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Paul Clinton

Paul Clinton

As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.



William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.
Careers

Don't Push It

Experience will come with time.

February 20, 2009  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

I was speaking with a young officer on the phone the other day. He called rather than submitting a question to the Website. Not a problem, it was a grand conversation. He was very concerned that his first year was fleeting and he was not gaining experience. He was out of the FTO program but nothing exciting was happening. What can he do?

First and foremost you cannot push it. You cannot create calls, but rather learn and apply your skills as you mature.

Experience vs. Exposure

In this line of work, we often measure experience (chronological) by exposure (variety of real world cases). Yes, you can have several years of street experience but never draw the assignment of handling a fatality, homicide, shooting, or what have you. Then there will be some officers that either by geographical situation or blind luck catch each one of these experience-valued calls.

Who is the better off of the two? If you take the time to savor and understand the gravity of the call, then you will learn. If you are bumbling into calls without focus, matters not if you have had one or 20; you are still fumbling your way through.

What I wanted to drive home here is that when you get a call of any type, turn it into a learning experience. Most all of our calls and investigations require the same investigative quotient, that being: who, what, when, where, and why. Take time to learn on the lesser calls, for the same investigative skills will develop. Then when you find yourself on a call of more consequence, you'll have a strong grasp of the necessary skills.   

Don't Become Creative

One worry I have is the competiveness of cops. The "I arrested two DUIs last night, how many did you catch?" mentality. This rivalry can be good, but don't let it cloud an age old premise of law and fishing: You have got to catch them fair and within the laws.

Trying to push your arrests for experience can be a bad career starter. If you become known as an overzealous officer who makes shoddy cases for numbers or trumps up charges needlessly, your truth and veracity in courts can be compromised forever. We are to apply the laws fairly; we use probable cause, not possible cause! If you can't make it happen, then don't push. There are other things to learn on patrol. Get out and perform some "park, walk, and talk time" to better learn the community and get lines of human information developed.

Your experience will happen, not on your time schedule. The great gods of Copland will deal you their opportunities. It will happen, but we can't create a crime for you to investigate and clear. That is known as role play, and we are now in the real world.

Keep your patience as well. There will be dull days, and some days you will barely be able to hang on. Take your time, learn, and apply all you have learned in the academy and from your FTO. When it happens, you will perform brilliantly. Hey, you know who you are…call me when you make that case you spoke of.

Train with Meaning, Train for Life.

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