Technology and the New Employee

If you are like me, it's been a very long time, since you've taken a new job. Twenty-three-and-one-half years for me. As a newly retired officer, I just accepted a position in management of a large firm in the Southeastern United States.

I currently am experiencing rookie-itis for the first time in 20 years. As I write this, I'm three weeks into learning a new payroll system, two divisions of corporate organization under my watchful eye, and a new Windows Mobile PC Phone, new data storage systems, new accounts, new CCTV systems, several new applications, e-mail system, expense reporting system, licensing guidelines, technical solutions, and travel arrangement methods. I've met at least 60 new people whom I have to instantly know by first name. I have a new home, two new phone numbers, a new e-mail address, a vacant home 3000 miles away, and new employers to please. You obviously get it. Total overload sets in. Only discipline, organization, and support by those who love you gets you through this.

I'm currently sitting in a travel trailer, with the moving van loaded in my driveway during the Christmas Holiday. I'm anticipating a 3600-mile journey to my new life in the Southeastern United States, and as a result, I have a new appreciation for the new tech-rookie's challenges.

Those of us in police management personally understand little about the challenges faced by the new rookie coming on board in 2007. Master a city's geography, policy, procedures, law, legal process, booking procedures, reporting processes, chain of command, uniform apparel standards. Combined with shift work, new benefits, payroll systems, and if you live in a new city, relocation and its related stresses. That's before the new officer begins to learn computer-related systems, including computer-aided dispatch, records management systems, booking systems, storage systems, radio codes, and electronic reporting systems. Oh, and don't forget, the threat of death and mayhem during every pay period. That is something I don't face in my new career.

When I was a rookie cop in 1978, computers were rare, paperwork consisted of six or ten forms, a major traffic ticket was the size of a three by five card, and a booking took ten minutes. The term "road bull" was appropriate. Today the average police officer needs to know not only their own department's computer systems, but also needs to know a jail booking system, and have the ability to conduct booking screenings. The average booking in 2006 took about one hour. Today training for a police officer in urban western Washington state takes about one year to become marginally self sufficient. Looking back, I understand that only youthful invincibility allows an officer to take on the challenge and survive to mature proficiency. If you are not in police work, understand that the average large city cop spends at least 5% of their career training, plus outside readings and research to achieve and maintain proficiency. I'm certain in my career I read a stack of appeals and Supreme Court decisions that would be at least ten feet tall. My training record spans over 2000 hours, just in mandatory and general training. The career is now for the smart, agile, and technically savvy.

It's Christmas 2006, in a time when the process of becoming a police officer flies in the face of modern logic and the instantaneous gratification common to our culture. Those of us departing police work during the baby boom bust need to be charged with mentoring new officers and young folks toward the career. Our nation needs solid police officers who have the necessary technical aptitude to make them successful in the law enforcement profession.

Participating in criminal justice programs as adjunct instructors, working with organizations such as the Fellowship of Christian Police Officers and the Fraternal Order of Police, and volunteering with local police academies can help assure the continuing growth of the profession.

I'm still closely associated with the profession and will continue to write technology reviews for The point of the column this month is to challenge senior managers of agencies to set a special new year's resolution. The resolution is to remember your own starting point and add today's complexities. The next time you see a rookie, remember to thank the officer, and remind them you know how it feels. Sitting here in the travel trailer, having a final glass of wine with my detective partner, and feeling the parting sorrow of a most poignant moment, it's very personal, and very special to me. To the new rookie on the job you'll face terrific reward, more terrific frustration, and the most rewarding career on the planet. To you I offer my sincerest thanks from a very knowledgeable perspective. Veteran cops, like veteran soldiers, have a look, a radar, a feeling that carries across time and space. Welcome to the family. I thank you, and challenge you to make every opportunity of the good hunting that is the urban criminal landscape in 2007.