On February 28th, 2012, Law Enforcement Today published my very first article, Kid- This Job Ain’t What it Used to Be.
That title is more accurate today than ever before.
My father told me that in 1983 and he meant it. He also added that he heard the same when he first came on the job in 1938.
Never have the police been so heavily and terribly micromanaged and Monday morning quarterbacked. In 1938 there were police call boxes on major corners. An officer was supposed to make a pull (call in) on a regular schedule to see if there was anything they needed to know. There was no one checking up on the officer and he was expected to do his job or at least stay out of trouble during his watch. My father’s first post was a block from his home. It was the corner of Wellington and Halsted. The grade school he attended as well as his parish church was right there. Everyone was on foot, so he knew everyone on his post.
Forty-five years later when I first hit the street, my FTO and I patrolled the very same area, plus more, since we were in a squad car. I had also grown up in the same home as my father and attended the same school and parish. Since I was the recruit, I carried the radio and my FTO carried none. We only got one per car back then. There was no one in the department who knew the area better than my father or me. We knew the yards and alleys as well as neighbors.
Once done with my FTO, I partnered up with a young guy and we worked the same area most of the time. He had grown up on the far north side, but his family was from the neighborhood and my parents were friends with his parents. We did our job, raced in on hot calls and we didn’t blow off jobs or stay down on assignments longer than we needed. We kept our eyes and ears open and learned from the senior officers. Because of this, our supervisors left us alone to do our work. They found us for a cup of coffee or to log us as required. Eventually, we could carry two radios and we did. There were only a few cars that had computers in them back then. You could run a name for warrants or check if a car was hot. We seldom got one but enjoyed when we did.
After a few years, my partner and I both got transferred to the west side. What a culture shock that was. We still did our work like always and the bosses continued to allow us to work with little supervision. For the most part, the officers in both districts did their job. Sure, occasionally some might milk a job for a longer lunch or to grab a cup of coffee. They were usually still there when a hot call came.
We got more computers and radios. Body-cams and cell phone cameras are everywhere today. Dash-cams roll nonstop in every squad car along with GPS. Today our department can pinpoint every officer and then tell them exactly what to do. They can see if you put ketchup on your hot dog.
Over the years I’ve learned that those supervisors who micromanage usually do so because they wouldn’t have had the skill or talent to handle the job if they were in your shoes. So, they look over your shoulder telling you how to do it and showing a lack of faith in your abilities because they lack faith in their own.
It isn’t the technology that is the problem. Great tools for the police officer. It is the lack of faith in the officer by the supervisors that I see as the issue. My partner and I had good bosses who trusted us to do our job. To ensure this trust we learned our job well. Today there is no incentive to learn the job when an insecure supervisor is telling you how to handle every job. That is how the job has changed. All the other issues are as a result. I’m not so much talking about supervision on the Sgt/PO level. It goes all the way up the ranks.
When a boss gets so nervous at a Comstat meeting that he passes out when called upon and Pos can no longer be trusted to make Terry stop then there is something wrong with the system, not the man in blue. Throwing more tech at it isn’t the way to fix it. Oh well, what do I know? I’m just a grumpy old retired guy.
Seven years ago, when Law Enforcement Today published my first article, I never expected them to publish my one-hundredth piece. This article marks my 1009th article in LET. I want to thank Robert Greenberg and everyone else at LET for their support all these years. You guys convinced me I could write, and some people wanted to read what I wrote. Without that, I would be an old retired bum and not a writer/author. Thank you everyone. Special thanks to those who read my articles and provide feedback. I enjoy and look forward to your feedback, both pro, and con. Pro more than con.
Stay safe everyone. Run low and zigzag,
Robert Weisskopf (Lt. CPD. Ret.)
P.S. You can find all my articles published in Law Enforcement Today by following the links at https://bobweisskopf.com/l-e-t-articles/