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25 ways policing has changed

We all are experts at change on the street, but when change happens inside the department, everyone seems to lose their mind


Think about changes that have been implemented since you’ve been on the job.


What are the biggest changes you have seen since you became a cop? Email

We all want change in our department in one form or another, but when it happens, we loathe the conversion. Most of our changes have been good – some not. All were met with resistance.

In order to truly thrive in your chosen career, it’s best to get used to the fact that there will always be change and quit fighting it. If you’re going to come with a problem, then come with a solution. You can’t have it both ways.

Let’s examine some changes to our profession over the years, and then consider a mindset change to help with our changing times. We’ve gone from...

1. Wheel guns to semi-auto pistols.
2. Hickory sticks to expandable batons.
3. Hand-written tickets to automated ticket gizmos.
4. Our word being enough to needing video evidence to vindicate us.
5. Wearing hats to not wearing them (and then back to hats again).
6. A preference for police academy candidates with military experience to requiring a college degree (and then back to looking for military experience).
7. Policy based on community-oriented policing to “broken windows theory” (and back to community oriented policing again).
8. Forming a perimeter around an active shooter and waiting for SWAT to giving active shooter training to all patrol officers (and expecting them to run into the building alone if needed).
9. Shotguns in the squad car to rifles in the squad car.
10. Carrying saps to carrying ECDs.
11. Chasing criminals to no-chase policies.
12. No ballistic vests to wearing Level III rifle plates.
13. A gum-drop rotator on the roof to an array of LEDs in a light bar.
14. Widespread public support to a deterioration in public support.
15. An almost universal reliance on radio dispatch to getting most of our calls on MDCs.
16. Being taught how do to CPR on someone else to learning how to apply a tourniquet to oneself.
17. Bullhorns for SWAT negotiations to throw phones.
18. SWAT teams in a converted bread truck to purpose-built Bearcats.
19. Hand-writing all your forms in triplicate to using computer-based reports.
20. Being judged on ‘Shock the Conscience’ standard to using the ‘Objectively Reasonable’ standard.
21. PIOs using spoken words to using social media.
22. Walking the beat to sitting in a squad.
23. 35mm cameras to digital cameras.
24. Line ups and six packs for ID-ing the bad guy to using DNA evidence.
25. Honest mistakes seen by few to honest mistakes seen by the whole world.

Think about changes that have been implemented since you’ve been on the job. If you’ve been in this career for any length of time, you’ve experienced at least half of the above changes. Which ones have you felt at the time hurt us but ended up actually helping us?

Face this fact: as times change, so does this job. The bigger tides turn for us about once a decade – sometimes in our favor and sometimes not. Embrace the good and “the suck” equally. Doing anything else is a waste of your energy.

As you go about whatever changes are coming your way, I encourage you to think about the following:

1. Public opinion will not always be for or against us. It moves.
2. The job you do today will not be the job you do next year.
3. The officer you hired this year is completely different than the one you hired three years ago.
4. Being disgruntled is a conscious decision that you make – and it’s contagious.
5. Being the best you can be every day is a conscious decision that you make – and it is also contagious.
6. Never give up on an idea because of time. Time will pass anyway.
7. The first person through the wall always gets bloodied. The first departments to embrace an unpopular change may experience the same problem.
8. The only good thing soap boxes ever did was carry soap. Make a positive change for yourself and burn yours.

This article, originally published on 09/10/2015, has been updated.

Lieutenant Paul Marik began his career working undercover straight out of the academy. He is currently a Lieutenant Commander with the Pleasant Prairie (WI) Police. Paul has been with the PPPD since 1997 and is the senior trainer for the department. He holds a B.S. and an M.B.A. He is an instructor for Firearms, Defense & Arrest Tactics, Use of Force, Honor Guard and he is a master instructor in Tactical Response and Scenarios. Paul is also a Certified Force Science Analyst. He has investigated several use-of-force situations in southeastern Wisconsin and is an active member of ILEETA.