Challenges and Changes in Police Work

A police car in Washington, D.C.
A police car in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




Challenges and Changes in Police Work


I recommend reading the whole article. This police officer has gone through the last twenty years, some of the most turbulent years in the history of policing. His observations are enlightening and intelligent.


James Pilant


A Frontline Officer on Challenges and Changes


Entering my third decade in policing, I had an epiphany about how much my profession has changed since I learned to write reports on manual typewriters in my 1989 recruit class. Like every other industry, policing has seen such dramatic changes that what we imagine for the next 20 years is as surreal as the idea of people travelling to space on paid space shuttles was two decades ago. Two decades ago society would not have tolerated the idea of conducting business from home and having meetings as avatars in virtual environments, yet many businesses now operate this way.


Law enforcement has evolved from paper reports and filing cabinets, to body worn cameras and global positioning in a digitally connected universe. Most North Americans use smart phones that connect them immediately with information that we could not have imagined in previous decades. Police officers now must assume that an action they take in the street may be replaying in the media before they get back to the office to write a report about it.


In the 24 years of my own policing career, I’ve had a front-row seat to the changes that have occurred and have witnessed how these changes present challenges that cross every industry and  confront administrators in both the public and private sectors. Two decades ago administrators made decisions about what information to release, whereas now they must manage information that is already out there.


– See more at:!


From around the web.


From the web site, The Thin Blue Line.






On a police networking site recently, the above question sparked a mass

of interesting responses from all ranks and many from outside parties.

Here at

we are asking the same questions. We would be particularly keen to hear

from front line officers from all forces with their informed views.

Imagine you had the opportunity to have your views heard, without

recrimination, by Theresa May and Nick Herbert. We will collate the

responses and forward them to Theresa and Nick and let you know the

outcome. We will also be asking these questions on other forums such as Police Oracle and would be keen to elicit the support of police blog sites.



Overwhelming Pursuit and Massive Firepower


Forensic Reform
Forensic Reform

Overwhelming Pursuit and Massive Firepower

Feds To Investigate Cleveland Police After 137 Shots Fired In 59-Car Chase | ThinkProgress

On November 30, 2012, what began as a routine police drug patrol in Cleveland, Ohio ended in an unauthorized 59-car police chase in which 137 shots were fired and two unarmed individuals were left dead. The department-wide malfunction has prompted an investigation by the Department of Justice into the city police department’s use of excessive force and the “the adequacy of CPD’s training, supervision, and accountability mechanisms.”

In spite of a police policy that no more than 2 vehicles be involved in a chase, more than 59 vehicles joined the pursuit “without the sector supervisor’s knowledge or permission,” according to a state investigation of the incident. The chase began after a car pulled over for a turn signal violation drove away, and was later identified by several other officers driving at a high speed. Due to faltering communication, and the misimpression that the individuals were armed and fired a shot, the incident escalated until one-third of the police department had joined the chase.

Feds To Investigate Cleveland Police After 137 Shots Fired In 59-Car Chase | ThinkProgress


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Police Firing – Who Decides?

Police Firing - Who Decides?
Police Firing – Who Decides?
Police Firing – Who Decides?

Jason Silverstein: Should Citizens Have the Right to Fire a Police Officer?

Here are the facts. On September 22, 2011, Officer Richard Schoen stopped Jeanine Tracy, because she made a sudden lane change without the proper signals. She was handcuffed for disorderly conduct and driven to District Seven police station. During the ride, she cursed, spat at the car’s partition, and stomped on the backseat. When they arrived at the station, she did not get out. With his left hand, Schoen grabbed her shirt. With his right hand, he punched her repeatedly in the head. He grabbed her by the hair, dragged her out of the car, threw her on the ground, and struck her with his knee. These are the facts and we know they are facts, because there is video from the squad car’s dashboard camera.

Here’s what happened next. Schoen was fired on May 1, 2012, because he violated the department’s code of conduct. That code says a police officer must use the minimum force necessary to accomplish his or her purpose. But the story doesn’t end there. Schoen had been a police officer for nine years. He had a positive record, and only praise from superiors. Before he joined the MPD, he gave ten years of his life to military service. So, when he appealed the case to the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission, they held a two-day hearing. On December 3, the Commission reinstated him, deciding sixty days without pay was a better punishment.

Jason Silverstein: Should Citizens Have the Right to Fire a Police Officer?

Police Firing – Who Decides?

Briefly – The police department fired Schoen for excessive use of force. The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission reinstated him with a three month suspension. Then after public protests, the Commission decided that firing was more appropriate. So, who decides?

I teach criminal justice courses, and this is a fascinating piece of writing and it is an interesting if painful situation. I don’t take any pleasure from watching police officers punch handcuffed individuals. And I do understand that being cussed at by a suspect who is stomping and spitting for five minutes is going to get on my last nerve.

Should the public have influence over hiring and firing decisions concerning police officers?

The situation here was complex but I find the amount of citizen action appropriate and the commission response appropriate. However, it is easy to see where there could be situations where police were more immune to public discontent or where public opinion was allowed to influence matters of professionalism. I’d like to see some more writing long these lines.

James Pilant

From around the web –

From the web site, JSOnline (Journal Sentinel Online):

In 2009, Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Sgt. Scott Krause punched a handcuffed suspect in the face in the back of a squad car. In 2011, Milwaukee police Officer Richard Schoen did the same thing. Both incidents were captured on squad car video.

Krause was fired, convicted of a felony and served 18 months in prison.

Schoen ended up with a 60-day suspension and no criminal charges.

Amid an outcry from elected officials and members of the public, the Fire and Police Commission will meet Tuesday to review its decision to overturn Chief Edward Flynn’s firing of Schoen. But civil rights advocates continue to question the decision by the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office not to charge him in an incident they say is strikingly similar to the earlier case against Krause.

There are a few obvious differences in the cases: Krause worked for the Sheriff’s Department and struck a white male. Schoen worked for the Police Department and struck a black female.

If Schoen had been convicted of felony misconduct in public office, as Krause was, the commission would not have had the discretion to reinstate him because people convicted of felonies cannot serve as law enforcement officers in Wisconsin.

From the web site, Urban Milwaukee:

We all recognize the difficult job with which Milwaukee police officers are tasked. The City of Milwaukee spends significant taxpayer resources on ensuring the department can deliver quality, professional services. When officers get it right, we must applaud them. When officers exercise the kind of brutal disregard for regulations and human well-being displayed by Officer Schoen, we must hold them accountable. This ensures the protection of our citizens’ most basic rights, as well as the ability of the rule-abiding, vast majority of police officers to ensure residents’ safety.

And finally, from the web site, JSOnline:

The digital video recorders installed in Milwaukee Police Department squad cars are experiencing “unacceptable” rates of failure and 136 will have to be replaced at a cost of up to $900,000.

As a result, the Common Council will consider a plan to spend that money from the city’s contingency fund to replace the devices purchased in 2006 and 2007.

The disclosure comes as videos from those devices have played a critical role in at least two recent cases involving allegations of police misconduct.

In one high-profile case, Derek Williams died in July 2011 after gasping for breath and begging for help for about eight minutes in the back of a Milwaukee police squad car. The incident was recorded on the car’s digital video recorder.

An inquest into Williams’ death will be held Feb. 11.

In another case, the Fire and Police Commission voted to fire Officer Richard Schoen this week after a squad-car video showed he punched a handcuffed woman in the face. The decision was a reversal of a decision to suspend the officer for 60 days.

That video shows Jeanine Tracy stomping her feet, spitting and cursing before Schoen punches her, drags her out of the car by the hair and strikes her in the stomach with his knee after she is on the floor of the police garage.


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New York Police Hammered Occupy Wall Street Protestors

14 Specific Allegations of NYPD Brutality During Occupy Wall Street – Conor Friedersdorf – The Atlantic

Of the 14, I have selected this one for this posting. I would like all of you to read Mr. Friedersdorf’s full article.

A member of the Research Team witnessed officers arresting a protester. A number of officers took the protester to the ground, and restrained him as he lay face-first on the street. The Research Team member heard the protester cry out, and knelt down to observe the arrest. She then witnessed an officer pull back his leg and kick the protester hard in the face. Another witness also saw the incident. Efforts to obtain the badge number of the responsible officer were thwarted by police, who refused to identify the officer and then took him away in a police van.

14 Specific Allegations of NYPD Brutality During Occupy Wall Street – Conor Friedersdorf – The Atlantic



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Wichita police testing out 6 body-mounted cameras (via The Wichita Eagle)

From the article by Stan Finger –

A half-dozen Wichita police officers are testing a new body camera system that records everything the officers see and do outside their vehicles.

The field tests began two weeks ago and will continue for another two weeks, Capt. Jeff Easter said Wednesday.

“Anything that they get out of the vehicle on, they’ll record,” Easter said of the officers. “Anything is evidence. You never know what’s going to happen in front of you when you get out on the scene.”

Early results are promising.

“It’s a very good system,” Easter said. “The video quality is amazing. It’s much better than any other camera system we’ve looked at in the past.”

The system is manufactured by Taser, which is letting Wichita police try it out. The head-mounted system resembles a Bluetooth and can also be attached to an officer’s hat or eyewear.

I’m a little surprised that the police are adopting these without any fuss. I have read and directly heard about the police disabling cameras. But apparently it has become a useful tool for the officer.

I’m a little more interested in what this means for the rest of us. I recognize that the technology is available to be purchased now but it is not the same. These things kick on every time an officer exits the car. They keep all of what is seen for a year. This is no short time surveillance camera in a tie. While we are not police officers whose department is willing to spend the $5,000 a year necessary, we will eventually be the beneficiaries of the technology. Soon at a reasonable price you will be able to make a record of everything you see 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It might be useful taking college classes or at a family reunion or in large scale use changing the social fabric of the nation.

Will all Americans adapt their behavior to an utterly continuous recording of themselves by countless others? What will be the long term social effects?

In terms of business ethics, what we have here is the private becoming public. Discussions, comments and negotiations will all be easily recorded in the most informal of circumstances with the ability to keep records for years. Is there a disclosure requirement? Is there going to be an unspoken agreement not to use these in negotiation? Can they be used in court? This kind of evidence could come back to bite you as long as it exists and eventually those records will exist for the course of our lives or longer.

Will states or the federal government regulate their use? That is an important question. There is some regulation of recording phone calls. The grounds for this is that there is no consent from one of the parties. That would be a similar justification for laws on continuous viewing by personal cameras.

These things worry me. We seem as a society to do things without discussion and debate. When we do it turns every single time into a debate over personal freedom versus government regulation whether or not these are significant factors in the issue. Every subject can be classified that way but that doesn’t mean it fits into that box. Surveillance is more of an issue of what can new technology do and “what the effects are.” What are the advantages of this technology? Does it conflict with our customs and morality? What effects will it have in different areas of endeavor; medical operations, trial, sports, sex, and countless others. Once we think about the effects then we can start putting it into legal or regulatory boxes. But in current discussion the boxes come first and we never do the often subtle thinking that allows humanity to make reasonable and intelligent decisions.

James Pilant


I went to a “gadget site” on the web. I couldn’t get a price but the system ad read this way. I think you’re supposed to feel like Tom Cruise in a Mission Impossible move.

This High Quality Body Camera set is ready for Covert Operations. This complete set is all you need. At a much better and higher resolution then our lower priced Body Cam, you get what you pay for. This is the best there is. Camera is powered by the DVR unit itself so there is no stupid 9 volt batery to weight you down.

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Pepper Spray Cop’s Lament

Pepper spray Demonstration; U.S. Marine Corps ...

Image via Wikipedia

Now for the serious side of pepper spray. This is from wikipedia.

Pepper spray typically comes in canisters, which are often small enough to be carried or concealed in a pocket or purse. Pepper spray can also be bought concealed in items such as rings. There are also pepper spray projectiles available, which can be fired from a paintball gun. It has been used for years against demonstrators. Many such canisters also contain dyes, either visible or UV-reactive, to mark an attacker’s skin and/or clothing to enhance identification by police.

Pepper spray – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Lessons from the Brooklyn Groper – Falsifying Crime Reports –

This story talks about an obvious sexual assault with multiple witnesses and a video of the incident which the police have tried very hard to ignore.

They don’t want to investigate it because it will throw off their successful record of reduced rapes. The numbers are more than important than actually doing police work.

It is appalling: another police department manipulating crime data by falsifying their crime reports.  You would have thought the seriousness of that kind of manipulation in Puerto Rico would have caused other departments to become cautious but apparently not.

When crime reports are little more than a collection of self serving lies, the crime statistics they generate are meaningless nonsense.

But that nonsense has serious consequences.

It’s major factor in budget allocations. If there are few rapes reported than there is less money for that kind of enforcement and police will be diverted to other duties. The city may provide few rape kits and counseling for victims.

The media is, of course, influenced by this train of events. Salutory articles delineating the new wonderful statistics of falling numbers of rapes are published. The major and police are praised as conquering heroes. The only problem is that the rapists can operate with less impediment, their victims will multiply and the victims’ chances of any justice become more and more remote.

James Pilant

Lessons from the “Brooklyn Groper” – Violence Against Women –

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Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna says He’d Do It Again!

‘I’d do it again,’ says police commander filmed pepper spraying the faces of women at Occupy Wall Street protest

Read more:

Well, the raw courage of firing pepper spray into the faces of women safely behind a barrier and then quickly walking away once again demonstrates on the part of Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, a monumental lack of understanding of police procedures and department guidelines.

Don’t give me any nonsense about police fearing for their lives or any other crap. I’ve seen the video several times. I teach courses in criminal justice and know police procedure. You do not quell crowds by pepper spraying peaceful protestors behind barricades. That is likely to provoke the crowd which could endanger other officers. It’s exactly the opposite of what you are supposed to do. It’s difficult to come up with any other interpretation than Anthony Bologna did not like the politics of the demonstrators and misused his authority to harm them to send a message. The worse interpretation possible is that he may  have intended to incite the crowd to violence.

Two weeks loss of pay is a pretty thin penalty for this kind of action. I would go for six weeks suspension without pay.

James Pilant


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Typical academic consideration of police lying (via Allcoppedout’s Blog)

Here we discuss police lying and the legal fictions that figure so much in the language and practice of criminal justice. I like this paragraph –

My own belief is we are scared of transparency, partly because all our cupboards hide skeletons. When the ‘red witch’ placed at the heart of the hacking scandal admitted she knew her organization had paid police officers, this was seen as a blunder and admission of ‘criminality’. This is not the right approach and seems to be putting people we want to tell the truth in the same position as the police officer having to ‘game’ in the legal system.

I agree we do not value the truth so much as we value playing some strange kind of game designed to elude responsibility and honor.

James Pilant

Police lying is not best described as a “dirty little secret.”‘ For instance, police lying is no “dirtier” than the prosecutor’s encouragement or conscious use of tailored testimony2 or knowing suppression of Brady material;3 it is no more hypocritical than the wink and nod of judges who regularly pass on incredible police testimony4 and no more insincere than the demagogic politicians who decry criminality in our communities, but will not legisl … Read More

via Allcoppedout’s Blog

Most dangerous jobs aren’t what you may think (via MSNBC)

As someone who on occasion has taught criminal justice classes, one of the more difficult problems you deal with teaching is the misconceptions about police work. Everyone knows all police work. They think. After all it’s on television, dozens of movies. You could even add in a few mystery novels.

Police work is the most dangerous work you can do. There are shoot outs and constant danger.

No, there aren’t. Half of all sworn officers never pull their gun on the job for any reason whatever.

The numbers are straightforward.

Read below.

James Pilant

From MSNBC –

Miners and police officers face many dangers. In 2009, the most recent year for which we have statistics, 101 miners and 97 police officers and security guards died on the job, making for a roughly similar fatality rate of around 13 deaths per 100,000 workers.

From further down in the article.

Still, it does matter what career path you choose. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) database, the 10 most dangerous industries to work in are anywhere from six to 60 times as dangerous as the average workplace.

First on the list is fishing, as anyone who’s seen Deadliest Catch on Discovery might guess. In the last year on record, 56 fishermen died, a colossal fatality rate of 200 per 100,000 workers, or 0.2 percent. Loggers and pilots are the only other jobs that come close to being that dangerous, each with 0.006 percent annual death rates. Construction (800 deaths) and transportation and warehousing (586 deaths) registered the largest number of deaths per sector, though their occupational fatality rates hovered around 0.002 percent.