06/17/2010

Jim GuffeyRising Through the Ranks
with Jim Guffey

Keys to building options for a post-LE career

After 26 years in law enforcement, I landed a dream job of visiting departments around the western side of Pennsylvania and putting them online to do accident reports. However, in my travels I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in my state: police departments are disappearing. Either because of a bad economy, shrinking tax base, or a combination of all factors, police departments in Pennsylvania are being disbanded, or manpower is drastically reduced, at a rate higher than has been seen in the past. Strangely, regionalization is having a hard time gaining a foothold in my state.

I don’t know if this is a trend throughout the United States or just a local phenomenon, but whatever the case, it points out an important fact in modern policing and, that is, you’ve got to be prepared to move into another career simply as a means of self protection. This also means that you’ve got to take advantage of opportunities as soon as you land a position in law enforcement.

With this in mind, I’ve listed potential areas of training that might help an officer continue to make a good dollar if the worst case scenario occurs. The following list is by no means all inclusive, and, if anyone out there knows of other avenues an officer can pursue, by all means make note of them in the comments section.

College
I’ve always believed that the best defense against job loss is to have a college degree in a field that has nothing to do with law enforcement. Most departments just want a degree so testing to be a police officer should always be open to the college graduate. The benefit of having a non-law enforcement degree is that if you lose your police position; you have another field available to you. With the internet and on-line courses being offered by virtually every college, it shouldn’t be all that difficult to get a degree at your leisure.

Vo-Tech Training
Most cities have a vocational school or two that teach anything from drafting to welding to electrical wiring. The thing about Vo-Tech schools is that some jobs may come and go but people will always need their furnaces fixed, their air conditioning maintained, etc. This is an avenue worth considering.

Fingerprinting
Most officers are trained in lifting prints. However, there is an online school that teaches the Henry System of classification. This school is the American Institute of Applied Science, www.aiasinc.com. I’ve taken this course and found it very good. For a home study course the final exam is no easy thing and you really have to know the subject matter before you attempt it. The course for this is list as course 101. It goes for around 800-900 dollars. This course has the benefit of helping you if you are in law enforcement and, possibly, gives you a chance to branch out into a crime lab if you would need to.

Computer Forensics
The most common computer forensic software, FTK, is sold by a company called Access Data. They also give training in the use of their software. If you go to their website, www.accessdata.com, you see a black tab at the top of the page that says, appropriately, training. Click on that and you’ll go to the training page. Once there look to the right and you’ll see another tab for on line training. The courses are a little pricey, however, this is another course that could pays dividends for you while you’re working as well as give you a chance to make a dollar on the side as a consultant or free-lancer.

Sketch Artist
There is a site, www.sketch-artist.com that gives training in composite drawing. The total cost appears to be around $1,000. Again, this could be beneficial for the current police officer and maybe allow a little on the side consulting. It is worth looking into.

Lastly, any course that your department might offer to you, such as Accident Reconstruction or an instructors course in Taser, OC Spray, MEB, First Aid/CPR, take. I hold instructor ratings in OC Spray, MEB, First Aid/CPR and I am also an Accident Reconstructionist courtesy of my old department. I’ve made money with all of them and it was always welcome. The only restriction I ever put on using my training was that I would not help anyone charged with a crime to possibly beat the crime, nor would I ever testify on their behalf. This restriction didn’t hurt me a bit.

So there is my list of training that could help an officer make the transition from law enforcement to another field if the worse happens. By no means all inclusive, it should at least give everyone some ideas to help make you less likely to suffer a job loss. If anyone out there knows of others, let’s lend a helping hand by letting officers know. Sadly, we can’t see the future but planning for it, and any worst-case scenario, can go a long way in lowering the stress level.

Lastly, in my travels I sometimes get asked where a young officer might look for good police jobs. It’s been a few years and I’m not always sure if a certain area is good or not. I’d appreciate any comments about how certain geographical areas are doing in terms of police employment so I know if this trend of down-sizing or disbanding is across the board of just in my area. Thanks in advance.

Stay safe.

About the author

After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, Jim Guffey began his Law Enforcement career in 1977 with the Pennsylvania Capitol Police. In 1980 was hired by the Ross Township Police Department. He remained there until January 1, 2002. During that time he worked as a plain-clothes detective, on the traffic division, and was promoted on 1996 to Lieutenant. He remained the Administrative Lieutenant until his retirement. Not satisfied with retirement, he became the Chief of Police in Blairsville Borough in August 2003 and remained there until July 2004.
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