Life offers us many opportunities and challenges. I am sitting on the balcony enjoying the crisp morning air and my third cup of coffee after having read the paper, when I started thinking about all of those who are leaving the police department for retirement. I picture the faces of friends; old partners; co-workers; acquaintances and those I only knew by sight; as they venture off in a new direction. A life of retirement and moving forward in front of them. Many have a sense of apprehension and fear of the unknown. They have devoted over half of their life to a career they loved and are being pushed out the door to make room for "Enthusiasm."
I want to put a different slant on this exodus of our most talented and experienced members of the department. Life offers opportunities for us to change direction at the drop of a hat. What may seem initially a set-back, is actually a stepping stone for moving in a different direction. I hike whenever I get a chance. I have hiked Mt. Whitney; Half Dome in Yosemite; Mirror Lake; Dove Lake; Parker Lake; Ice Lake, the John Muir trail and many other locations up and down California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. One of the hikes I do often is right here in our back yard; Iron Mountain. I do it as often as I can and with friends who enjoy the hike and our many conversations directed at solving the ills of society. But, when hiking Iron Mountain there is a clearly marked trail and signs telling you not to cut the trail or leave the trail.
Hiking Iron Mountain helps you learn how to keep your footing on uneven terrain when on a steep descent and to navigate rocky trails, switch backs and long steep climbs. It prepares you for climbing a steep trail in the Sierra's or White Mountain of Arizona or climbing into the Grand Canyon. There are several variation of the trail on Iron Mountain; some longer than others; some steeper than the others; some more technical and then the main trail; wide and varied. This is important because it allows you to take different paths for a change in scenery and to help gain a variety of experiences for future hikes in faraway places.
As we near the end of our careers and prepare for the next chapter in our lives we instinctively look back at where we have been. I am more aware of the stepping stone I have covered in my path to where I am today. My career and life are filled with miss-steps and a few slips along the way. I have taken a variety of paths to gain new experiences and see more of what my career and life had to offer. I guess you could say I have a wonder lust for new adventures. I seldom stayed in the same job for more than 2-3 years. I enjoyed the varying paths and adventures each new assignment offered. I have no regrets for any of the changes of direction these stepping stones led me to. Many times I may not have been as observant, respectful or cautious as I should have been when making some of my decisions to take one path or the other but I have always been watchful of my step, the angle of the descent, the difficulty of the ascent and how to proceed. Sometimes I threw caution to the wind and let whatever happened, happen.
I have three years ahead of me before I head off into retirement. I have made the decision to stay and gut out the future and hopefully in some way help set the course for the next generation of police officer. Those that are leaving have many stepping stones before them. Each stone has its advantage and will take you forward in a different direction. With each step on a new stone you will move forward, but differently. Each of you will move at different rates to new places in your lives and maybe even change direction several times before you find the path that best suits you and the life you wish to lead after police work.
As your foot hovers over the stepping stone in front of you; be thoughtful of the experiences you have had in life and step with confidence; in the face of a small flicker of fear of what is to come. I know that ultimately each of you has given a life time of dedication to making this world a safer place and it is time now for you to encounter a new and exciting adventure. As you step forward onto that stepping stone, that stone will lead you in a different direction; follow your heart; there is no turning back. There is a life after police work.