TECH GADGETS WON’T GET THEM INTO CUFFS
This isn’t a long message. I hope that it will ring a few bells in the heads of the administrators who read it.
Today’s law enforcement publications are loaded with stories and advertising covering all sorts of technical gear. If one were a rookie, it might be easy to believe that the quality of an agency’s police work is directly dependent on the tech gear available to their patrol cops.
The sad truth is this: too few agencies have kept their focus on the core mission. Leaders are too often scattered and confused, which can lead to both frustration and undue risks on the street.
To that end, I recommend a book titled, “The Goal” by Goldratt. It is written to help managers track and improve work processes in their organizations.
When admin loses a sharp focus on The Goal, the results can be that these admins become consumed with the deployment of the latest technology – rather than improving the core skills of the cops on their crew. Some administrators act as though their bottom-line success depends mainly on technology deployment.
In my experience, most academy recruits arrive on day #1 focused on taking bad guys off the street. They are taught about the value of proactive work, and how we should try to prevent bad stuff before it happens. When we are reacting to events, our focus should be on delivering quick apprehension of the dirtbags involved.
HOW DO WE ACHIEVE THOSE OBJECTIVES?
The answer is simple: we adapt and overcome. We all learned that phrase at the beginning of our academy training days. It can best be observed in crime suppression units: cops focus on the details of the behavior patterns of criminals in their jurisdiction. We know the crooks are constantly changing; so must we.
For example, LE publications show how drugs are being hidden and smuggled inside laptops, iPhones, tablets and various other electronic devices. You may have seen the articles explaining the dangers of a “hunting” knife which (when triggered) will release a large amount of gas inside the body of a victim, freeze all organs in the area, and ultimately explode the body cavity. There are guns disguised as cell phones. The list goes on and is ever-changing.
When I worked for U.S. Customs in Detroit, we constantly received updates of new “tricks” being used to smuggle contraband into the country. We had technical gizmos that seemed straight from the Star Ship Enterprise.
- With the “Buster” we could measure the relative density of car body panels, gas tanks, tires, and virtually anything else.
- We could use a special camera to look inside a gas tank.
- We had sensors on our duty belts that detected radiation – even to the point of sounding an alarm when someone in the area had a recent heart (medical) stress test.
But, no technology ever equaled the sensory quality of the hair on the back of the neck of a watchful CBP Inspector.
The attacks of 9/11 demonstrated that totally relying only on technology to gather intelligence cannot replace good cop work, nor replace the instincts and gut feelings of an attentive cop.
Recent years have given rise to local agencies following the Feds down this same failed path of relying too heavily on technology and too little on human skills:
- Night vision and computers with software claiming to do “everything” in finding potential bad guys.
- Mobile video systems that can be remotely viewed from other cars, dispatch or the station brass.
- Communities have installed cameras in schools and public buildings so that the cops can watch from their cars. Coupled with ALPR software, one camera is capable of “running” 10,000 vehicle tags in a single shift.
- Interactions with citizens can be recorded virtually anywhere.
- Global positioning systems will tell everyone on the crew of your location – and the best route to take when responding to a call. Of course, the computer can’t tell you when a stalled train has one of the suggested routes blocked.
- The narcotics units can remotely eavesdrop inside a building.
- Cameras can be everywhere, yet for all their good, they can only tell stories of what has already happened. They deal only in the past.
My message is singular. Prior to becoming process experts with technology, cops must first be taught to be cops with good basic skills. Those skills usually only come from experience on the street at the hand of a more seasoned officer. Then, the technology can be added to enhance and embellish the basic, human skills already in place.
Here is a graphic example. Today, we can observe lots of young cops sitting on the side of the road, running the tag of every car that drives past. They are “fishing,” i.e. looking for expired registrations, suspended licenses, etc. Take away their computer, and the kids are lost.
The more senior crew members (a/k/a ‘dinosaurs’) who is working traffic might not even have the computer open. They are watching vehicles, drivers and occupants. They know it’s ‘GO TIME’ when the hair on the back of their neck stands up.
TECHNOLOGY SHOULD BE USED TO ENHANCE EXISTING CORE COP SKILLS – NOT REPLACE THEM.
Much too often, cops are denied the basic tools in favor of the gadgets. This most frequently rears its ugly head in too little training for our officers. After all, tech gear makes better reading in the press and it is much more sexy.
That approach implies to a watchful public that there really is no threat, and that public safety is somehow guarded by a computer. Maybe the political leaders think they can “pretend” the dangers of today’s world away.
There is a city agency in Maryland. The administration goes to great effort to be the first to get every new technical gadget as it is invented. They have computers, GPS, in-car video, remote audio, body cameras, mapping, the newest light bars, digital radios – you get the picture.
This same city has a high school where every year, there is a violent riot between its students and those of a rival school. The officers have been denied shotguns. They also have been denied TASERS. I suspect if the council could figure out a way to do it, the clueless chief would allow the elimination of handcuffs and sidearms.
In today’s world, technology can (and does) go a long way to improving the productivity and effectiveness of our cops. Point: technology can AID and IMPROVE basic skills. BUT, those basic skills must already be in place for the tech gear to have any effect, at all.
But, if those cops can’t do the job using their own skill set, of what value is all the technology? Answer: none. An article published here recently posed the question: can you still be a cop and do your job if all of the technical gear failed? It could happen due to a catastrophic failure of our computer networks, power grid and other critical infrastructure.
The basics today are much the same as yesterday: Cops need fundamental skills that are taught and practiced. They also require the weaponry capable of subduing the bad guys and tools to restrain them once they are under control.
Recent times have seen widespread use of TASERS. From my perspective, TASERS have become a basic tool. They have been shown to reduce injuries and deaths of cops and bad guys, alike. Often, the left-wing, liberal, political types have been able to suppress police requests that their officers be issued TASERS. As a community, we need to stand up and fight the political correct nonsense. It is costing both lives and wellbeing of our cops.
We need to once again focus on The Goal: getting bad guys off the street in order to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Hopefully, it happens through prevention, rather than reaction.
Cops need the tools to stop today’s threats. Computers and gizmos can be great, but they will never get a bad guy in cuffs. Remember that.
A few years ago, I was involved in the design and development of a training program. Our charge was to prepare patrol officers in an airport police department with the skills necessary to respond to an active shooter incident in the terminal.
The airport serves a major U.S. city. It is a hub for one of the major U.S. airlines, ranking in the top ten for passenger boardings nationally. There were three major terminal buildings that were physically separate from one another. Each building had a full compliment of patrol officers on duty 24×7.
There was much discussion among the agency brass that also involved airport management about where the tactical equipment would be kept for use in an emergency. Our recommendation: place a cache of weapons, shields, and other gear in a secure room in each building. There was sufficient budget to do it.
The politicos thought that our recommended approach might appear too aggressive to civilians – both passengers and airport employees, alike.
Ultimately, all of the tactical gear was put in a single armored vehicle. That solo vehicle would be used on patrol 24×7 throughout the entire 10 square mile facility and would respond to an incident, should one arise. Upon learning the cops’ concern that getting the gear on scene might take 15-20 minutes from the time of original outbreak, the administration gave each officer a BlackBerry to be used for summoning it.
The text method was chosen because, unlike voice communications, it could not be scanned or heard by outsiders.
The fact that the vehicle could be tied up at the time, wasn’t important. Management chose to overlook the risks associated with a delayed response. They didn’t want to hear about the risk to the lives of the officers on scene who most likely would be out-gunned. Nope, none of that mattered. Just so it looked good in the press.
This is a classic case of HIAS (Head in Ass Syndrome).
It’s time to focus on The Goal once again.
At the bottom line, it all comes down to saving just ONE life.
This article is from the CopBlue Vault.
“The Goal,” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt is available on Amazon.
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