You've put in your 25 years of service, and now it's time for you to hang up your gun and retire. The trouble is that you're still too young to contemplate moving to an oceanfront condominium and sitting idly by the pool all day. You want to stay active, and you've still got a lot of wage-earning years ahead of you.
Fortunately, the skills you've learned on the force can take you into many different second careers, from a private security detail to loss prevention to bounty hunting. Now that you're off the force, the choice is up to you. You can stay where the action is by helping to catch criminals, or you can opt for a cushier desk job where your greatest risk is getting a paper cut.
Here's a look at five exciting job opportunities for officers who've served their time and are now looking for a different kind of career challenge.
Companies hate getting ripped off, and so they hire employees to protect their assets -- both in the real world and in cyberspace. Loss prevention specialists (or agents) can work independently, or they can be hired by organizations ranging from big corporations to the FBI.
If you work for a big department store, you might consult with management on ways to prevent shoplifting -- including monitoring both employees and shoppers on foot and through surveillance videos to ensure they don't swipe any of the merchandise. At the corporate level, you'll use your skills and insight to identify potential areas for loss (including vandalism and embezzlement), and then find ways to boost security in those areas. If there are any apparent thefts or losses occurring, you'll be called upon to launch an investigation and bring the culprits to justice.
Computer-savvy former cops can put their policing skills to work online, setting up computer security systems for companies and then fighting back against cyber attacks.
If you're ready to get out of the police action but you still love digging through evidence and hunting for clues, look into a second career as a crime scene investigator. If you already worked crime scenes while on the force, you'll probably already have most of the skills you need to get started in crime scene investigation, although you may need to take a photography course or two and get your professional certification, which you'll be able to get after a set number of hours of instruction. Former police officers have more earning potential -- a six-figure salary is possible -- and upward mobility than civilians entering this profession.
Crime scene investigators show up after a murder or other crime has been committed. It's their job to document every detail of the crime scene -- from gathering fingerprints and tire tracks, to collecting the few stray fibers, hairs, or bodily fluids left at the scene or on the victim's body. They not only gather evidence, but they make sure that evidence is processed properly so it doesn't become contaminated. Crime scene investigators also take pictures and/or videos of the crime scene.
Meticulous attention to detail is a must in this profession. Missing a key piece of evidence could make the difference between catching the criminal -- or letting him or her go free.
If you've been investigating crimes on the police force, you're already armed with many of the skills you need to become a private investigator (PI). In fact, companies look for PIs who already have some law enforcement training. In most states, you'll also need to be licensed to practice as a PI.
Being a private investigator in the real world is nowhere near as glamorous as it's portrayed on TV. For the most part, you're not going to be hot on the trail of a team of international jewel thieves. Instead, you'll probably be following cheating spouses on behalf of their suspicious wives, tracking down identity thieves or perpetrators of insurance fraud, or looking for missing persons. You'll be doing a lot of tedious grunt work, like digging through tax filings, legal documents, motor vehicle records and other boring documents. You may also do surveillance, which can involve sitting in your car and looking through a pair of binoculars for hours at a time.
The upside to working as a private investigator is that you can work anywhere, and generally you can choose your own hours. If you're hired by a large security firm, you'll be dealing with bigger issues -- like corporate investigations -- but you'll also have to work a set schedule.
If you've seen Duane "The Dog" Chapman and his crew on the A&E television show "Dog the Bounty Hunter," you probably already know something about bounty hunters -- although the job isn't always as dramatic as it's portrayed on TV.
Here's how bounty hunting works: Let's say a man has been arrested for assaulting his wife. His bail is set at $25,000. If the guy can't afford bail, he'll see a bail bondsman, who will front him the $25,000 as a sort of loan, in exchange for a percentage (usually 10 percent) of the total bail.
If this accused husband doesn't show up for his scheduled court appearance, the bail bondsman is left footing the bill. Often, the bondsman will hire a bounty hunter (also called a bail enforcement agent) to track down the "skip." The bounty hunter will search through databases and talk to friends and family to track down the fugitive's whereabouts.
In return for their services, bounty hunters earn anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent of the total bail bond. Not only can they earn upwards of $80,000 a year, but they also get to experience the thrill of the chase. There's also a downside to bounty hunting -- namely, the danger involved in tracking down bad guys.
You've been protecting the public your entire career. Now you can apply those skills to serving one particular VIP or company. Security guards protect their clients against theft, vandalism and other illegal activities.
As a security guard, you may patrol one specific area, such as a mall parking lot or bank entrance. You may just guard an entrance -- like at a military base or museum -- to make sure that everyone who enters is supposed to be there, and that visitors don't carry in any dangerous materials. If you're a bodyguard, you may protect a public figure, like a celebrity or politician, from harm or just keep away autograph seekers.
As a security guard, you're going to spend much of your time watching for events that don't happen. But if you're put in a situation where someone threatens the place or person you're protecting, you might find yourself in the same kind of armed conflict you could have experienced while on the police force.
In most states, you've got to be licensed and pass a background check to work in private security. Many security guards carry a gun -- for which you'll also need a license if you don't have one already.
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- Chinsky Matuson, Roberta. "Work as a Retail Loss-Prevention Specialist." Monster.com. (Accessed May 4, 2011.)http://career-advice.monster.com/job-search/company-industry-research/work-as-a-retail-loss-prevention-sp/article.aspx.
- Echaore-McDavid, Susan. "Career Opportunities in Law Enforcement, Security, and Protective Services." New York, NY: Ferguson, 2006.
- International Crime Scene Investigators Association. "How to Become a CSI." (Accessed May 4, 2011.) http://www.icsia.org/faq.html.
- Lambert, Stephen E. and Debra Regan. Great Jobs for Criminal Justice Majors. Chicago, IL: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2001.
- U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition. "Private Detectives." (Accessed May 4, 2011)http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos157.htm.
- U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition. "Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers." (Accessed May 4, 2011.)http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos159.htm.