Cop Talk

June 19, 2007 | Karin's Blog | 19 comments

He’s baaaaaack…

Dear Officer Friendly,

This might be a bit of a different question for CopTalk, but I have an idea percolating in my head for a novel about a newly retired street cop. Was wondering if you could discuss a little about that – what it’s like those first few months, the kinds of things they miss and don’t, the kinds of things you think about, how it might be different from expectations…

Officer Friendly:

“What do I do now? My life’s career is over.”

That is exactly how I felt when I was retired prematurely after 14 years of service, do to an on the job injury. The first thing you miss is the camaraderie. Being in the locker room with your squad getting ready for shift. The verbal banter and joking around that takes place. Talking about the previous shift or how did everyone manage to make it home from the bar. That sense of belonging to something and in the case of law enforcement, belonging to something special, very special.

Not trying to be over dramatic but cops live on the edge. At least the cops that work busy communities do. The next thing I missed was that adrenaline rush. As a football coach I get a bit of a rush game day but it doesn’t compare to a 125 mph chase where the bad guy crashes and you don’t or he bails and you give foot chase, catch him, fight and you win putting the cuffs on him. The whole time you know you are on the edge of something horrible happening to you. One false move, one idiot move by someone else, one faulty tire and it’s all over for you and yet you push it and survive it. It’s not that you’re thinking about it, it’s just something you know, in the back of your head. That’s a rush that is not replaceable and I missed it. I miss it now, five years later, just talking about it.

I was a very proactive cop. I didn’t wait for the radio dispatcher to tell me what to do. I went out and found crime. It’s like being on the hunt. Your senses are heightened, your brain is processing information, your eyes are scanning the street. You are anticipating something happening or making something happen. I loved that part of the job. I felt like Superman when I was working. That was taken away with retirement. So I guess you could say in some way there is a loss of identity with retirement. Being a cop was a part of my self-description and that was now gone. It somewhat defines you. Not completely because you are other things: husband, father, little league coach, handyman, whatever. However, you are no longer that guy who fights crime. Again, we are talking about a loss.

Many cops, the real cops who loved the job, loved going to work, even looked forward to it, find civilian life very difficult. Many commit suicide after retirement or become drunks. You miss so much of the job and in some way want that back. That is where you can get into trouble. You’re retired but you see something going on in your community. You think, somebody should do something about that. You used to be that somebody. In your mind, you still are that somebody. If you act, you could get into trouble with the local cops or you could get hurt. You have no radio to call for back-up. No badge or gun, no authority. All you have is the knowledge of how to handle the situation, the years of handling such situations, and the inclination to do so again. Your heart starts to pump, your senses heighten. It’s that rush all over again and you like it. There is a sense of worth that comes with it.

In many ways it can be and it is depression. It’s a sense of loss, then mourning. It’s not like this for all cops. Many hate the job, hate the public and can’t wait to spend the rest of their lives playing golf. But in my humble opinion, those were never the guys I wanted to work with anyway. They were not the guys I wanted to go into battle with at my side. I didn’t turn to drink through my depression. I turned to food. I got fat. After years of wearing a crew cut hair style I grew my hair, long. My foo-manchu mustache became a biker looking goatee. One day Karin looked at me and said “You look disgusting. You really need to clean up yourself.” That was the switch for me. That was the beginning of the end of my funk.

Many cops are lost in retirement. They just don’t know what to do with themselves. “What am I going to do now?” You have to have a plan. While I had a plan it wasn’t really what I wanted to do. The department set me up in my own swimming pool and spa design business and I was successful for almost three years doing that. However, it wasn’t what I wanted to do. What I wanted to do I couldn’t do anymore. That was over. I had been a youth football coach while working a beat on midnights. That shift allowed me daylight time to coach both football and little league for my boy’s. Shortly after retirement, a friend got me an assistant coaching position on a freshmen high school football team. The lowest possible entry point but something clicked, really clicked. Five years later I am a full time college football coach who also is cofounder of two successful football camps. There is life after law enforcement and it can be pretty damn good but you have to look for it and you have to work at it. Still, there are times, driving down the street…


What about you? Were you/are you prepared to deal with a life changing experience?
How will you handle it?


  1. Debbie

    Let me preface this by saying… not looking for sympathy. It’s all good.

    I was a science teacher for twenty some odd years. Worked on and off at outreach centers while my kids were growing up. Then I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Worked for almost a decade at a dream job doing my own science program at a science center. I taught kids from pre-school to adult and loved every minute of it!

    Then two and half years ago my disease reared its ugly head and forced me to “retire”. But I planned ahead (as much as six months would allow). I always wanted to write. So I took a couple of courses, learned about RWA and here I am, 2 years after retiring still with purpose in my life. I can happily sit at my computer pounding out the chapters and creating characters that can still do the things my mutinous body refuses to allow me to do.

    I haven’t published yet, but continue to get closer. I’m an eternal optimist. Everything for a reason sort of thing.

  2. Officer Friendly

    “Everything for a reason”

    I am a firm believer in one door closes and another opens. We don’t always see it but it is there if you look and are willing to push on that door.

  3. Karin

    Debbie, sounds like you are hitting your stride. Good luck with your writing. Are you able to go to conferences?

  4. Amanda

    Officer Friendly, thanks for the view from the other side. You made your job sound so exciting, that I can see how retirement would be a bummer, especially at such a young age as you. 🙂

  5. Michelle

    OF, you should write a book. Seriously 🙂 .

  6. Debbie

    Missed out on the conference thing. Next year. That’s what I keep telling myself. But this time I added 2008, otherwise next year will never come. New England and Nationals, that’s my plan!

  7. Karin

    Michelle said, “OF, you should write a book.”
    So I keep telling him…

    Debbie, next year National is in my backyard, San Francisco. You must come!

  8. Cele

    Excellent post OF. I believe you should love your job –

    Life is far too long to be miserable, and far too short to not be happy

    I can’t imagine retirement, especially forced retirement, I’m not sure I want to retire, there is only so much gardening you can do and I don’t have enough books to edit. Travel is spendy, but the good point is there is always home to come home to.

    You brought home something that I had oft times gleaned from Wambaugh books, life after the beat can be a killer. So many people leave the job at work. But when you love your job (as you said) it is a major componant of who you are in all aspects of your life. How do you put that part of yourself away and not mourn? I don’t think it is possible, it becomes the hole in your heart, a gaping abyss that needs bridged because it can never be filled.

    I look forward to your book…I have patience… I know you will write it.

  9. Officer Friendly

    Amanda – it was and at times, it is a bummer.

    Michelle – thanks for the suggestion and support. I have started the book (two years now) and I do plan to finish it.

    Cele – I don’t know if I could do total retirement. Certainly not yet! I think when I’m done coaching, writing will become my mainstay. However, I think I will have to finish my current book long before then.

    Karin – I’ll get to it! I’m thinking about it all the time! Honest.

  10. B.E. Sanderson

    If the post was any indication of what the world can expect from your writing, do the book. You owe it to yourself. Thanks for the view of life after the force, OF. That story could be a book by itself.

    I already did my life changing experience, so I figure I’m set. I got myself smushed in a car wreck thirteen years ago. I didn’t think about how I was going to make it through, I just did it and thought about it afterwards. I’m to the point where I can joke about it all now, but I remember the depression, the frustration, the confusion. Now the only thing is when bad weather is coming, I ache. And when I’m really tired, my brain is slower to think than usual. *shrug*

  11. Christa

    Thanks for the great answer! It’s wonderful detail and brought together some things I have heard/experienced/read over the years (which made me want to write the character, I just wasn’t sure how to bring him out till now).

    In college I sustained a running injury that effectively ended my law enforcement career hopes. That same year I turned 21 and had to leave the Explorer post I’d been part of through high school. Four years of nowhere-near-full-time work pales in comparison to a fourteen-year career, but I found I too missed the camaraderie. There were a couple of cops in particular that I really “clicked” with that I still miss, 15 years later. In time I figured out how to keep up with it – by writing for LE trade magazines, and recently fiction. It took several years and a job I didn’t like, though!

    If I couldn’t write anymore? I’d look into alternative technology, because honestly, I get really really cranky when I don’t write enough over a few days!

  12. Officer Friendly

    B.F. and Christa – as corny as it sounds, every thing happens for a reason. The real trick is in figuring it out, embracing it and moving forward. I know I was suppose to have my time as a cop and it very much prepared me for what I am doing now. However, what I am doing now, coaching, is reaching far more people and impacting their lives greater, than I could have ever hoped for while in uniform. I believe I am now doing what I am supposed to be doing and oh man, am I embracing it.

  13. Christa

    Yeah, that’s how I feel about my freelance job now. Too much had to fall into place, including the injury, for it not to be what I am meant to do.

  14. Liz Kreger

    Great insight, Officer Friendly. Its not something I’ve ever really thought about … what police officers go through when their forced to retire before they’re ready.

    I’ve been in the legal field (admin. asst.) for over 25 years and personally cannot wait to retire … in, oh, about another 20 years. Ick. Unless, of course, this writing gig takes off and I can wave buh-bye to the 9 to 5.

  15. Edie

    Great post, OF! It tells us a lot about you and about being a cop.

    I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t write. My husband talks about when I sell my book for a million dollars and we can sail around the world. I’m thinking, how can I sell around the world and write at the same time?

    And I know my husband’s dreaming big, but miracles happen. 😀

  16. Officer Friendly

    Thank you, ladies, one and all. Thanks babe for the post.

  17. Karin

    Thanks, Edie!
    I might ramble today or tomorrow on what a PIA he was when he retired.

  18. LaDonna

    Wow, these stories are so inspirational! Great story OF, and everyone. I haven’t much to add, no serious setbacks physically on my journey. Thank heavens! I’ve worked jobs I didn’t like very much, like everyone else. My dream of writing has always kept me afloat. Now, I’m doing it full-time and I’m grateful. I dream big and I’m optimistic. I did lose both of my parents last year, five months apart. That was a challenge, but an affirmation also that life continues as they do. I see the world differently now.

  19. Jan

    Wow, am I ever behind on my blog hops. I didn’t know OF was back, but I’m so glad you are. You just gave me the info I’ve been wanting to ask a cop for my wip. Thanks a million for getting to the meat of the matter. I knew it had to be hell stepping away from law enforcement, but you put it all in perspective. And congrats on having the rocks and hanging in there until you found a new career.


  1. Magical Musings » Blog Archive » Do the blog hop - [...] At Karin Tabke’s blog, Officer Friendly guest blogs on how he felt after being newly retired from the police…

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