Year End Planning For LEOs: More than part-times and naughty lists
As you “undeck the halls,” defy gravity on ladders taking down lights and plot a strategy to stay off the naughty list next year, I’d like to take a few moments of your time to talk about some end of the year planning that is essential for LEOs. This is not planning the next firearm purchase, although that classifies as essential in my book, as I’ll leave that to other blogs! I’m talking about planning in the career, life and protection sense for you and your family. In short, a bit of wisdom, a word of experience and a pinch of “lawyering up.”
Most LEOs wait until September to determine if they require training hours to meet their state requirements. Don’t do that; start now. Take a look at training available from state, regional and commercial sources. This will allow you to plan for classes, save for tuition if necessary and make a case with your chain of command for you to attend each class.
Be deliberate in your training plans. Work toward certificates, designations or specialized classes. Look for classes that allow you to obtain college credit as well. Many training companies now offer college credit as a standard benefit of taking their courses. For example, I took an Active Shooter Instructor Course through Team One Network. The class provided college credits that can be transferred later. The class was excellent by the way.
Finally, is there an area of law enforcement that interests you? If so, learn more about it! It is easier to reach a training goal if the end result lights you up just thinking about it! Do you have in interest in training? Are you interested in becoming the commander of a tactical unit? Are you working to reach command staff levels within your agency or another jurisdiction? The path to those goals is clear. Look at the resumes of those who are in your ideal job and take the classes necessary to get there!
I could have an entire post about the excuses people have for not finishing their degrees. You certainly do not need a college degree, masters, law degree or Ph.D. to be a LEO. However, those initials after your name are required in more and more agencies to advance to the command level. It is increasingly hard to compete for the top spot in any agency without a degree. That is the reality of our profession. There are certainly exceptions to this rule. However, I want to hear that your promotions and career proceeded along a predictable path and not according to luck!
There are plenty of flexible programs available for LEOs who want to obtain or finish a degree. Do not overlook the traditional universities. For example, Kennesaw State University just north of Atlanta has a fantastic and flexible BS degree in Criminal Justice taught by LEOs, former LEOs and some of the best instructors the CJ field has to offer! The university also has a Masters Program in Criminal Justice. The classes are taught on weekends to assist with scheduling and the faculty is committed to your success!
There are also flexible programs, some offer on-line options, throughout the United States! The Fraternal Order of Police offers members the Fraternal Order of Police University or FOPU. The program currently offers a partnership with nine universities and colleges to provide members with assistance with scholarships, tuition and tailoring the courses to fit your needs.
In short, leave the excuses to the suspects on the street and in the interview rooms! Make it happen for yourself and your family in 2012!
Wills and other important papers
The new year is a great time to assess your personal situation with regard to your will and who will make decisions if you are not able to do so. Let’s face it, the new year brings marriage to many and divorce to others. If your circumstances have changed, “for better or for worse”, you must update your will, “living will”, and insurance beneficiary information.
I have personally been involved in many situations wherein a person did not change the beneficiary of their life insurance or department benefits and an ex-spouse collected death benefits. Don’t blame the department or the insurance company. They can only do what you tell them to do!
If you get married, divorced, have a child or adopt a child, you should have an attorney give your will a second look. If you do not have a will, we need to talk…and you need to read my previous post on this topic! For those of you who choose not to use an attorney to draft your will, that is your choice. However, remember that you will not be saddled with any defects in your will. The people you are trying to protect with the will are left to deal with those issues. If it makes you feel any better, I hired a lawyer to draft my will. Enough said.
If you are not able to make medical decisions for yourself or are not likely to survive, you are able to provide direction and designate who will make those decisions. While the names of the documents may vary, the goal is the same. Speak with an attorney in your state to find out more. Through my representation of hospitals for many years, I have seen the effects of a family working without direction from the ill or injured party in these situations. This can be a difficult and devastating time that can be made much easier with some advanced planning.
Many lawyers will offer discounts to LEOs for these services. Your local FOP lodge probably has an arrangement with a local attorney. The costs are minimal compared to the peace of mind and other benefits.
There are three types of insurance your should address, update or consider this time of year. They are auto, life and legal defense. While there are certainly other types of insurance like disability and long-term care, we will save those for another blog post!
Automobile insurance is your best friend if you are injured because you stand the best chance of injury in a motor vehicle collision! I do not need to spend time convincing you of the crazy driving habits of the motoring public or of the grossly underinsured nature of the majority of the amateur stunt drivers on our roads! Your UM coverage on your personal car insurance policy will often help you if you are injured on duty. Yes, I said ON DUTY! Also keep in mind that your travel to and from work in your personal vehicle is normally NOT covered by workers compensation, so you will be on your own if you are injured driving to work by a driver with little or no insurance! You should pay the extra premiums to increase your UM policy limits as high as you can afford. For more information, see my previous blog post on this topic.
Life insurance is another matter. Your department likely has a death benefit as well as the state, federal and local government if you are killed in the line of duty as does the National Rifle Association. In addition, the Fraternal Order of Police has a death benefit for members. As stated above, update the beneficiaries as necessary!
Finally, let’s talk about legal defense. I recently defended a LEO accused of murder….yes murder, when the family of the perpetrator attempted to seek a warrant for his arrest. He was not an FOP member and did not have a legal defense plan. His fee, even with a LEO discount, was a significant percentage of his annual salary! A few years ago, a LEO was finally acquitted of criminal charges following a shooting. His legal defense bill was $100,000.00! I do a great deal of pro bono work for LEOs every year as do other attorneys around the United States. However, you should not rely on this option as it may not be available when you need it! The Fraternal Order of Police offers a legal defense plan that will protect you in the event of administrative, tort or criminal charges. It will also protect you in the event that you face liability for carrying a firearm pursuant to HR 218. The National Rifle Association offers insurance for LEOs who teach firearms classes. Do not wait until you have a problem to look for insurance. Most plans will not cover an issue that arises prior to your purchase of the insurance.
Remember to read your insurance policies! While you may believe it is a sure cure for insomnia, it is best to read it now. If the policy does not cover you for a particular situation, you can change that now. If you wait until after an incident and discover for the first time that the policy will not protect you and your family, insomnia will be least of your worries!
Looking forward to the future!
All predictions of the Mayan calendar aside, 2012 will hopefully be a great year for all of us! At the end of the new year, I hope to hear from you about your successes! Contact me if I can help you in any way. We are proud to stand for and with LEOs when they are injured and need assistance. I can help you find an attorney virtually anywhere in the United States.You should never stand alone.
May 2012 be safer for all of us and may God continue to protect each and every one of you!