Off-duty jobs: To make ends meet or buy a boat?

There's no fun in making a huge boat payment if you never have the time to actually enjoy the boat


You go to work for your normal 40-plus hours on patrol then spend your days off working shifts at the local bank or directing traffic at a church on Sunday. After all, you’ve got kids, a mortgage, car payments, and so forth. 

The starting salary of a police officer is often hard to raise a family on these days. These are all legitimate reasons to make that extra money. Even working to get a little extra spending cash can be a good thing.

But at what expense are you slowly killing yourself just to earn a few extra dollars? I’ve seen cops who make a very comfortable salary and they’re still working 100 hours a week — or more! — because they’re so far in debt they can’t see straight. Is it the bad pay or bad financial decisions?

Keeping Your Priorities
When your “side jobs” become more important than your employment as a police officer — or your performance on the job becomes secondary to earning extra money — you, your agency, and the ones around you are all affected. 

You might be saying: “You don’t know my situation. You don’t know why I have to work all those hours.” 

I may not know your unique circumstance, but in broad, general terms, I do understand — I really do. 

I know that having a plan to reduce those hours gradually can help. I know that seeking the advice of a financial planner to reduce your burden over a period of time can help.

There’s no fun in making a huge boat payment if you never have the time to actually enjoy the boat.

We all appreciate the ability to be able to work side jobs, but when you’re never home — except to catch a few hours of sleep — are the physical effects on your body and your family relationships worth those extra dollars?

I believe that everything in our law enforcement lives should have balance, and working extra jobs is no exception. If you must work them to make ends meet — or even if you just like the extra money to spend or you’re saving it for your retirement years — don’t lose sight of having a balanced life. 

Time Has Value
You still need down time for sleep, exercise, hobbies, and family. Missing that one extra job to see your kid’s soccer game isn’t going to break the bank. Taking time off to take your spouse to a movie and spend time communicating may save you from a divorce down the road.

Agencies are responsible for making sure their officers are fit and ready for duty as well. Having a policy in place that allows officers to earn extra money but still be able to be refreshed and ready for their daily tour is essential.

You can always pick up another moonlighting job, but you can’t get back that dance recital or that one playoff game where your kids scored the winning goal. 

They won’t remember that time you worked the extra job, but they will remember the time you were at the game watching them be the team hero.

And that, my brothers and sisters, is priceless.

About the author

Lt. Hawkes is a 23-year police veteran. In addition to his years of highway drug interdiction, Lt. Hawkes has worked in patrol, K9, investigations, narcotics, and administration. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Dallas Baptist University and is a graduate of the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Justice Leadership and Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas.  He has been the recipient of both State and Local awards, including the Medal of Valor. His book, Secrets of Successful Highway Interdiction, which can be purchased here, contains eleven chapters on Highway Drug Interdiction.

  1. Tags
  2. Police Jobs and Careers
  3. Budget
  4. Family
  5. Economy

Recommended Off Duty

Join the discussion