For me, it began in the heat of July 2, 1971, when we reported to the academy to begin the transformation from civilian to peace officer. The military veterans in our class enjoyed a marginal advantage over the non-veterans, an advantage that was soon negated by a training staff that very quickly exacted uniformity among us. It was a fascinating introduction into the intracacies of police science, technique and equipment. We were clueless as to the tremendous advancements that we would see over the next 25-35 years……advancements eclipsed by the pace of technology today. The game has changed……our officers today are better equipped, educated, trained, and efficient. It is difficult to imagine what today’s officers will see in their careers. This technical evolution continues, however; the core strength of policing is still the individual officer and his or her understanding of human nature. Today’s technology enhances and facilitates the job our centurions do today but does not replace the human interaction that is the genesis of every police action.
My daughter is a state trooper. I am no longer relevant in her professional world, and that is how it should be. When I look into her boat or Patrol vehicle, my limitations slap me coldly and quickly into reality. The communication capability and unbelievably quick response of data from multiple sources is staggering. She is a marine officer, a demanding and exacting specialization. Within her field of expertise, she is a sub-specialist, with an aptitude for child advocacy and the interviewing process that is central to the business of juvenile involved crime. She is appropriately cynical……..experienced officers know exactly what this means. Perfection in this career choice is virtually non-existent, however; I have watched her interview folks in the course of her business, and she is very perceptive. She is opinionated but restrained. ( I have never been able to master the restrained part.) She understands the delicate balance between professional and family obligation, and can dance between the demands of both with aplomb. She is transitioning nicely into the world of supervision. She is one of the new centurions……….
The expectations we have for our police professionals today constantly push the envelope. This is not a turnkey business, where rattling a few doors in the retail district will suffice on a slow night. A radio communication requesting information relative to a license plate has been replaced by scanners on the top of cruisers that can electronically scan license plates as you drive by them in a parking lot. Within minutes, we can check a fingerprint against an enormous, national database for the information that once took weeks to receive. Jurisdictional lines are steadily being blurred and communication between agencies is virtually instantaneous. These advances have dramatically increased the effectiveness of policing, however……
…….effective communication between the officer and a citizen, irrespective of the circumstances, is still the gold standard for measuring the successful officer. Eye to eye contact, carefully managed by today’s officer, is where it all starts.
Our debt to the New Centurions will never be fulfilled, and our expectations will only increase. I am betting they are up to the task…..