Flipping potatoes or foiling terrorists

Before I delve into my first blog on Officer.com, allow me to introduce myself. I am Sara Schreiber and I have the pleasure of working alongside editors Jonathan Kozlowski and Tabatha Wethal on the print team of Law Enforcement Technology and Law Enforcement Products News.

Right now I’m reading My Life in France, by Julia Child—a biography that describes an illustrious life which took Child everywhere from the Office of Strategic Services during WWII to classes at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, to finally a television cooking show called The French Chef. (I’m going somewhere with this, I promise). I think one of the funniest, and most poignant scenes from the old show is the one where she goes to flip some type of potato mass and says that one should flip “with confidence and conviction”. Well, she completely fails and the mass gets all over the stove. Without skipping a beat she says "Oh well, if that happens just put the potato back in. If there's no one in the kitchen with you, no one has to know!"

As an editor for LE publications, we sometimes get the opportunity to travel the country and attend trade events showcasing every high-tech public safety system and solution you could imagine. Just last week I found myself in Minneapolis for the 78th annual Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO for short) conference and expo. Aside from all the breakthroughs in communications tech (which, by the way, seemed limitless) I had the pleasure of meeting Katherine Hibbs Pherson, The Chief Executive Officer of Pherson Associates, LLC at a roundtable discussion talking about best practices for critical information sharing (hosted by the IJIS Institute). Before delving into CAD/RMS and 9-1-1, I got to chat with this well-spoken woman about her personal take on ways to improve information sharing. Her POV did not hinge on communications software and digital revelations, but rather low-tech skills that are vital not only to an officer’s safety, but an officer’s ability to protect others. Pherson is in the business of analytical thinking, with a brilliant background with the CIA and even inside the White House situation room.                                    

She reiterated how things like critical thinking, risk analysis, effective writing and briefing skills and confidence are critical skills for all levels of public safety. There is often power in a hunch, or half-formed idea. Police officers know this better than anybody.

So now to return to Julia Child and her sage advice: do whatever it is you’re doing with “confidence and conviction”. It got me thinking:

  • When does confidence (or lack thereof) get in the way of a patrol officer using his or her own, unique experience and ideas to the utmost potential?
  • Does one sometimes think, “I don’t have enough training in this?” or “That’s not my job and I’m not paid to do that?”
  • How many agencies truly invest in an officer’s ability to cultivate and hone his or her critical thinking, writing and speaking skills?
  • How often do we “turn off” our gut feelings, and why?
  • And finally, how much more efficient and safe could we all be if everyone—whether line officer or captain—could truly work with confidence and conviction?

Food for thought: analytics exercises may be more important than training with the latest military-derived headset or surveillance software. In fact, it’s a life-saving skill. Because if we can’t think, deduce, and communicate with each other in the most basic of ways, what do we expect more technology to do for us?