On average a cop loses his life in the line of duty every 57 hours in the U.S.A. The majority of those losses happen when the cop is in or around his vehicle. Too many of them are one-car crashes where the cop lost control. If you refuse to believe that distracted driving is the root cause, then I believe you are living in a sad fantasy land.
My goal here is to focus on improving. It is not my desire to crucify an agency, a company or anyone else for the situation in which we find ourselves. For the most part, technology training in most cop shops today is a joke. And it is a bad joke, at that. The agency and the cops would receive more value if the crew was sent to the bar at the end of the shift and the department picked up the tab.
People are losing their lives because of failed training, a/k/a: the training gap. In the last 5 years, we have lost 5 cops and 1 civilian (that we know about). As technology spreads more deeply into agencies, the number of deaths and injuries will climb - unless we take action to change this deadly course.
The proliferation of technology into the patrol car and public venues is just now emerging. Mobile computers became real factors with the advent of the wireless internet, i.e. the 3G network from AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and others. The notion of a mobile office was made possible with the creation of the wireless internet.
It is important that we recognize the realities of this new environment so that we can adjust training and policies to match.
WHERE ARE WE?
If we look back to 1960, police officers did not have radios in their cars or on their belt. They communicated with dispatch using call boxes. They were required to call in once an hour to receive any calls waiting for service. State and national systems (e.g. NCIC) did not exist until nearly 1970. Back then, a cop could only check for warrants on a subject in his/her own department.
The famous MDT (small orange screen) was in use in large agencies starting around 1980. Mobile computers which enable inquiries, display pictures, allow us to write reports, capture fingerprints, and use GPS have only been widely in use for about 5 years. Yep - just 5 years.
Technology has radically changed almost everything about cop work on the street. The rate of change is increasing. As one very wise man said, "The technology bus is rolling. You can choose to be on it or under it."
Many / most cops are more proficient with a keyboard than with a pen. They grew up with a mouse and/or a joystick in their hands. The reality of life has come to this fact: patrol officers who have a mobile computer use it more than any thing else. That includes their radio, their pen, gun, TASER, etc.
THE MOBILE COMPUTER IS THE MOST-USED TOOL FOR A PATROL OFFICER IN THE UNITED STATES TODAY.
Now, as a point of interest: check the syllabus from the basic academy where your recruits are trained. See how many classes are taught that relate to the computer. That includes keyboard skills, various software products, and equally important is the tactical impact for cops of using this technology in a public venue.
I bet that I know how many hours of instruction you will find in your local academy on computers: NONE.
For that matter, in your department's annual in-service training schedule, how much time is devoted to technology training? I see: none there, either.
WE TRAIN OUR COPS ON COMPUTERS
Yeah, sure you do. Let's go over the most common scenario: it's called train-the trainer. I will use some real-life examples based on the roll out of a computer-based traffic crash report that has happened in southeastern Michigan. It was facilitated by a consortium of over 100 agencies covering multiple counties. At their size and self-proclaimed excellence, management of this consortium should know better.