How to Select, Test & Evaluate Officers

All fleet managers want to ensure they get the best possible vehicles and equipment for the front line officers. Gone are the days of working in a vacuum. Today, all of the manufacturers offer test vehicles complete with test equipment and test setups to gain valuable feedback from the front line officers. We want the patrol officer’s input; we need the patrol officer’s input.

However, getting feedback can be tricky, especially since we are now dealing with varying levels of “techno-absorption.” New officers were born with an iPhone in their left hand and an iPad in the other. Their technology expectations are very high. On the other hand, some senior officers have been doing just fine with the old system and there is absolutely no need to change anything.

So, when you are testing new vehicles and new high-tech equipment, it may not be the best method to put that equipment only in the hands of a senior officer who perhaps isn’t as tech savvy as the younger officers. (This is how the term Techno-Peasant was born.)

Do your senior officer’s have that “Crown Vic” mentality? The attitude where everything they evaluate is going to be biased with that notion of “I am used to my Crown Vic. This is different. I don’t like it. It is too small.” To these senior officers everything is benchmarked off the CVPI, and that may not be wrong. But let’s say you tested that same equipment with a younger officer who has grown up with a smartphone and has been driving a newer, smaller high-tech vehicle since they got his/her license.

Can someone who has used, and developed muscle memory for a CVPI over his/her entire career switch all of a sudden to the new vehicle designs and equipment ergonomics? Is it fair to evaluate a vehicle with feedback from an officer with five years left in his/her career versus someone with five years on the job? Are we building these new vehicles for the next generation of officers or the current generation of officers?

One good story from a senior officer testing the new Interceptors was the comment he left on the evaluation form. “Vehicle performed well, but I couldn’t see anything out the back or sides, the A-pillars are too big, and when I backed up, the vehicle gave off an annoying beeping noise.”

This is someone who never used a backup sensor-equipped vehicle and is used to the A-pillars in a CVPI. To meet mandated crash and rollover standards, the OEMs have no choice but to make the A, B, and C pillars bigger, wider and stronger. A younger officer driving a new car already has experienced the larger pillars and has developed muscle memory for how to adapt with shoulder checks and mirror setup.

It is a balance between older generations, comfortable in what they know, and the newer generation always looking for what’s new. The newer generation is much more likely to adapt and overcome any frustrations or obstacles associated with change in equipment as opposed to the senior officer with 20 years of muscle memory doing things one way.

Giving an officer a test vehicle for a couple of shifts probably isn’t going to produce true and accurate results. Police officers are creatures of habit and as such, we need time to adjust and compensate. To achieve better, more valuable, more accurate, more constructive feedback, consider a month or so of testing the same vehicle.

Also consider a mix of both junior and senior officers. Using the test vehicle or test equipment for a month or longer allows for this adjustment and after a level of comfort is established, the vehicles and equipment can be evaluated fairly.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Jul/Aug 2014

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