Thursday, December 29, 2011

It's Just a Numbers Game

The job is a numbers game. I know, because the end of the year is when all the numbers get tallied up. It's a busy time, and I've been busy getting my unit's numbers together to present at the beginning of the new year (just in case you are wondering why there have been no new posts in the last week).

The numbers game starts the moment you hit the streets. They expect a book (20) or more parking summonses per month per rookie, a handful of moving violations and one or two Criminal Court ( C ) summonses. Oh, and an arrest a month. Get on the sheet early kid, or you'll be hunting for that collar (arrest) as the month winds down.

As a rookie, I had a day where I wrote a book of parking summonses before meal time. There was a spot that was a ticket well of sorts - an automotive parts store without a parking lot. It had a bus stop and a fire hydrant in front of it. Both were places that you weren't allowed to park. It's not a secret. Everybody knew, they just didn't care. They paid it so little mind, they would see me standing near the bus stop sign, park right in front of me and walk into the store. It wasn't fishing in a barrel. It was the fish taking the hook in the own fins and piercing their own lips.

Easy numbers. Rookies rarely got in trouble for making or exceeding their numbers. Senior guys understood the rooks were on probation and they had to produce. If I had 2 years or more on and pulled a book of parkers in 3 hours, my locker would have found its way into the shower, upside down. Cops police themselves.

The job is always a struggle between management, that has "productivity goals" (because a quota would be against the law) and the rank and file, that tend to rebel against the idea that in addition to answering jobs, making reports, assisting EMS and whatnot, they are expected to write summonses / tickets.

What management sees as a tool to evaluate productivity, the cop sees as a turning him from his role as a police officer to one of a revenue generator. Most cops see a ticket as a way to correct a poor action by another, and in many cases would rather not issue it (although I hear things may be different in the Commonwealth of Virginia).

Still, in the end, it's just another number. Crimes, arrests, summonses issued, stop/question/frisk reports written, vertical patrols, checkpoints (and the summonses written), traffic court cases won and lost, days on patrol, days in court, days out sick, overtime earned (cash and time separately counted) - all these and more define both the department and it's employees. Heck, you are even identified by two numbers: your shield number and a six digit tax number.

You are just a number, made up of other numbers - at least, that's how it seems you are looked upon as the higher ranks look down. The higher the rank, the more you look like a number. Except for the handful of bosses that rise through the ranks, and still see their cops for what they are. Not just numbers but names.

Ah well, I need to go back to my numbers. ;)

1 comment:

  1. I've sometimes wondered what police officers think about the revenue generation aspect.

    When I was in college and lived in Flint, MI, I once worked a summer going door-to-door and checking if people had licenses for their dogs. If not, I wrote them a notice and they had to get a license and pay a fine. The goal was to raise money for the new county jail.