Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cal Chiefs and Their Toys

California Police Chiefs gathered in Pasadena this week for their annual training conference. The local paper ran a story titled, "High-tech gadgets highlight police chiefs' conference", complete with photos and an article filled with examples of cameras, police units, and various forms of technology. The article quoted Pasadena Police Chief Bernard Melekian saying that at the top of his wish list would be a technology for "broad-based community outreach". The paper believes that Chief Melekian was referring to criticism that the media and some community members laid on the department after a recent officer involved shooting. The Chief also told the paper that some of the "toys" were tools that could potentially help offset cuts to budgets and personnel that some departments are currently facing.

If you take a look at the California Police Chiefs Association website, you can view the conference agenda. The majority of the conference, like most conferences in any industry, has a focus on tools and technology, suppliers and vendors. It serves as a great avenue for networking and finding the latest and greatest that the industry has to offer.

The agenda boasts speakers and workshops on a few current issues such as "Donning and Doffing" lawsuits, terrorism, tactical response debriefing, and other legal issues. Topics that are glaringly missing include discussions on budgets and financing in today's economic climate, managing departments that attract, train , develop, and retain quality personnel, just to name a couple of relevant, current needs in the Law Enforcement community. At least, those are workshops that I would hope to find if I were a chief.

I come from an average size municipal agency in Southern California. Our city is fortunate enough to be fairly well off in comparison to other cities. We enjoy a decent and fairly stable tax base with a good mix of commercial, industrial and residential. However, our agency is experiencing continuous budget reviews and cuts, slashes in overtime expenditures, programs halted or put on hold, personnel positions being frozen, and other cost cutting measures. This is reality in California and across the nation.

Perhaps instead of looking at the future of technology and tools in Law Enforcement, our chiefs convention should turn the clock back and focus on what the employees are constantly asked to do; that being to "do more with less" and how to do it in the most efficient manner while maintaining professional and quality agencies. Toys are great and often offer change for the better, but most times the best changes comes from simple, effective leadership.

The Chief was on the right track in seeking that community outreach technology, but in the mean time, this blog seems like a good start in that direction.

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