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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.

Policing Fads

It might seem difficult to know what methods to follow when they keep changing the game.

July 06, 2010  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

I had a younger officer ask me the other day what era of policing did I enjoy the most? Confused, I inquired what he meant by that statement. I'm not that old am I?

This officer had listened to several of his academy instructors, senior officers, and myself speak of different "eras" and things that happened "back in the day" while training and he wanted some clarification as to what it all means. It seems we as trainers need to rethink our methods to properly communicate the important lessons learned in law enforcement throughout the years.

Policing du Jour

During my career I have witnessed the professional model, which transformed into the community policing/problem-solving model, which turned into Comp-stat policing, and then into counter-terrorism policing. One year we were performing park, walk, and talk to get to know our citizens and the next we were looking for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) under every rock. Years ago we had gangs as the focus, then terrorists, and now back to gangs; it is déjà vu all over again to quote the great Yogi Berra.

From the outside it appears we went through fads, latching onto the police flavor of the month or the topic du jour. What is important to you as young officers is understanding that we learned what we were doing wrong and made nearly battlefield adjustments to make us work and perform more efficiently. When your FTO speaks of elements of the job that are brought from a previous era, it applied then and will often apply today.

Unfortunately, what we as veterans do not do enough is explain what precipitated the need for the new era or change in how we did business.

The most important thing for a new officer to gain from this discussion is that your FTO, academy staff, and commanders have seen vast changes in police work in their careers. Learn as much as you can from them and their experiences - both good and bad - about why we now do what we do.

So what era are you in? I think the 21st Century policing is the most exciting for we are making such headway in what we are doing.

The Force is With You

Just in the area of use of force, we have made great strides. I came on the job with a revolver, a sap, and can of Mace. Now, we have auto pistols, OC spray, electronic control devices, and collapsible batons; add to that advanced training in tactical talking and defensive tactics.

Law enforcement has come a long way. Don't get bogged down in contemplating all of the different eras unless you are writing an historical perspective. What you need to do is know that you have the most trained group around you in the history of the world. They will teach you what they know from their journey, and this will make your journey better. You, the recruits of today, are reaping the benefits of the wisdom gained through several generational transitions. There is no better time to be where you are. Your future looks bright to me. Drive on!

Train hard today. You are tomorrow's leaders.

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