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A Journey to the Center of the Mind, Book II – The Police Officer Years

By

James R. Fitzgerald

Bonus Chapter 64a

(Regarding this “FBI job-thing” of mine…it was about to get a bit confusing for me, from

a future financial planning perspective. And it was all of my own doing. Well, it was of my

doing, but also the calendar on the wall, the federal government, and the Commonwealth of

Pennsylvania’s police pension plan. Yes, it was the perfect storm of future fiscal complexity for

me right about this time in my life. The question back then was…how do I “weather” it?)

Some numbers which are important to put into context here…

In June of ’87, I was about to turn 34 years of age. As a reminder, during that timeframe

35 was the maximum age the FBI would hire special agents. A candidate had to still be 34 at the

swearing-in ceremony on his/her first day at the Academy, even if he/she turned 35 the very next

day. So, that means for me it was down to just one more year as of my next birthday if I wanted

to become an FBI agent. June of 1988 would be the absolute chronological deadline for me to

get hired by the Feds as that’s when I would turn 35.

Another issue, related to my present job but also now to my potential future job, or at

least when I would start it, involved my existing pension situation. At the BPD I was under the

Pennsylvania Municipal Police Pension Plan. Virtually every cop in my home state, with the

exception of those in a few larger departments such as Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and the PA State

Police, was enrolled in it. The basic deal with the plan (in 1987) was this: If you work at least
twenty-five years as a fulltime sworn officer, and you’re at least 50 years old, you can retire with

50% of your final year’s annual salary for the rest of your natural life. So, looking ahead from

that time, if I chose to stay with the BPD I could retire in the year 2003 on my 50th birthday with

almost twenty-seven years on the job. My yearly pension would be of a bit over half my then-

annual salary. (It would be a bit more than half because I would have worked two years past the

twenty-five year minimum.)

Following me so far? With the possibility of starting a second career post-

BPD at my chronological half-century mark in ‘03, it made for one of my then-possible options -

and not necessarily a bad one, either.

However, something told me during the springtime of ‘87 that there would be no nexus of

the 21st Century and the BPD in my professional future. I was clearly leaning away from that

years-from-now time and place continuum. In view of that, I had to start asking myself some

relevant questions. I needed some relevant answers, too.

So…what if I quit the police department sometime soon, which would thus end my active

PA pension plan membership, before any of these age and years-on-the-job factors come into

play? Do I receive anything out of it then? I mean, I’ve been on the BPD for eleven years now.

I should be able to get something from it, right? Would it be immediate or delayed until ’03

when I hit that magic 50 years of age? Isn’t there something referred to as the “vesting” of one’s

pension? Would I be eligible to do so? If yes, when?

Well, after calling the state’s municipal police retirement office in Harrisburg regarding

this vesting issue, I learned the answer was “yes” in my particular situation, but with certain
conditions and stipulations. These conditions and stipulations only served to make matters more

confusing for me…at least at first.

Upon undertaking due diligence in further researching my existing retirement plan early

in the summer months of 1987, I came to learn that I would need twelve years to the day at the

BPD to essentially “lock-in” a future pension. That means on August 30,1988, I would be able

to officially vest my pension. I could then quit the very next day and be eligible for

approximately twenty-five percent of my present salary starting on my 50th birthday, over a

decade-and-a-half away.

Breaking all of this down…if I wanted that future pension, no matter even if it would only

be about $9,000 per year upon my initial eligibility in ‘03, it would mean I couldn’t quit my

BPD job until the final day of August, 1988, for me to become fully vested. (As a reminder, I

was sworn in at the PSP Police Academy on August 30, 1976 - exactly twelve years prior to that

now very important future date for me.)

Bottom-line here, in June of 1988 I’d be hitting the age of 35, the maximum age to be

hired by the FBI. But I couldn’t fully vest my pension until approximately two-and-a-half

months later, on August 30. That’s ten weeks between me not locking in any future pension, or

me locking in a future pension upon turning 50, even if it would be a relatively modest annuity

amount each month. (I figured it would come to approximately $500 per month. That would

probably cover a nice car payment as well as my monthly insurance premium too. It wasn’t

THAT modest of an amount, all things considered.)
The other option would be to quit before my vesting eligibility time and take a lump sum

cash amount equal to what I’ve contributed to my pension over the years, along with the accrued

interest. It would be the rough equivalent to two years’ worth of that future pension.

Hmmm…what do I do here? And/or, does it even matter what I do, at least future

pension-wise compared to future job-wise? I really do want out of the BPD, especially if I can

land on my feet at the FBI as a special agent. That I know for sure. So, should I even let this

pension thing concern me?

Geez, if only I had been hired by the BPD a few months earlier. And/or, if only the FBI’s

maximum age for hiring was, I don’t know, say 36 or 37.

If only I could stop thinking about this matter.

But there was a reason for me doing so.

If you’re not aware of this fact already, I’ll let you in on a not-very-well-kept secret.

That is, pensions are a big deal to police officers, firefighters, members of the military, and most

other first responders and government workers. We are generally willing to earn lower salaries

during the course of our professional lives, certainly lower than many in the private sector, with

the knowledge that we’re able to retire at a relatively young age in life. That tends to be the

great equalizer. That is, a lower career-length salary verses a (hopefully) decent life-long

monthly annuity starting at 50 or 55 years of age.

Many workers in local, state, and federal agencies start calculating their minimum

retirement date and their monthly pension amounts from their very first year, sometimes their

very first month, on the job. I wasn’t necessarily one of these people beforehand, but now faced
with some retirement related decisions at a relatively early stage in my professional career, well,

I became one of those people. I was years away from any sort of pension eligibility, but back

then all of a sudden I found myself thinking more and more about the long-term future as it

concerned me and my family’s financial security.

I’ll gotta say, rightly or wrongly, this whole “FBI job-thing” certainly created a quixotic

dilemma for me at the time. This special agent position is what I’ve really wanted for a number

of years now, but there were some negatives starting to mix in with the positives, certainly from

that future financial perspective anyway.

So…do I stay at the BPD and have the guaranteed pension starting at age 50 in 2003?

Or, join the FBI and have to work twenty full years from my eventual starting date to get a

pension at the age of 54 or 55 in 2007 or 2008, depending when/if I get hired by them? Is there

possibly a way I can do both, to include getting that partial pension from the BPD starting at age

50, then the full FBI pension at 54 or 55?

I may have to rehire that Sylvan Learning tutor just to help me with the math involved

here.

And this matter was about to become even more confusing for me. You see, there was

this grade school reunion a few years ago….

*****

In 1984, near the end of the first year of the Dark Side regime, my St. Helena School

grade school class of ’67 held its seventeen-year reunion. Don’t ask me why it wasn’t at the

fifteen or twenty-year mark, but for some reason that’s when it all came together. I attended it at
a catering hall in Philadelphia along with at least seventy of my fellow alum. It was a very nice

affair.

While there, I chatted with many people, including a former classmate who had a friend

in a federal agency which possibly had some employment openings. He took my business card,

passed it along, and within a week or so I spoke with this friend on the phone.

The man was at an agency known as the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS).

As I learned, this agency essentially investigated wrongdoings and illegalities by companies

which had contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Sometimes those contracts

were in the multi-millions of dollars and sometimes there were crimes committed which

involved the government getting ripped off for multi-millions of dollars through fraud, bribery,

corruption, counterfeiting of parts, etc.

In the brief phone conversation with this friend of a former classmate, I ascertained the

above and other information about the DCIS, including the fact that the Philadelphia regional

office was located in Chester, PA, a town to the immediate south of Philadelphia. Of course, not

too long into our chat, he reminded me there was presently (in ’84) a federal government freeze

on new employment and there would be no hiring at his agency for the foreseeable future.

Oh well, I already knew of this situation from my attempt to get into the FBI earlier that

same year so when he told me this it didn’t really surprise me. Nonetheless, after talking a bit

more I thanked him for his time and suggested that he call me back when the DCIS was hiring

again and we could once again discuss our various options. He seemed to be impressed with my

overall professional background and experience and told me he would hold onto my business

card (given to him by my former schoolmate) and possibly re-contact me in the foreseeable

future.
And, as they say, that was that.

I sort of forgot about this guy, his agency, and my informal phone interview with him

over the next several years. But, guess who called me during the early summer of ’87, just as I

was moving forward with my FBI application and at the same time trying to figure out my

pension situation? Yes, it was the same DCIS investigator. And upon talking to him a short

while later it would be quite a deal he and his agency would offer me. Well, at least at first….

In the midst of all this pending FBI stuff, as well as my on-again and off-again internal

debate regarding my vesting or not vesting timetable, I figured it would be a “nothing ventured,

nothing gained” scenario when it came to checking out this potential new career opportunity.

So, after I was re-contacted and issued a personal invite I decided to travel to the DCIS offices in

Chester to talk to this friend of a friend and his supervisor. Let’s see what they have to offer me

during this in-person interview session.

I made up my mind before I went to the DCIS meeting that I would tell them everything

about me they wanted to know, to include my recent graduation from the FBI National Academy

to my all-but-in-hand M.S. degree from Villanova, and anything else which may be relevant to

them and their agency in terms of hiring me. However, I decided in advance I would not

volunteer to them anything about my possible pending employment with the FBI. It was not

guaranteed yet and it was simply a non-factor as far as I was concerned between me and these

DCIS folks.

I also made up my mind beforehand that I was going to ask the DCIS personnel some

very specific questions that day. I wanted to see how they responded to the issues I was about to

present them.
I was approaching this interview somewhat differently than the one several months ago

with the FBI, especially as this agency didn’t seem to have the same strict hiring regimen and

pre-employment protocols as the Bureau. I had felt the FBI was very much in overall control

during my interview with them. That’s probably how it’s designed. However, in this upcoming

meeting with the DCIS my plan was for ME to exert a level of control, at least to some degree, in

where it goes and how it goes. Let’s see how that works….

In the DCIS office that afternoon, first it was their turn. My St. Helena school friend’s

buddy and his supervisor told me that theirs was a relatively small agency but tasked with a very

important function. That is, preventing the DoD from being ripped-off by unscrupulous

businesses and businesspersons working under the guise of government vendors and contractors.

If there was a possible financially related illegality detected within the DoD’s vast network of

product purchases and contracted services, that’s when the DCIS investigators got to work and

attempted to gain the evidence necessary to indict and/or arrest the guilty parties.

You’ve heard of the $400 hammers and the $4000 toilet seats charged to the military?

Well, among other types of infractions, this was the agency which worked to uncover and

investigate such questionable transactions and the dishonest corporate types who brokered these

deals. Interestingly, and without me even asking them, the two men related to me almost

simultaneously that when the total dollar amount involved was under $100,000, the DCIS itself

followed-through on the investigation and subsequent prosecution. However, if it exceeded

$100,000 another agency took over the case. That would be the FBI.

Geez, here’s that same agency yet again. It seems to be ubiquitous in my life in one form

or another right about now. Maybe it’s a sign of some sort.
Sign or not, after we further discussed my professional background and experience, of

which the two DCIS investigators continued to be impressed, it was time for my first question to

them. I asked them right up front if their agency had a maximum hiring age. They said no, only

the FBI and a few other federal investigative agencies had those type restrictions, but not them as

they were under the auspices of the DoD. They would hire a qualified person regardless of age,

and without the formal written testing requirements the others mandated. Relevant experience, a

good interview, positive referrals, and of course the requisite background check clearance, was

all that was required for employment at DCIS.

Okay…it all seems good so far.

The two men also told me that I would start at a pay grade of GS-11. They calculated

that rate based on my years of experience, education, etc. That was one grade higher than what

I’d be starting with the FBI. That’s interesting. The highest grade I could ultimately achieve as

a regular DCIS investigator (that is, without a promotion) was a GS-12. The FBI went up to

grade 13 as a non-promoted special agent. Oh well, I think I could make that work for me. I’d

still be at a higher salary after a few years than I would be making at the BPD as a sergeant. And

the DCIS pension plan was the same as the FBI’s too. Both were pretty good.

Still okay so far.

There was a take-home car, but as there were fewer government cars than DCIS agents in

the Chester office, one week per month I would have to drive my own vehicle to work. I was

told by SA Jerri Williams and other FBI agents that almost everyone in the Bu had a take-home

car, and on a fulltime basis too.
A slight difference here in the work-car situation, but certainly within reason. I have no

take-home car on the BPD as it is now, so even three weeks per month would be an improvement

in that regard.

I also learned if hired by the DCIS I’d be required to go to the federal government

training academy in Glynco, Georgia. I would spend about eight weeks there in generic law

enforcement training, including firearms usage, arrest techniques, constitutional law, etc.

Afterwards I’d be assigned another four weeks to a training facility specifically designed for

DCIS special agents where I would be taught accounting, bookkeeping, and related white collar

investigative techniques.

It hit me at this point of the interview that a career with the DCIS would, in fact, entail

me investigating white collar crime and most likely white collar crime only. That would be very

different from my eleven years in law enforcement so far and most likely very different from my

next twenty or more years if I go with the FBI. I mean, I know it was tax evasion charges which

finally brought down 1930s-era Chicago gangster Al Capone, but I wasn’t sure right then and

there I wanted to be an investigator who worked strictly financial-based crimes on a fulltime

basis. Hmmm….

After absorbing all of the above and discussing other pertinent DCIS related matters, as

well as me sharing with the two of them additional information concerning me and my

background, it was my turn to ask them one very specific question. The timing, I decided, was

just right.

Once the floor was mine, I advised the DCIS investigators I would be eligible to vest my

pension in late August of 1988, still over a year away. I then put it bluntly to them, in question
form. Would they and their agency be willing to wait for me so I could vest my existing police

pension with the BPD and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania?

This issue seemed to take the two of them by surprise at first but I could see before long

it wasn’t an obvious deal breaker. Apparently, someone in their office had a similar situation a

few years ago coming over from some other non-federal agency and it was all worked out. And,

since there is no age-of-hire maximum at their agency, they told me it could very well be

possible to postpone my hiring for another fifteen months or so. They would have to call the

DCIS bosses in Washington, D.C, to confirm this issue and set monies aside in their budget over

the next fiscal year, but it’s something that just may be possible in my situation. There was

certainly precedent for it they assured me.

I thanked the two of them for answering my various questions and the interview ended

shortly thereafter. They gave me a multi-page application and told me to hold onto it for now

until they got the tentative approval from Washington regarding my hiring postponement

request. We shook hands and I departed the DCIS office.

My drive from Chester back to Bensalem took about sixty minutes. My mind was

wandering in and out of various work/life-related dimensions during the entire ride home.

Let’s see, this daily commute would be a whole hour less than would be my everyday

one-way drive to New York City. That would mean ten less hours per week in a car driving to

work.

IF it was officially approved by the DCIS bosses for me to work one more year-plus at

the BPD and vest my pension, that would be an added bonus too. It would be a nice one, as a
matter of fact, even if the actual benefits wouldn’t be received by me until way down the line in

2003.

I’d be going to Glynco rather than Quantico for my training. But, I suppose I could

readily adjust to yet one more law enforcement academy in my life, albeit further away than the

academy in Virginia with which I was already familiar thanks to my stint at the National

Academy.

Lastly, before it was all over, I figured I’d wind up being be more of an

accountant/bookkeeper than a true law enforcement officer. But, I suppose I could adjust to that

alteration in my professional life too.

So, these were the positive or at least neutral take-aways regarding a possible future

career with the DCIS.

What were the negatives? Not too many, I guess. I guess just that one major negative.

Okay, I gotta be honest here, the one major negative is…well, the DCIS wasn’t the FBI.

What can I say? They weren’t! This was instilled in me even more so when I learned

that when it became a really BIG fraud investigation in the DCIS (as in an amount over

$100,000) the matter was then reassigned to the FBI.

I think that would be a difficult pill for me to swallow if it ever came to pass that I would

become an investigator for the DCIS and I would work a case for several months or upwards of a

year and it then somehow went from a $99,000 rip-off to a $101,000 rip-off. I would then be

compelled to contact the FBI, an agency of which I possibly COULD have been hired, and they

would now take over my case. In effect, I could be giving my case to the FBI agent who

potentially got MY earlier slot. How weird would that be?
Geez, was I wrong to think this way? Should a shorter daily commute, starting at a

slightly higher GS level, a circa $500 per month BPD-related annuity beginning fifteen years

from now, all matter here? Are these the factors which should determine my professional future?

Or, is there something else? Are there perhaps other things less quantifiable for me to assess

here?

Man, I gotta think this fully through. Maybe there will be a sign of some sort. Any sign,

directing me one way or the other with this decision-making conundrum of mine.

A few weeks later, the DCIS supervisor called me at home and told me my delayed

hiring request had been granted. I could fill out the application and send it to their HQ in

Washington. So, within a few days I did just that.

Several weeks afterwards I received a call from DCIS HQ in Washington. It was from a

staff person who wanted to confirm a few matters on my application, including that my potential

hiring would not be effective until at least August 30, 1988, still over a year away. I confirmed

the date was correct and answered a few other minor application-related questions for her.

Then, the staffer hit me with something which totally knocked me backwards. As an

almost afterthought, shortly before we were going to end the call, she wanted to confirm with me

that I knew I’d be starting my job at a GS-9 level. I immediately told her there must be some

sort of a mistake as the supervisor in the Chester office advised me just last month that I’d be

coming in at a GS-11. She said he was wrong and must have somehow miscalculated.

What? “Somehow miscalculated?” How could that be? This is the U. S. government.

Things like this don’t happen with the feds. Do they?
Well, someone, somehow, miscalculated here, and either way I was on the losing end of

it. Now, as it turns out, if I took the DCIS job I would be starting at a whole GS level lower than

I would with the FBI, AND at a lower salary than I was presently making at the BPD. It would

take me several extra years now to make up that much of a salary difference, vested pension or

not a new century away.

After ending my call with the DC staff person, I right away called the supervisor at the

Chester office. He couldn’t explain the two whole levels of downward departure from his earlier

“calculations.” He conceded that the GS-9 level was probably what I’d have to accept upon

initially being hired, but MAYBE I could get some “within grade” promotions on an expedited

basis after a year or two. “Maybe” was his operative word here. He couldn’t or wouldn’t

guarantee them.

Weren’t these DCIS people accountants? Bookkeepers? Or something like that? And

they got these numbers wrong about me within the first few weeks of me even thinking about

coming on board with them?

Perhaps it’s time to reconsider. Was this the sign I was looking for?

“Maybe” it was.

I did reconsider, although I never officially removed my hat from the DCIS ring. I ended

my pre-employment “demotion” call with the Chester-based supervisor by telling him he could

still consider me as tentatively interested in the job the following September but I would have to

discuss ALL of my options with him again once we got closer in time. “All” was MY operative

word here. He agreed we’d talk then.
We did talk again, about one year later. However, there would be a much different level

of conversation at that time. And to think we’d been getting along so well….

During the summer of ’88, when the DCIS supervisor called me at home and for some

reason I did NOT receive his voicemail (I really didn’t), and when he called the BPD and learned

I was no longer employed there, needless to say, he was upset. He figured out where I was (after

all, he was an investigator), called me there, and once he confirmed it was me and what I was

now doing he laid into me over the phone. He threatened to call my new boss and even HIS boss

in Washington and tell them what I had done to the DCIS.

I apologized upfront for any and all real or perceived miscommunications, but I reminded

the supervisor that I had been demoted two GS levels before I was even hired by the DCIS, I had

re-contacted him regarding it, he told me he couldn’t do anything about it, and we agreed we

would talk about it as we got closer to August of ‘88. Well, we were closer and we were now

talking about it, however, our conversation didn’t seem to be proceeding in the direction he

would have liked. When he finally came up for air and gave me an additional minute to present

my side of the story I told him candidly I was content at my present position and I sincerely

hoped the DCIS could find a suitable replacement for me - the guy whose pay was cut before he

was even hired.

I knew by the end of this call that no matter where my future life in law enforcement may

take me, I was pretty sure I would never be employed at the DCIS. The next Al Capone-like

contractor who ripped off the DoD would have to be investigated and arrested by someone other

than me. Come to think of it, if he was anything like the original Scarface, he’d probably be

investigated and arrested by the FBI anyway. Maybe I could help out after all.
In closing to this brief portion of my life, I wasn’t exactly proud of how this situation

with the DCIS played itself out, especially as it was an old grade school chum who initially set

everything up for me. (I saw him again at our twenty-year high school reunion in ’91. He

wasn’t very happy with me either. He eventually got over it though.) I perhaps COULD have

been more forthright with the DCIS supervisor as things progressed into the next stage of my

professional life, but it didn’t seem to work out that way when we finally talked as originally

planned in the summer of ‘88.

And, IF my new gig wasn’t exactly working out for me by then, well…it would have

been nice to have the DCIS job in the Philly southern suburbs as my back-up. It wasn’t meant to

be though. In the long run in this situation, I have no regrets.

(In closing here…nor would there have been JCM Books III and IV if I had taken the

DCIS position back then. Of that I can assure you. Or, no one would have read them, anyway.)