Who would have thought..
The shocking results of a police survey conducted in a medium sized police department in Virginia have just been published. Police surveys across the United States have increased recently in an effort to understand diminishing applicants and vacancies.
The results of the Virginia survey may have unlocked several mysteries.
The surveys are also being used to understand another troubling trend.
The survey was constructed by the Police Institute of Administrative Officers. The typical questions of rating police leadership and those qualities that tend to boost morale were omitted from this particular survey.
How the police survey was made
A committee panel was formed to build the police survey. Members were selected using strict guidelines. Each committee member had to be of the rank of Lieutenant or higher.
Educational standards required at minimum a Bachelors Degree. No on-line degrees were accepted. The Police Institute felt this type of degree was not fair to those who went to college right after high school.
The members selected for the police survey committee also could have no more than 1.3 years of uniform patrol experience. The Police Institute felt that trying to incorporate real world experience would only detract from finding a solution.
Also, members selected could have no disciplinary infractions for insubordination. The Institute was really pushing for members who would not challenge long standing procedures that had been around for decades.
The results of the police survey
The results of the survey were nothing short of shocking. The typical responses and gripes that most surveys reveal from cops were absent from this one. The cops from this survey were almost universal in their response to low morale. The cure?
And not just paperwork. More of all administrative tasks.
The cops surveyed in this department seem to break the mold and can’t get enough of report writing. Officer Danforth said, “I’ve noticed that my fellow officers love it when I take 3 hours to write a simple vandalism report”. He added, “we all know that when it comes to reports, size really does matter”.
Danforth also reminded me that his 12 page vandalism report could solve a serial murder case someday. A detective standing nearby nodded his head and asserted that Danforth was right, that it solved one once almost 40 years ago.
The officers surveyed were convinced that the citizens would also agree that 85 percent of an officers time should be spent doing paperwork and other non-cop related duties.
And it didn’t stop there.
Supervisors also concluded the same findings. Sgt. Taylor, when asked about the survey, didn’t hesitate exclaiming, “if I’m not spending 10 hours a day in an office doing reports, then I have failed”. He continued, “not only have I failed my officers, I have failed the citizens”.
Not everyone can be a cop. The mental and sometimes physical toughness required to do the job are obvious. The sheer scale and volume of writing that a cop accomplishes in his or her career is mind boggling.
The great American novelist Stephen King, several years ago, admitted as much during a candid interview. “I always secretly wanted to be a cop, until I found out how much those guys have to write!” He continued, “my puny little short story’s like “Pet Semetary” and “It “are nothing compared to what these guys write in a week…”.
And it looks like cops in Virginia don’t mind.
Many were asked on the survey what was the most exciting and important parts of their job. One would think a response of catching a bank robber, chasing down a robbery suspect, or being out on patrol preventing shootings near high schools would be at the top of the list.
And you would be wrong.
Executive police leadership was not surprised by the results at all. One Police Chief, who refused to give his name said, “if we would have known that this was the key to keeping the officers happy, we would have created even more mundane, redundant reports”.
Some officers objected to these findings by the Police Institute.
I have made many attempts to find and interview these officers that went against the findings of the Institute but it appears they have all been put on night shift.
After much friction and several back door meetings, I was allowed access, for a brief time, the survey results in there entirety. I came away feeling that the survey was fair and impartial and reflects the true feelings of the officers.
I came to this conclusion after discovering from the survey the second most beloved aspect of the officers job.