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Life Beyond the Badge

By Garth Baker

In the early 1990s, I went to work in law enforcement after a short stint in radio as a disc jockey. This transition was like going from living in a free country to a dictatorship. Let me explain: by becoming a law enforcement officer, some of the freedoms afforded to normal citizens become regulated by policies and procedures. Things like clothing, hair style, opinions, tattoos, defending yourself, defending your kids, defending your spouse or even having an additional form of employment. This list goes on and on and on. For example, if you wanted to own your own business or take on an additional job, a board has to agree with your business or job in order to allow you to do it. If they don’t agree, they will deny it and you had better forget it and move on. If you don’t leave it behind, you will be forced to either quit their unapproved form of outside employment or be fired.
My case in point: in 2009, I became involved in a network marketing company that had been in business for 17 years; but because the “board” didn’t feel it was legit, I was told I had to quit doing network marketing or be fired. Thank goodness my network marketing business had grown to where it was bringing in multiple thousands of dollars per month in income, leaving me with a financial option. I really wasn’t ready to retire at the age of 41 and I still enjoyed “THE JOB,” but the politics, I despised. I of course appealed the denial for this outside employment but was later told by a captain that I had to quit network marketing or face termination. I wasn’t ready to retire but I also wasn’t going to leave a multiple-thousands-of-dollars-a-month business I had created because someone thought the business wasn’t legit without properly investigating the network marketing company. By the way, I was also a financial crimes detective for 4 years and I was very well versed in fraudulent activity and had no concerns that the network marketing company I partnered with was illegal; yet some untrained group of people decided this company wasn’t legitimate. The odd thing was that many other officers were working in the same company but were not facing the same constraints as I. Again, the politics and good ole boy system was determining who could and who couldn’t. On July 14, 2010, I was forced to retire, but the department refuses to recognize my retirement; in fact, the sheriff refuses to give me my retirement badge or identification to this day, and if you were to call the department, they would tell you I never worked there. How do I know I don’t exist? I was to testify in a court case but when the DA called to get my phone number, he was told there was no record of me. Fortunately another DA in the same unit had my personal cell number and was able to get in touch with me. As of today, this non-legit network marketing company I am affiliated with has since been approved for the employees of the department.
To continue where I am going with this… until I retired, I had really no idea how my hands were tied in every facet of life, on and off duty. I even found myself thinking as though these constraints were still on me. It wasn’t until recently, when I started working in talk radio and writing this column, that I realized I do, in fact, have a voice and that I can use it without worrying about losing my job. Life beyond the badge has proven to be a lot better place. Now I’m not saying the career was bad because it was far from bad. The career was great! What I am saying is that it sure is nice being able to think for myself and speak for myself without the fear of retribution.