June 30, 2009, is fast approaching. With this date, comes a new chapter for the San Diego Police Department and law enforcement as a whole in San Diego. Whatever the numbers turn out to be of those who retire; you can be assured it will be painful for the Department. When any organization looses over ten percent (10%) of its most talented, dedicated and experienced members in such a short period of time, that loss is devastating. The timing of those leaving makes it difficult if not impossible to plan, prepare and train replacements to step in and continue the level of productivity of those before them. Examples abound, but take the Lieutenant and two Sergeants leaving a highly specialized investigative unit; the Sergeant and one Detective of the Cold Team; ten (10) people at every level in Communications; Traffic Division loosing supervisors, investigators and motors; ten (10) people, including a Lieutenant, Sergeant, Agent, Detective, four (4) Patrol Officers, a PSO, and the Senior Clerk, all from Northeastern Division; to highlight some of what is about to occur. This will no doubt have an impact on the ability to provide for the safety of citizens. The mayor can ply the public with his political two step of replacing experience with enthusiasm all he likes. The reality is the replacements are years away and the crisis is here today.
If you are one of those staying to continue the tradition of "America's Finest" and fulfill the oath you took when you first pinned on your badge; opportunities are in front of you for the taking. Promotions, transfers, openings in specialized assignments, and the ability to move throughout the department will present themselves in the coming weeks, months and years. You are well situated to help lead and re-build this department and improve on the great reputation earned by those retiring. The officer, detective, supervisor and manager who wish to advance or move will have opportunities never before seen. The positive influences of change can bring satisfaction and a new desire to excel.
Take advantage of this time and talk to those heading for the beach and retirement. Pick their brain and ask for advice; discuss their jobs; ask what skills or training are necessary to fill their shoes; soak up their knowledge and advice; get their contact numbers and e-mail addresses for future questions and consultation. Little things like this may mean the difference in solving a crime or finding a contact to help locate a missing child in another jurisdiction.
The attitude you take forward will determine the success you have when taking advantage of these new opportunities. Make the best of this time and try your level best to stay above the water line. The worst may still be ahead in terms of budget cuts and the ability to attract new, enthusiastic people to this profession. That in no way should dissuade you from taking a leadership role and stepping up to take on these new challenges.
Remember why we all joined this profession; focus on the fun; the excitement; the challenge; and look at the opportunities ahead. Take on new challenges and find your niche. Don't be afraid of new challenges and most of all do not be afraid to fail. If you do not make a mistake here and there, you are not taking risks and most likely are not doing your job to your fullest potential. Be professional and compassionate but above all be safe. Look at the challenges ahead as a new beginning for a proud department and make the best of it. You owe it to yourself and your brothers and sisters in blue.
To those heading off to retirement; leave with those behind the wisdom and experience you have gained through the years. Allow them to pick your brain and make yourself accessible during transition. Withholding contacts and not sharing the little nuances of the job will not get back at the mayor; it will only make it harder for your replacement to learn the job and maintain the reputation you spent years to build. We owe it to those who are picking up the torch to keep the flame lit so they can see their way during this difficult time. Leave with the dignity and professionalism you have earned; hold your head high, shoulders back and a smile on your face. You have earned that right. You have given your all and now it is time to allow those remaining to take up where you left off.
Padres win again… 7th straight…. Padres 4 Cubs 0