I left police work in 1999 to pursue new endeavors. When I returned in 2007 I noticed that a few things had changed. Some people have asked, what’s been the most difficult adjustment?
Technology. Hands down.
That cavernous empty area to the right of my car radio, circa 1989, has now been populated with a comm system, an assortment of emergency light switches, buttons that operate options that I can’t talk about (or still don’t know how to use), a video camera system, a flashlight charger, a hands-free phone cradle and a printer. Lastly, there’s the touch-screen laptop computer with a desktop of programs stuffed with more data than the FBI mainframe held in 1989. It was, and is, an intimidating array.
Unfortunately, all of that police technology sometimes isn’t enough. In Federal Way, for example, it couldn’t keep an 8-year-old child safe in her home from a real boogey man and his twisted version of reality. The Amber Alert went out all right, but what good are all the radios, lights, phones, printers and computers in police cars throughout our area when no one knows where she went?So much for technology. Except…just when you’re ready to shrug off all the new gadgets and get down to “good, old fashioned police work,” technology comes through. A Target store clerk, who was the one and only hero of this nightmare, had down-loaded an Amber Alert application onto her phone. More importantly, she checked this site and later had the presence of mind to identify the kidnapper and his victim when they arrived at her store. One more piece of technology, the store security video, captured the two on film.
It would be hard to argue that this particular arrest was largely due to new technology. Regardless of whether low-tech investigative work may have eventually gotten the job done, the speed of this arrest will likely have several positive consequences: a greater likelihood of finding incriminating evidence; an increased ability for witnesses to recall faces and events; a possibility that the kidnapper’s abrupt capture may have thwarted a future crime against another innocent child.
There’s still room today for good old-fashioned police work. Still, tomorrow I think I’ll download that app–maybe you should too.