"GGTW." Everyone has their own list of local "Good Guys To Know." While it's great to have a guy on call to get the best restaurant recommendations and a killer deal on that new truck, it can be just as useful in your career of law enforcement. Police work has become a fiercely specialized field, and there is a wealth of knowledge out there to be had by anyone who knows where to look.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some people in your area that can provide invaluable assistance when you need it most. Consider this as law enforcement's very own "GGTK" list. Grab a cup of coffee with these people and see what they have to offer. You'll be surprised.
Local Deputy District Attorneys
This should be a no-brainer, but a surprising number of officers don't know the people who actually charge the cases they write. This is especially prevalent in the patrol ranks, where officers don't see their DA until the case is in front of a judge. While detectives and investigators usually speak to them more, patrol officers rarely get the chance, hence the frustration when a case is adjudicated in a less than appealing way.
Your local district attorneys are a wealth of knowledge, and can be great assets to have in your Rolodex. They can provide insight into any case, provide charging recommendations, and even help make sure your suspects get the jail time they deserve. Still, many officers overlook this crucial step in the judicial system.
Stop in and get to know your local district attorney. Work with their office on an upcoming case and get to know what they expect out of your reports. See what resources they have at their disposal. It will make your life on duty a lot easier.
What? Talk to the press? Yes, that's exactly what I'm recommending you do here. Let's face it, the local newspaper in your area wields a lot of power whether we like it or not. Instead of having the stereotypical police attitude of disgust toward the press, try to work with them on some simpler cases. This can build trust and cohesiveness for the bigger incidents to come.
Remember, the media has a job to do, too. Their job is to gather relevant information and report it. So, whenever possible, try to call your local reporter and give him or her details on a simple case that you won't mind being publicized. Consider working with them to get some crime prevention tips out to the public, or to broadcast a wanted person. These simple contacts will build a familiarity and trust with the media in your area, and will prevent an unnecessary showdown over even the simplest of incidents.
If your department is having a problem with a certain reporter, try contacting their editor or the owner of the paper to get things resolved. These tips won't always work, but most of the time they will alleviate some of the tension between your department and the media outlets in your area.
Local Task Force Members
Wherever you are, there are task forces assigned to that area. Chances are there are several for any specialty you can imagine. Most regions have a county- or statewide auto theft task force, as well as a narcotic / vice task force. These teams can be invaluable when dealing with a high-profile crime or convoluted crime scene. However, it gets even better.
Most regions also have on-call task forces specifically assigned to crime scene investigation. These teams can assist in the collection and preservation of evidence, as well as crime scene photography. Calling one of these teams ensures your crime scene will be handled in the best way possible, and frees up valuable resources for the investigation of the crime itself, instead of sitting on evidence.
Most areas also have specially trained counselors to assist with the victims of major crimes. These teams will send representatives out to assist with anything a victim needs, and they can be very valuable during the interview process. When a counselor bonds with a victim and makes him or her feel at ease, it creates a much better atmosphere for you to conduct your interview. Take full advantage of these and any other local task forces you have access to. Give them a call or drop by for a visit sometime. Most of these organizations have prepared presentations they can give at your briefing or lineup. Take them up on it.
Your Immediate Supervisor
Understanding your immediate supervisor will reap benefits in any line of work, but it is especially valuable in police work. As any officer knows, all supervisors are very different. While they will all give the company lines about teamwork and work ethics, each manager has his or her own set of priorities...and idiosyncrasies. Some supervisors stress numbers out of their officers, while others want to see detailed investigations that go well beyond the norm. Some are sticklers about reviewing reports, while others seem to streamline everything.
So, what's the easiest way to figure out your own supervisors' agenda? Talk to them about it. Sit down with your supervisor and find out what he or she expects of you, and how they want to run the ship. This meeting will accomplish two things; it will make your life easier knowing what is expected of you, and it will show your supervisor you want to be on the same page. Both are invaluable to the success of your team.
There is a wealth of knowledge in the law enforcement family. Be sure you take full advantage of the expertise of those around you, and be sure to offer the same assistance to them when they need it. Opening up the lines of communication between agencies is a win-win situation that benefits both law enforcement as a whole, and the communities we protect.