E very chief, sheriff and departmental purchasing agent knows to keep his or her eye on old issues, plus new trends, at all times. Here’s what’s on my radar:
1. Ammo supply and even selection is a huge issue for most departments. If the ammo is available, ask yourself two additional questions: “How much can I purchase it for?” and “When will it be delivered?” For the most part, the good old days of ordering ammo from supplier have changed drastically. If you can order it, the question then becomes when, exactly, you can expect delivery. Practice ammo and sometimes even street ammo is scarce, and often available only at budget crushing prices.
A lot of departments are now calling up several suppliers to seek both acceptable prices and availability. If you find a trove of ammo at a respectable price, you might consider stocking up when the budget allows. As one gun supplier told me, he has received orders from law enforcement well in advance of traditional ordering cycles.
2. Firearms supply and tactical accessories—just like ammunition—are seeing the strains of a demanding market. Backorders and waiting lists are today’s new normal. In 2013 my department upgraded our issued firearms. This year we purchased Glock Gen 4 Model 21s and the wait was nearly excruciating, but they did make it in. The days of calling up and ordering firearms has changed, too. My big suggestion is do not plan any transition or familiarization training on the training calendar until all of the goods have been delivered.
3. All-wheel drive cruisers and pursuit rated 4-wheel drive are coming to police fleets. All I can say is that it's about time! I am not going to get into rear-wheel drive verses front-wheel drive for police. I am not a motor head, and both versions have their pros and cons. However for those of us in the areas where winter brings snow, the concept of all-wheel drive fascinates me as a plausible alternative for dealing with winter’s unpleasant moments in driving.
I started my career in the Southeast where snow was seen only on television. Now, after having spent a decade plus in the Northeast, it is a fact of life. Most every agency has several sport utility vehicles for special operations, supervisors and the like. Since most are four-wheel drive they were not pursuit rated, therefore limiting their full usage in patrol and traffic enforcement.
Now that pursuit rated 4WD vehicles are coming, once again I applaud manufacturers for producing what we’ve required all along. The other issue that enters into fleet management is the fuel efficiency of these vehicles, in which case the preliminary tests appear to be much improved. Personally, I can’t wait to test drive a few of these.
4. Technology is ever evolving. Now, I am the low tech guy trapped in a high tech world, but I’m always learning. Most of us view technology as manpower enhancers, and most rightfully are just that. While technology can be a bonus, we are also sometimes far too attached to it for our own good. For those of us who hand-wrote our police reports on multi-layer sheets with carbon paper and a black ink pen, we have come a long way.
Now the quest is to go paperless, or to reduce clutter. I have found several apps for my phone and mobile data terminals (MDTs) particularly appealing and sometimes even free. Most all of us have to possess some fashion of field operational guides. Your state emergency management, your departmental guidelines, and so forth were in the trunk of your cruiser and the expense of producing copies or purchasing them was an abomination. Now most of these items can live on the cloud or smartphone app, or are just an icon click away on the MDT. I will give you a couple examples that I enjoy. First is the Emergency Response Guidebook for dangerous goods and hazardous materials. You know the big orange book for HazMat? Go to www.phmsa.dot.gov and download the app. Now it's in your phone. No more ordering multiple copies. Another one is WISER (Wireless Information for Emergency Responders from the National Library of Medicine). This is a great app for identifying unknown substances; you might not use it every day, but it may no doubt prove helpful for a commander on a “bad day.”
These are a few of the trends that I find myself discussing frequently. I can never forget the budgets, the increasing demands on law enforcement and the training requirements this brings to the table. I never forget that our true “hardware” is always our staff. The officer in the street delivering the service to our customers is our best investment for 2014 and the future.
William L. “Bill” Harvey has a BA in criminology from St. Leo University and is a graduate of the Southern Police Institute of the University of Louisville (103rd AOC). Harvey served for over 23 years with the Savannah (Ga.) Police Dept. and is the Chief of Police for the Ephrata (Pa.) Police Dept.