When I read the mayor explain to the public he is exchanging experience with enthusiasm in the police department, I had to read it again to make sure that is what I read. I'm not sure why I was surprised at this political satire, but I was. He is after all a politician whose daily mantra is, "It's Political." What I find extremely offensive is the manner in which he ignores the importance of the amount of experience he is forcing into retirement with the latest imposed contract, before many are ready or wanting. There seems to be a pattern here. (See post, "It's the little lies mayor" May 1, 2009)
Think for a minute what it is exactly the mayor is espousing. He is OK with a young officer, with little experience, taking the place of an experienced, dedicated, energetic police officer with 25+ years of learning the craft of law enforcement? Who is going to mentor this young officer when he/she enthusiastically races to a call; speeding through your community; failing to stop at stop signs; racing through intersections; enthusiastically trying to be first on the scene of a fight of 5-10 people? The young, enthusiastic officer promoted to detective; at the same time his young, enthusiastic supervisor is moved into Investigations; with no prior investigative experience; the two of them arrive on the scene of a stabbing and begin their investigation. The two enthusiastically gather evidence and take witness statements. Their investigation leads them to a suspect. In their zeal to close the case, the two violate Search and Seizure laws and the Constitutional Rights of the suspect. It is your son, brother, father who was stabbed and the suspect is walking free.
We all had to learn at some point in our career. Most of us learned from watching those around us with experience doing the job. We had an experienced officer tug on our ear and slow us down; point out the pitfalls of our enthusiasm and eagerness to run when we should be walking; tell us to put our gun back in the holster and use our mouth or hands; explain why a warning was just as good or sometimes better than a citation; point out the subtle human traits that if missed will result in injury or death. We learned to walk before we ran; we learned to talk rather than fight; we learned that driving safe and sane allowed you to arrive at a scene instead of racing recklessly through intersections and causing a traffic collision and not arriving at all.
Enthusiasm without experience and guidance is a danger in law enforcement. The guidance of a young, enthusiastic officer by another young, enthusiastic officer is a recipe for disaster. Throw in to this mix; first time, young, enthusiastic officers promoted to supervisor who are learning themselves how to do the job. The blind can lead the blind; so long as one of them has been blind for a period of time; learning how to navigate without sight. Two newly blind people run the risk of walking into traffic or off a cliff.
Over 100, experienced, dedicated, enthusiastic managers, supervisors, detectives and officers are leaving the San Diego Police Department between now and June 30. The average years experience each of these professional officers has is 28 years. These 100 officers are in addition to over 125 officers who have left service since July of 2008, totaling 225 (OVER 10% of the department). Law enforcement is not a job conducive to "Trial and error" or "Learning as you go." The most enthusiastic, young officer, who lacks experience is also the most dangerous when he/she does not have an experienced mentor, trainer to guide and channel that enthusiasm for law enforcement.
There is no replacement for experience in law enforcement. Those enthusiastic officers (44) the mayor is so gleefully touting as replacements for the experienced 100 he has forced to leave will not even begin to police the streets of San Diego for six months. The San Diego Police Department will field less than 1700 active, able bodied police officers on July 1, 2009, to police a city of 1.7 million people. All the enthusiasm in the world will not prevent crime from escalating if you do not know what you are doing; what you are looking for; or what you are looking at. Law enforcement is an art that is learned from experience. Lacking experience, the art is lost and crime goes unchecked. When unchecked; crime increases and people suffer.
Are you willing to accept the consequences of enthusiasm over experience?