Mental and Physical Space
-An essay on Leadership
Our brains and our belts and the trunks of our cars are ONLY so big… you fucking bureaucrats… Let’s talk about the battle between real life operations and pretend land that so many people struggle with.
These issues will likely apply everywhere with field operations and desk drivers but I will be shaping this in the lens of Law Enforcement. Our computers and phones have limited storage and usage space. Our belts and pockets can only hold so many things. Our vehicle trunks only have so much space. Our brains only have so much space. This issue also will deal with economics, especially time, so keep that mental clock on the back burner about how long it would take to prepare and to train and to apply all the things that the bureaucracy wants us to use and accomplish…
When I started at my local law enforcement agency I was told to sign upwards of 300+ documents known as Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s). Some of these were one page fillers or memos; some of these were 30-40 page documents that were written in “legaleese”. Let’s give a ballpark number that it turns out to be about 5,000-10,000 pages of bullshit.
This one shouldn’t be a stretch to follow, but anybody with a fucking brain can surely realize that no way in hell can anybody possibly read, understand, and be held responsible for even a low number like 5,000 pages of bullshit.
A large majority of these SOP’s can be read by the officer at the beginning of his career, in the a/c, at a desk, or even at home (which I also have a big moral problem with). BUT even if they are all read and “memorized” than there is still the problem that the policies change literally every single day. Not every policy, but different little policies pop up in my inbox in my SOP application on my computer every single day and I have to “read and understand” them and commit them to memory. Let’s take a closer look at how this is expected to be utilized:
Let’s say I’m just starting off my shift and I’m already 10-8 (in service, ready to take 911 calls) and I’m in my patrol zone and I’ve found a nice place to park for a second. I open up an application “SOP’S” on my computer buy filling in my badge number and password to ensure that it’s really me reading our SOP’s.
Let’s say there is a 30 page policy that I have to read. I click the policy and start to read it within the program. While I’m trying to scan my environment to keep from getting killed I also have to focus and read this mind-numbing legal policy that affects people’s civil rights as well as my policy that affects me possibly getting fired, policy that under great stress I must perfectly apply.
It is VERY likely that I will have to stop reading to go handle a call for service, or deal with someone walking up to my police car, or on my own accord stop reading and drive to another call for service that my coworkers are on for me to back them up.
When I get back to the program to read my SOP’s I have been locked out …. because … TERRORISTS? MAYBE?
So I go back into the program and put in my badge number and password again. I find my document. I find where I left off. I keep reading.
Let’s say this time I DON’T get interrupted. Because of the long ass time it takes reading the SOP… I get to the bottom and there is a little box that says “Enter badge number and password”. So I enter the info (which you will remember I already put in to open the program!) #redundancy
But ALAS!!! The program sends me a pop up window that says “You have been inactive for too long and have been locked out” …. because that will stop the terrorists from reading our public record SOP’s????
So instead of pushing me off the program and having me re-sign in, it KNOWS that I’ve been inactive too long (even though I’ve been reading and scrolling this whole time) and LETS me stay inactive, and LETS me punch in my Badge Number and Password and LETS me click the “Sign” button… and fucking THEN tells me I need to re-sign in…… USING THE SAME FUCKING BADGE NUMBER AND PASSWORD THAT I JUST TRIED TO USE TO CLICK THE “SIGN” BUTTON!!!!!!
So I sign back in using my badge number and password. I find my document. I scroll to the bottom. I type in my badge number and password AGAIN and click sign.
……. but that’s not enough…..
another window pops up that says:
“by clicking ‘SIGN’ you understand that you have read, understand, and are now responsible for the information contained herein”
Now the punchline.
I did NOT read the entirety of most of these SOP’s because most of them don’t fucking apply to me. Also I was busy trying not to get killed or fired. Also was busy handling calls for service. And because it’s written in Lawyer-Speak, no, I do NOT understand most of it. And I DON’T fucking understand HOW THE FUCK I am supposed to be held responsible for that information because I can NOT possibly memorize all of that shit and have had ZERO application training. BUT if I don’t sign my documents I can have administrative action taken against me. (If I explain the process at that point, if I wanted to make waves, this article would turn into a book…)
So me, and everybody else, we all sign and click.
And our fucking bean-counters in charge of us (from our first line supervisors all the way up to our city/county council and our chief law enforcement officer or sheriff) don’t give a shit that this happens AND/OR they don’t even think about the fact that under no earthly circumstances could ANYBODY including our LEO’s possibly fucking “memorize” the entirety of our 5,000 t0 10,000 pages of bullshit policies…
First question: Who is in charge of deciding what goes on a police officer’s belt, or in his squad car trunk? …because it SURE AS SHIT isn’t the officer…..
Let’s go ahead and make the safe assumption that it’s a bunch of idiots that get paid a lot of money to sit behind desks. (Seriously… how hard is it to argue with that?!)
So these bean-counters (In the words of my good friend Angry Dave) have decided FOR ME what is important to me. Let’s begin…
Imagine the conversation…
“We really need to give these patrol officers a fire extinguisher, you know, for safety… could you imagine if they got to the scene and were unable to put out a fire? Also, this whole AED thing is a big issue lately, let’s give all of them an AED to put in their trunk (and the time factor of training and upkeep and documentation). Because reasons…right? Also, let’s make them carry a huge ass Riot Helmet just in case. And all their rain gear, if it rains. And a huge box of road flares so that they can manage a traffic crash scene. And a camera for taking evidence photos (Because most departments haven’t figured out what a “camera phone” is or how to pay for them… even though welfare recipients all have smartphones now) and let’s have them put a PRINTER in their passanger seat, or trunk, you know, to help (a printer that never fucking works right. Also let’s give them plastic heat responsive paper… so that in the fucking Florida heat their entire roll of printer paper will burn and discolor when their patrol car sits out in the street for several hours at 100+ degree temperature) …….and what else… anybody? More crap we can pile in? OH! A paper copy of ever form they fill out electronically incase their laptop crashes. Sooo at this point, why have the laptop again? And even though an ipad can do just as much AND MORE than a police computer and a car radio, let’s instead put a HUGE fucking metal box with wires hanging all out of it for a radio and siren control….. since we’ve never heard of something called an AUX cable….”
etc. etc. et-fucking-cetera…
That’s how it happens. …roughly.
Now – OUTSIDE – the board room these are two real life conversations that I’ve had with other patrol officers. And no, I didn’t instigate them lol:
- “Man I can’t fucking find ANYTHING in my trunk, it’s such a fucking mess with all this bullshit I have to keep in here THAT I WILL NEVER USE!”
- “I’d really like to have some extra body armor (or a lunch box, or this or that tool) in my trunk but I don’t know where the fuck I would put it!”
So this all ties in to this bullshit “Liability Monkey” crawling on society’s back lately, but it also ties in to the difference between people that are ADMINISTRATIVELY in charge of a bureaucracy and people that DO THE MISSION. We’ve refered to this before in several articles as Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy (wiki link).
“In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.” – wikipedia Jerry Pournelle
*THIS IS IMPORTANT:
…what I always try to tell people when I am mentoring young leaders is that when you are requiring a new procedure/policy or requiring someone to carry additional weight – during the decision making process you SHALL bring up the point that:
“GREAT! WHICH POLICY WILL WE BE DELETING – OR – WHICH PIECE OF GEAR DO THEY NO LONGER HAVE TO CARRY… TO OFFSET THIS ADDITIONAL BURDEN???????????”
You’d be surprised to see the fucking faces of some of these “Decision Makers” at the fucking audacity of the above question. Ask me how I know.
My follow up question to them (in the form of a rant) is as follows:
“Oh! You thought they had unlimited space (physical or mental)? Well in THAT case why don’t we give them a DNA lab to put in their trunk so they can solve crimes on scene! And we can give them a few psychology text books to put in their trunks and the powerpoint training certificates to go with them so they can reference those if they need it on scene. Let’s just put a folding picnic table and a chair in their trunks so that they can have impromptu interviews set up should the scene not have a chair and a desk… and you know what? Let’s throw in a big clunky computer so that when we dispatch them to a traffic light that is out we can just have them patch into the traffic light computers to solve the problem instead of waiting for someone else to come diagnose it…?
Then they say “Well cops aren’t electricians” and I say “Well they aren’t fucking doctors and they aren’t fucking firefighters and you seem to think we can keep adding additional medical and fire responsibilities on to them both by way of policy they have to memorize and apply as well as gear to fucking carry”.
And the conversation usually take a turn where I say “Excuse me, ‘Sir’, but when was the last time the FireFighters were ordered to carry around handcuffs and ordered to respond to the scene of a fight to beat me there and provide a ‘public service’ because you seem to thing that police are fucking magical fucking unicorn versions of ‘fix-all-public-servants’ who do other people’s specialty jobs but those other public servants don’t do our jobs….”
Well…… I often enjoy a good rant, and I feel that hopefully I beat this horse to death. A few examples for you to keep in your back pocket that help explain the fucking bullshit that the operators have to deal with because of their command. And this obviously will apply to more than just LEO’s, anywhere you have a bureaucracy and a separation of your command from the people that perform the mission….
This one is another huge reason I will not be staying in Law Enforcement for an entire career. I’ve had fun for about 10+ years but I’d be much much more happy to train civilians (including off duty military and LE) on how to operate better.
Thanks so much for spending your time here. It is a huge help if you’d share this with your friends who you think would enjoy and benefit from this, and you can ALWAYS drop us a line on our contact page and tell us what you think!