My police department’s computers were infected by a worm this week. As a result, our in-car mobile systems became inoperative. Not having a computer in the CVPI was a change, I think, for the better.
Without CAD information and GPS, some of the newer officers seemed a little lost. We were on radio dispatch only. Laminated maps were dusted off. Note pads came out.
At roll call, we urged the rookies to pay strict attention to the radio because that is how they would know where each other was. This paid off when two officers called for and received back-up when they were confronted by a suspect with a revolver at what had started as a petty theft.
A few old-timers remarked at how this “perfect storm” had taken us back to times before location mapping, automated dispatching, and instant call information updates.
Since we could not even turn on our mobiles, the dashboard seemed oddly dark. It actually beckoned for one to look out the windows!
One dig I have had about having computers in modern police cars is that it is too easy to become accustomed to patrolling from within the cruiser without glancing out much, beyond occasionally checking the road.
I honestly think we sometimes patrol endless miles while typing and scanning the screen, but rarely see what is really going on around us. I’m guilty.
Don’t get me wrong, it is amazing to have so much information available to today’s police officer in such a user-driven format. There is no doubt it has increased our effectiveness.
However, I have felt the downside has been a dependence on the computer that sometimes overrides common sense. For instance, I once came upon two officers huddled around an in-car computer in a vain attempt to locate a suspect by data base checking and Internet searching.
You know how it looks: one joker sits in the driver’s seat mashing about the keyboard while the other one stands in the doorjamb, adding his worldly advice.
I bluntly suggested they go lean on the suspect’s “buddy” inside the residence and take him for a drive to identify the bad guy’s hide out. This tactic worked in short order.
The week’s experience was refreshing and I received good feedback from some new guys, who looked at it as a way to better learn their zones. It also sharpened their observational skills.
But, of course, some cursed the technological inconvenience which made their jobs “harder.” Well, looking back, we did manage to do police work before the appearance of the magic box.
Randall is a twenty-three year sworn police officer in Florida. He is a Midnight Shift Sergeant and SWAT coordinator.
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