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How to Become a Millionaire Cop

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Every cop I know who is debt-free & financially-healthy has taken this same path. More than a few are millionaires. Here are the concepts: 1. The Pension. You give up 10% of your base pay every year. Upon retirement, you get ~75% of your salary for the rest of your life.* (This is mandatory in most places. You automatically contribute.) 2. The 457(b) Program. Invest additionally up to $20,500/yr* pre-tax into a retirement account . Contribute as early as & as much as you can. You'll never miss it. Pick an aggressive strategy. When you retire, you won't even need your pension! 3. The Overtime. Work your ass off in your 20s. Exploit the overtime before you have a family. (Your peers will be calling in "sick" on the weekends. Take advantage of their work ethic.) The padded paychecks make the 457 contributions that much easier. But spend wisely. 4. The Budget. Don't buy the new pickup truck, or the boat, or the ATV. At least not right away. Save up for the

Skate to Where the Puck is Going

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May 2013. Police Officers, with the drainage culvert behind them. Fall 2013. Heavy rains had turned the normal trickle in the culvert into a raging current. A dog in the park slid down the grassy slope into the swift moving water. Before his owner could make sense of what was going on, the dog got sucked into the water-filled underground pipe! Another park patron called 911. Several beat cops responded to the call. I happened to know where that sewer pipe flowed downstream. It lead to a small retention pond a couple neighborhoods over, then went back underground to traverse the expressway. Simply, I knew where the dog was going. And I went there. Not to where his owner was still panicking. Before we knew it, “Sammy” was reunited with his owner! ** This story has lessons of anticipation & prediction. “ I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been. ”  ~ Wayne Gretzky  In policing, we respond to plenty of “moving” emergencies — running suspects, car chases, offen

Police Drones: Fighting The Urge to Manage From Afar

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Drone use is exploding in American law enforcement. Especially programs that push out “Drones as First Responders” (DFR) — where sUAS are put up to scout locations before cops on the ground ever enter the area. But what I’m going to discuss below also applies to all remote-controlled tactical searches or surveillance. Most, if not all, drones are capable of sending live-stream video to command posts, Real Time Crime Centers (RTCC), Joint Ops Centers, or ground units. Pretty neat, huh? You can imagine the huge wall of screens, right? Let me tell you the downside here: With this sort of immediate feedback being shared to off-scene commanders, it has the potential tendency for those bosses to over-exert their command-and-control on operators in the field. DFR & RTCC programs both run the risk of doing such a great job at collecting information that commanders may feel a need, desire, or responsibility to (micro-)manage from afar. We need to balance this awesome technology that keeps e

Police Real-Time Crime Centers: Challenges in Sharing the Collected Information

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Real-Time Crime Centers are “the shiny new thing” in policing. RTCCs are hubs of time-sensitive information. They receive data & alerts from all sorts of sources — license plate readers, surveillance cameras, proximity alarms, gunfire detection systems… Imagine a 911 call going to a dispatcher who then broadcasts an emergency on the police radio. While cops are responding via squad cars, analysts or cops in RTCCs may be checking area traffic or surveillance cameras to better inform those in the field of what’s happened or is happening. In real time. A picture is worth a thousand words, right?? Like an image of a shooter’s clothes. Or a drivers license photo of a missing elderly person? Or a screenshot of a fleeing offender’s car? Or an overhead map? A challenge is in how to securely convey this information to first responders. Do your Computer Aided Dispatch Systems (CADS) or squad car computers allow for sending & receiving photos? What about if you assign out mobile photos or

Social Network Analysis: Using It On The Inside

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  I got into Social Network Analysis with the intention to disrupt Chicago street gang crime. While it certainly helped us lock up bad guys, I soon starting applying the concepts INWARDLY — within police teams!! It gave me a bit of insight into our internal networks — We started to see how information flowed within teams & between individual police officers. And I saw chokepoints where information got clogged. I learned who enjoyed being the bureaucratic Middle Man. (I think it’s a severe personality flaw, but that’s for another discussion!) It became more apparent who the real influencers were. (No big surprise: It had little to do with rank & title.) I recognized being an unnecessary pass-through, & am more purposeful in removing myself as such, & connecting people directly with each other. We sought out communications platforms so teams & groups would be less fractured & more connected. As Valdis Krebs calls it, it’s about better understanding the networked

Foul Balls & OODA Loops

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Last week, I caught a foul ball at a Spring Training baseball game.  OK...not on the fly, and not quite off the first bounce. But I grabbed it before it came to a rolling stop. That still counts, right?  *** Before the baseball game started, I turned to my kids and told them we were in Foul Ball Territory -- the sections in the stands where batted foul balls were likely to land. And be caught by fans!  How did I know this? Or less arrogantly: What made me believe this? Because I've watched enough baseball games to know where a high percentage of foul balls land. It's a pattern of batted ball behavior. Garnered from decades of experience from playing, watching, and attending games. Where we at the epicenter of Foul Ball Territory ? I'm not sure. But we could (dis)prove it.  What if we had the data to plot against the stadium seating chart? We could feasibly create a heat-map of where foul balls landed.  *** Professional sports is filled with data. Here are a few examples, wi

A Wild Start to My 25th Year in Policing

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Today, I start my 25th year as a cop. Just finished up a crazy night with the Chicago Vehicular Hijacking Task Force. It’s basically working ground zero for our nation’s struggle with inner city violent crime. It’s the type of work that I’ll tell my grandkids about some day. (And they won’t believe it.) We responded to a “ 10-1 ” (officer needs emergency assistance), for “ shots fired at the police. ” We get on scene & learn it was connected to a carjacked SUV that my partners & I were actively tracking that exact moment! /gulp When that call goes out over the radio, EVERYONE goes. And when you realize everyone is OK — you remember the brother & sisterhood this career brings. From guys & gals you’ve never met before. Racing to help. It’s like nothing else. If you let it, the feeling can overwhelm you. When I finally lay my head down tonight, I just might let it. Through it all, it truly is the best job in the world. And I get to do it everyday. For at least a few more y

Why I Like The Term "Mindset"

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There seems to be a growing disdain for the term mindset.  At least as evidenced by my highly anecdotal, biased, & limited LinkedIn feed. But I like the  mindset word.  I first got introduced to the concept of mindset through Carol Dweck's book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success .  In her book are two (2) opposing approaches to learning or self-awareness:   Fixed vs Growth.  These are the two (2) mindsets described by Dr Dweck. Yes, I'm sure someone is going to attack my over-simplification! While I find Dweck's theory to be logical and coherent, I haven't been sold 100% on her claims.  I venture to argue that most folks in the cognitive research world, when they hear mindset,  begin imaging a similar dichotomy between Dweck's Fixed & Growth Mindsets, as depicted in the infographic above. But I ask that we look beyond what Dweck promotes with regards to mindset. What if we looked at mindset as the collective mental models, thinking models , mental abst

Enemies of Agility

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  I was in a friendly game of poker with some dads in the neighborhood. I observed that some of them tended to stay in each hand longer than conventional wisdom suggests. I hadn't drank enough bourbon whiskey to keep me from thinking about agility in decision-making.  Here are some thoughts about enemies of agility, many overlapping, that I hope my poker competitors never read. MOMENTUM.  This may be the greatest enemy of agility. This is a reliance on the things that have gotten you to where you currently are. And thinking those same things will get you even further. You've gotta be able to stop before you can pivot.  COMMITMENT.  This is when you're so invested already, you can't possibly cut your losses. So you keep investing more into a losing endeavor.  In poker, the term is "pot-committed," referring to the inability to fold your hand.  EMOTION. We've all known people who identify themselves with a work project or hobby. This emotional attachment ke

Consolidation is the Future of Crime & Intel Analysis

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DuCOMM, in DuPage County Illinois For decades, small and mid-side public safety agencies have been consolidating their communications centers. The costs (financial and other) associated with maintaining technology and staffing 911 call-takers and dispatchers have driven police and fire departments to share the burdens. This is a clear example of economies of scale . Most simply, the overhead costs are spread out across multiple jurisdictions. The financial advantages are so obvious that some governing bodies have mandated such consolidation. As a police officer who works under a consolidated communications system, and who has also worked under an in-house program (where each city maintains their own isolated 911 dispatch center), I attest the quality of a consolidated system is significantly higher. This has little to do with the quality of the people, but rather the efficiencies of the  system that includes the people. It's a system where workload is (or can be) redistributed, w