I would worry more about private
industry and government entities whose
missions are purely administrative.  When
it comes to police departments, the
absolutely marvelous capabilities of
today's computer software are still
eluding most.

Odds are, better than not, that you'll join
a police department where you'll soon
become far more proficient with any
computerized reporting system, that may
be in place, than those who are in
command.  There's a high probability that
the capabilities of your reporting system
will be significantly under utilized due to
the inability of those in command to
conceptualize the relationship between
computers and crime fighting.

A lot of police commanders would take
issue with me, and they'd trot out tons
of crime statistics -- preferably those
showing crime decreases -- to prove that
they're tracking and fighting crime.  If
you'd ask them to produce the results of
investigative uses and successes of their
computer software, you'd probably be
met with silence.

When it comes to software designed for
reporting crime, you can't, at this point,
possibly realize just how important and
potentially useful the information you
enter can be.  If you're lucky enough to
join a police department where you can
query all of that information through key
words and search terms just as you do
on Internet search engines, you'll gain a
new appreciation for the information you
collect and enter.  Unfortunately, most of
the search capabilities will be limited only
because police commanders are more
interested in numerical statistics which
have no practical relationship to the
software's potential crime fighting uses.
The biggest advantage you should
immediately realize is the time you'll save
with crime/incident reporting software.  
Aside from the actual crime/incident
report, you'll often have associated forms
and documents that need to accompany
the original report.  If you're writing all
your reports my hand, you'll spend a lot
of time copying redundant information,
i.e. names, addresses, locations, dates,
times, etc.  With software, all that
redundant information will already be
there as you complete the various
associated forms.

If you're worried about your ability to use
crime/incident reporting software,don't
be.  It's just a matter of practice.  If your
software is well programed, it won't let
you make mistakes either.
If you join a police department that views
its crime/incident reporting software with
the importance it deserves, you'll be in
for a pleasurable experience.

But...never forget this.  While the
software may save you time and ensure
more accuracy in many ways, it will never
be able to write your narrative for you.  It
can help you write a better narrative, but
you're ability to describe events and
circumstances will always be the most
important factor affecting your police
One police department, which shall
remain anonymous, had a problem with
its arrest/booking software.  In the
field/box where the arresting officer
entered his or her departmental ID
number, there was room for a five digit

The larger, primary police department
that used the system issued four digit
identifiers to its officers while some other
smaller agencies, transit police,
etc issued five digit identifiers.

The problem arose when the four digit
crowd entered their identifiers in the first
four spaces of the field/box.  The
software was programed to identify the
four digit ID's from the last four spaces.  
If the last space was left blank, the ID
could not be identified.
Now...you'd probably suggest a technical
fix.  Not so with the commanders in this
police department.  An email memo was
issued explaining the problem and
instructing, in this case, hundreds of
police officers to be sure and enter their
ID's properly...sure.

I can't knock all police commanders.  
There will always be at least one in the
upper levels of command who
understands that computer software
requires constant attention and support.  
It's just that the people who understand
the unique needs of software support
rarely have the authority to implement
that support without jumping through a
lot of hoops.
I have to laugh when I hear the experts
on civil rights moan about data mining,
and the dangers posed by police
departments having access to large
amounts of information, and the ability to
track and utilize that information through
advanced computer software.
"If you'd ask them to produce the
results of investigative uses and
successes of their computer
software, you'd probably be met
with silence." ~ Barry M. Baker

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Becoming a Police Officer
An Insider's Guide to a Career
in Law Enforcement
There are Five
Indispensable Truths
for a Successful Police
Today's police officers are
afforded the best ballistic
protection in history... and
it only gets better.
Recommended reading for
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