Luddites beware

   I've had the same cell phone since 2005. In cell phone years, that's geriatric.

   The impact of aging technology can sometimes go undetected for awhile -- that is until an incident arises that unimpressively betrays its advanced age.

   Much akin to the canine-to-human aging ratio, the cell phone-to-human maturation rate has the device ripening at an accelerated rate.

   A portable unit that's in service multiple times a day like a cell phone is going to take a pounding. So why have I neglected to update my phone with its clearly tattered, chipped casing, missing-button façade and tendency to unlock itself at will, in one instance dialing my recently widowed Grandma at 3 a.m. on my way to the airport, causing a panicked phone call chain that ended in me looking a tad schmucky? Why have I held on to Old Chippy?

   Because it's familiar. I know how to navigate easily between screens. It has all my contacts and speed dials in a familiar order. It's comfortable. Even though I do have a glint of envy when friends and colleagues utilize their smartphones and higher-res cell cameras, for the past few years I've stubbornly held on to the bare-button Chippy because even though better, faster, more advanced, efficient, technology is out there to better serve my phone needs, I deferred to comfort over function and utility.

   I know what you may be thinking; if it ain't broke, don't fix it. But my counterpoint would be that when you consider technology, if it's not the most efficient available that you can afford -- meaning you could upgrade but haven't -- that's another version of "broke."

   Many technology engineers and manufacturers cite the buy-in acceptance curve by chiefs and police buyers is at a rate much slower than the citizen consumer for similar or relatable tech solutions. And to a degree, this makes sense. Law enforcement is charged with a serious task and is often held responsible for mishaps, no matter the lack of malice.

   However, slow adoption has its drawbacks, because once a technology is found to be force multiplying and often proves itself within days or weeks of deployment (or in the case of several automated license plate reader technology successes, hours) folks inevitably wonder why didn't I get on this bandwagon before?

   In a recent feature on ECD technology (LET August 2010, "Less-lethal for less," Page 44), Steve Tuttle of Taser compared the electronic development of the Taser to the cellular phone. "[Tasers and cell phones] get beaten up," Tuttle says. "You do get quite an advantage with a 2010 cell phone versus something that was designed in 1999. They are electronic, but there's a lot of advances made in electronics." Cell phones are just one example; there are other multiple technologies and solutions updated and refined all the time.

   Sure, hold on to wise reluctance, a response in the other extreme would be similarly problematic. Instead, try to recognize if certain loyalty is driven from comfort rather than for function, efficiency and utility's sake.

   There are a lot of progressive chiefs in service, but there are still the Luddites too. (And I'm not above suspicion for that label, either. Just ask my Grandma.)

   But what's the law enforcement equivalent of talking down your flustered Grandmother and the handful of relatives who fielded dead-of-night calls after landing with no sleep from a red-eye flight across the country?

   If you have the opportunity to avoid it, perhaps it's best not to find out.

   For questions, news tips and comments, e-mail editor@letonline.com

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