid posting in uniform, never share personal information, and tell your family to be cautious about what they are sharing as well.
Should harassment occur through any social media platform, take immediate action and report it to these outlets, as well as to your own commanders.
Identity theft happens when your personal identifiable information (PII) becomes compromised. Identify theft can happen to anyone at any age and can completely ruin your credit. ID theft scams and fraudulent unemployment claim scams are on the rise amidst the pandemic. To avoid identity theft here’s what you can do:
Never share Social Security numbers, PINs, and other numeric data linked to your identity and logins.
Do not put credit card numbers in emails.
Avoid opening emails from people you don’t know, and never click on links or attachments unless you be can be sure that they are legitimate
Use complex and unique passwords for each of your online accounts that include a mix of letters, numbers, and typographic symbols in upper and lower case.
Do not use birthdays, anniversaries, or pet names.
Stay away from online quizzes asking for facts about your personal life events and preferences.
California Casualty offers all policyholders access to free ID theft resolution services from CyberScout. In the event you or a family member has their identity stolen and used for fraudulent transactions, the service can help limit damage, gather evidence against fraudsters, and help restore damaged credit.
6. Protect Your Finances. While monitoring your credit for any changes or signs of identity theft, you should also be keeping a close eye on all of your financial accounts for suspicious activity. You should check balances on all of your accounts as often as possible for any changes. And if your provider offers suspicious activity alerts, sign up! But be aware – some telephone scammers pose as credit card companies that will call you to try and get your account information. Never give anyone your personal information or credit card number over the phone, even if they claim they are with your provider. Instead, hang up and check for yourself.
7. Plan for your future. Having an insurance policy in place from a trusted provider can help mitigate the devastating financial challenges families can face after an auto accident, burglary, natural disaster, or more. California Casualty has been protecting police officers across the nation since 1969 and offers discounted rates and exclusive benefits including off-duty firearm coverage and the Fallen Hero benefit.
It is an unfortunate reality that the people sworn to protect society are facing these threats themselves, but police officers are no strangers to danger. As always, stay safe and be prepared.
Looking to protect your gear?
To help police officers secure their gear and their peace of mind, California Casualty is sponsoring the Safe and Secure Giveaway. This year, three first responders will win a brand-new Liberty Safe filled with 5.11 gear. Enter here for your chance to win.
San Mateo, CA, March 5, 2021 – California Casualty donated $15,000 to the California Peace Officers’ Memorial Foundation (CPOMF) to financially support their education scholarship/grant program. The CPOMF Scholarship Program provides educational grants to surviving spouses and children of California peace officers who have died in the line of duty.
Typically the fallen officer has been the primary wage earner for his/her family. The CPOMF Scholarship Program eases the financial burden suddenly placed on the family left behind and assists in creating opportunities for long-term success. All surviving spouses and children of fallen officers are eligible for the CPOMF Scholarship Program. Many of the scholarship grants use additional scholarship funding not just for student tuition but housing, books, and supplies, etc.
The financial contribution was made in support of the ongoing efforts of the CPOMF: to recognize and honor California’s fallen heroes and to provide services, financial assistance, advocacy, and support to the surviving families left behind.
“Fallen Hero Families make the greatest sacrifice of losing their spouse, father, or mother to create a safer community to live and work in. CPOMF honors those who fall in the line of duty and their families by providing meaningful scholarships. Educational grants are not limited to four-year colleges or universities but extend to Community Colleges Trade or Vocational Schools for surviving spouses and children of California Fallen Heroes. California Casualty’s Scholarship Grant is one small way to give back to California’s Law Enforcement Families who have suffered such tremendous loss.” – Roxanne Dean, Vice President Account Relations
The California Peace Officers’ Memorial Foundation (CPOMF) mission is to organize, coordinate and fund the annual California Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony, maintain the memorial monument, subsidize survivor support groups (e.g., COPS & Peer Support groups), and support the families of our fallen heroes through educational grant and financial assistance programs.
As a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable foundation run by a board of volunteers comprised of retired and active peace officers from across California, the CPOMF is solely funded by donations from Corporate Sponsors, individuals, and law enforcement associations. California Casualty contributes to the CPOMF Scholarship Fund every year.
“We are thankful for long-term Corporate Sponsors, such as, California Casualty. Without our sponsors and corporate partners, the programs and support provided by the California Peace Officers’ Memorial Foundation would not be possible. California Casualty has been an active partner supporting the CPOMF board, activities, and events for the last 14 years that I’ve been involved with this organization. California Casualty understands their financial impact allows for CPOMF to provide survivor assistance and scholarships to the family members of California’s Fallen Peace Officers.” – Sergeant Kevin Michelson is the President of CPOMF and the President of Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association.