“For the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil”
I heard this growing up a lot. From my parents, my teachers, my coaches on the sports teams on which I played. I will confess that not having a lot of extra money growing up made the repetition of that statement just background noise at a certain point. I got to where my understanding of what I thought people were telling me through this was: You spend money foolishly because you’re a child on your childish things. There was probably truth in that interpretation, but my pride refused to let me see it. So, when I got a job entering college, I did what you would expect a 17-year-old to do with the first paycheck. If your answer is I “dropped it into savings as a way to build a lump sum for long-term retirement investing,” then I’m sorry to say you’re wrong. I blew the entire amount on a stereo system for my car. The car I didn’t have after a year along with the now gone stereo. I did, however, have a mountain of credit card and student loan debt. My strategy for the long-term growth of my money for retirement had started off on the wrong foot.
Fast forward to today. After over twenty-four years in law enforcement, I have been able to create a retirement plan which will facilitate my family’s economic health whenever I want to retire and tackle another project area in my life. And I am very blessed to have married a woman who left the workforce as an MBA/CPA financial analyst for a major aeronautical company for the ability to create this pathway.
Sadly, I hear officers, sergeants, and staff talk about how they have to work until they die to pay alimony and child support to any number of ex-spouses. Or another version of the conversation has those same people talking about how the “have to” keep working to pay for the new boat/truck/rental cabin that they “had to have.”
The fast-paced pursuit through their career has the love of money as the engine driving almost every decision including the shift worked, hours and days off, and even what part of the city to be in to maximize the ability to get to their traffic job on time.
Truth over Lies
How does this tie into integrity and nobility? Glad you asked. The article opened with the result coming from the love of money, and it’s in that way your integrity is challenged. We all pay bills and with little exception, work to elevate our standard of living from beyond just existing to being able to afford to…you name it. Nothing wrong with that, but when the lustful salivation towards another off-duty job happens as you do the math and see another extra $500 dollars coming your way, then I submit you’re running laps in the hamster wheel of the Matrix. The fake reality you live in has to now be supported by more and more money. More and more time away from home and family. More and more missed school plays, soccer matches, ballet recitals, and football games. More and more and more…
The problem never shows up until it’s too late. Failed marriages, a nonexistent relationship with the kids, and at its worst, substance abuse issues, depression, anxiety, and a river of money bleeding out monthly to pay for it all. A person of integrity models the way for others to draw strength in their own lives. Law enforcement is the only profession I know of that permits termination as the required response to a breach of integrity in any sense. Think about it. This is why I will die on the hill of Courageous Nobility before I watch my integrity become compromised chasing the idol of money.
The Game of Life
And the mayor just approved a $75,000 bonus for new hires. You read that correctly. The bonus is broken into two disbursements. First, officers receive $25,000 when sworn in, and another $50,000 when they complete a 19-week field training program. The incentive represents 57% of the annual salary for a first-year rookie. I get the standard of living is high in the Bay Area, but God Bless America that they can do that.
Here’s the issue: to no one’s surprise, money isn’t the issue in the attraction of new people into the job. The Police Department is currently authorized a staff of 88 officers and 35 professional full-time personnel. The numbers show they are suffering attrition and down 30% of their work force representing 24 officer vacancies. This is a proactive move to try and address the shortfall.
CBS News in the Bay Area reported:
On March 21, the city council approved the bonuses in a unanimous vote.
“I really want what’s best for our city and maybe other cities will get inspired and do the same,” says Mayor Ashcraft.
Some residents question whether it’s the best use of city resources and say that money could instead go toward crime prevention programs.
“That is money that could be used for schools, for social justice programs, for mental health,” says longtime Alameda resident Sarah Fairchild.
“At first glance it’s like, wow. That’s a lot of money,” says Lilia Williams, who lives and works on the island.
“Yes, you can put money somewhere else, but when something happens, you dial 911. If there’s no one to respond, who else are you calling that’s going to give you immediate attention?” says Cross.
I don’t fault them at all, in fact, I am extremely surprised this historically liberal Bay area suburb demonstrated the vision to support law enforcement in this way. And I am interested to see how this plays out as potential candidates having to work 25 years to retire with a full pension can now retire as early as age 50 with five years of service credit unless all service was earned on or after January 1, 2013. Then they must be at least age 52 to retire. Officers can move from city to city gathering bonuses all day long but that only supports my premise that money is not the driver to characterize long-term motivation in someone’s life.
This isn’t the game of life I grew up playing.
Now, instead of a 1970 Chevy Caprice station wagon with pink and blue pegs sticking out of the top, you now have an electric non-toxic Suburu Outback with any color you want for the “non-adults” [see: kids] traversing a landscape where the choice between a college degree track or professional track is replaced with “activist” or “gap year” path. Sure, insurance, taxes, and even fate show up in this version, but when the players run out of money in this game, they can count on a newly created federal subsidy to take care of it. The winner isn’t the first person to get through life to retire at “Millionaire’s Mansion” or “Countryside Acres” but is the one who can put a dollar value on the level of commitment to a community where life and death are on the line each day.
The Chasm of Complacency
And I pray that I’m wrong, but what’s stopping anyone from spending a couple years employed in Alameda before leaving for another department when the money runs out? If we want to lead courageously then as a profession, we have to acknowledge the reality of our people so much in harm’s way that a serious injury or death of a law enforcement professional is being recorded every single day. Mental health issues are skyrocketing to a level unheard of when I started. More money and programs are being spent to serve society while less is given to the ones asked to do the work.
Officers on the verge of suicide don’t need more money they need more support.
Contrary to our government’s standpoint on this issue, you cannot spend your way out of the staffing shortages in law enforcement anymore. We are fed up with too few people in briefing each shift, vehicles which should have been phased out years ago, denial of any personal time off, and the ever-increasing level of violence emboldening criminals each day.
Two key principles from the Courageous Police Leadership speak loudly here: first, anticipate – and continually challenge the status quo. Forward-thinking leaders need to think of “Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind” as popularized through The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People when recruiting to retain. And second, inspire others to lead courageously. By building into people as the example of someone who listens, affirms, validates, while still managing, directing, and leading, then you will have people who will willingly work for you for longer time and for less money.
If people chase their love of money only to find it was a magnet to an agency without integrity driving their decision, they may find a place resembling a bowl of sour ice cream covered in Magic Shell. I hope the courage the Alameda city government is showing through this bonus pays dividends down the road. I hope officers are attracted to their agency and discover it’s rich in culture and deep in relational commitment. And I hope from the first day officer to the last day Chief their individual and corporate integrity is the glue that will keep them connected. Because there is no bonus high enough that our society could pay each officer that they deserve when the task we are asked to complete each shift is measured in lives saved, property recovered, and order restored.
***A new opportunity to link arms in proclaiming truth is here! Click the link to listen and download the first episode of the Trust the Truth podcast with Jeff Daukas here, where conversations on the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth are chased down!***