It has become common to have officers from large agencies apply to be the chief at smaller departments, Kim Kohlhepp of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, tells USA Today. Many who make the change are young enough to consider a second career by their late 40s or early 50s, when they become eligible for retirement benefits, Kohlhepp says. It’s also about career goals. “A lot of people aspire to be a chief,” he says. “Not every talented person in a big department will have the opportunity to serve as chief.”
Michael Finegan, a member of the IACP Psychological Services Section and lead psychologist for the Maryland State Police, says that if there’s any downside to a big-city police officer taking over a smaller agency, it can stem from being frustrated with the lack of resources. They also are more likely to have to take on the same mundane tasks they handled as big-city rookies. On the bright side, a small-town chief doesn’t have layers of bureaucracy to deal with. “They can leave a lasting legacy for all the things they wanted to implement but were prevented by all the gatekeepers … in large-department organizations,” he says.