Are You Ready?

Myron Hamm
Myron Hamm
Director of Corrections

Almost 24 years ago, the thought of retirement seemed like it was so far away. But fast forward to the present, and it seems like I am attending a retirement ceremony at least once a week. Back when I began, the goal was 25 years, and it seemed like a lot of people were reaching that goal. I fondly remember the officers who retired when I was in my beginning years, and it always seemed like they were sad or having some trepidation about leaving.

I have known people who retire at 15 years but not a day past 20. My son asked me recently why people would leave a job they love if they are still able to function. This question made me think as to why it seems like people are leaving sometimes before they are ready.

The first part of it is the state of policing in this world. When I started this job, it seemed like the respect for law enforcement was astronomical, and officers were looked upon as heroes, leaders and all-around good people. But then, all of a sudden, the pendulum swung on us, and all our decisions and actions were being questioned. The rules were changing, and scrutiny was becoming unbearable, so it stood to reason that people would opt to leave a little earlier than they had planned simply for a little peace of mind. I keep in touch with people from my Academy, and they are living in places now like Montana, Idaho, Tennessee, Texas, North Carolina and Florida, just to name a few. Officers are moving to these places and living in small rural communities because it’s peaceful and a nice place to live out your later years. But ask yourself this question: “Are you ready?”

I teach a couple of classes at the Academy, and I always stress the need to be prepared in case of a life-altering event. How many of us could become ill, or a child or spouse becomes ill, and we could still function? What if you came down with an illness and could not work? How long could you be off work before you run out of leave time? There seems to be a trend of the younger generation earning their leave time and using it right away. We earn a total of 104 sick hours per year, so at the end of five years, you have earned 520 hours of sick leave. That means by the time you hit 20 years, you will have earned 2,080 hours of sick leave. I advise people to set a number or goal and, barring any unforeseen circumstances, be prepared for the unthinkable.

Managing your time and career is up to each individual member, but have a plan and do your best to stick to it. I remember an officer who was sitting on 23 years before he was diagnosed with cancer. This guy had well over 1,900 sick hours, and he was able to take all the time he needed in his recovery. The trick was when he was healthy, he came to work. I am happy to say that this was over 15 years ago, and he is still with us today. I am imploring you, young people, to use your time wisely and have a plan for any life-altering event that could happen. A wise man once said to me that those who fail to plan will ultimately plan to fail.