One minute I was an officer, 21 seconds later, after being shot twice, I knew my career was over due to the damage the 12-gauge slugs did to my left arm. As a former paramedic, I saw the damage and fully expected to lose the arm. I didn’t care. I just wanted to survive.
I put the tourniquet on with some assistance and obviously survived the night. Eighteen surgeries and three years later I was medically retired. Yes, I had a pension but it only covered half of my income since it was not a total disability. But what was I to do with the rest of my life?
Telling My Story
I was 46 when it happened. Many of you who have attended Calibre Press Street Survival Seminars have seen my story, and when they’re in town they allow me to present that section myself. Calibre Press is the only company I trust with my story.
At the time of my retirement I was halfway through a 30-year career. When I put together the debriefing of the shooting, it seemed like a natural thing to do. I had already been teaching in the academy as needed at my agency for many years. I was an FTO as a firefighter-paramedic and later as an officer. Before that I was a sergeant in the Army Corps of Engineers and later a drill instructor. Teaching was the answer.
Workers comp covered all of the medical and now they kicked in on the new career front. They began testing me for other vocations and had me searching for jobs they knew would require advanced degrees. Since I did not have the degrees, the unsuccessful job search was what they needed to prove to the city and the state Department of Labor that I needed retraining. Once approved, I dove right in and finished my bachelor’s in police science in just under a year.
Then on to the master’s in educational leadership. Since teaching was going to be my new vocation, it was the logical choice to not only get a degree in education but why not one involving leading other educators.
I’ve always thought of myself as a good student. I found the classes to be challenging at times and yet there was a flow to figuring out each class syllabus and making sure everything was turned in on time. I must admit my understanding of technology was limited. Learning various drives, blogs, and methods for communicating with the instructors and students was at times very difficult and frustrating.
It certainly helped that there was one other officer in the program who had been injured years earlier and due to ongoing problems with that injury, he was headed for retirement as well. It was as if we were partners on the street. We collaborated and bounced ideas off of each other when it came to completing our projects and assignments. When it seemed like the workload was piling up, we encourage each other and made sure we gave it our best. Writing papers, creating presentations, and creating curriculum were all part of the program. I have to use a program that translates speech to text as I can no longer type. But, it’s true, you can teach an old dog new tricks.
Two years later it was over. I made it and now have that master’s degree. Now it’s time to find a job. I admit it is a limited field when you are looking to teach in the law enforcement world. Sure there are thousands of instructors around the country, but there are only so many jobs in each city or region. It remains to be seen if I will get full-time employment as a law enforcement instructor. It’s really the only subject I’m interested in teaching. I tried a semester of teaching high school students an intro to law enforcement class but that was, shall we say, “challenging.” Today many high school students are more interested in their cell phones than the message at hand and choking out students would definitely put a damper on my new career. (Just kidding there. Please don’t send angry emails.)
Workers comp is about to cut me off from my benefits because they have done all they can for me and by statute they cannot continue to pay my wages, nor should they. They paid for the education and paid me to get it. Their part is done and now it’s up to me to make the best I can of my new career and the rest of my life.
I say this to anyone out there who may be facing forced medical retirement due to injury or other reasons, you can go back to school, you can learn, and you will succeed. As cops, we are problem solvers by nature. We don’t back down from challenges and we don’t take failure well. For most officers failure is not an option on the street nor in their personal life. If you know anyone who is struggling with adapting to a new life after law enforcement, have them contact me. My email is listed below.
Having lived through it is the best proof that it can be done. I am not an extraordinary person. I am an average guy who tried to do the job the best he could and now I’m going to do the same in my new career. I lived by the following motto before I was shot and I definitely say it a lot more now, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” So why not go forward and prepare your mind for the next challenge of your life? You’re cops, you can do it.