I often write with a heavy dose of metaphor. This article is no exception. So for a few minutes, or however it takes for you to read this, please go along with me. Imagine for a moment that you are on a ship …
You and your family just arrived at the docks. Excitement is in the air. You are about to set sail on a weeklong cruise to beautiful ports of call. You make it through the gangplank and come on board. Immediately you are greeted by happy people in starched white uniforms of various ranks. You are guided to your cabin. There, you await your luggage, stow in in the cabin, and start exploring the ship while it’s still in your home port.
“Another three hours until we set sail,” this runs through your head as the kids want to go by the pool area. The anticipation is building.
It is 1700 hours and the ship is in motion with three long horn blasts. It skillfully navigates the narrow channel until it makes it out of the cut into the wide and open ocean. The sea breeze feels wonderful. It should be an evening of excitement, fun, and adventure. It’s time to go back to the cabin, hit the rain locker, get dressed, and get ready for a great dinner and more exploring.
Walking through the halls on the various decks throughout the ship, you see even more crew dressed sharply in their white uniforms. One of the nights, soon, you will even meet the captain and have dinner with him …
The crew has everything well in hand. No concerns at all. Everyone is smiling and happy.
The Engine Room
Now make your way to areas of the ship, probably near the stern, take an elevator to the lowest accessible deck, and then find some more stairs that will lead to a very heavy water-tight door. I’m not suggesting you investigate any further, but, if you did, you’d find a series of metal steps that ultimately would take you right to the bottom of the ship. If you continued as far astern as you could go, you’d be at the propeller shaft. You’re in the engine room.
It’s loud. It’s hot. The workers are sweaty. They’re gritty. The oilers, the wipers, third, second, and first engineer are taking shifts and following the instructions that the chief engineer put forth.
All the dials on all the gauges are dizzying. The engine room is a beehive of activity. But none of the happy passengers aboard, just feet above the engine room, have no idea just exactly what is going on beneath the surface of the sea. Yet, if anything is to go wrong, if the ship is to stop dead in the water, if power is lost, it will because of something that took place in the engine room. The engine room is what drives a successful cruise experience.
The PD’s Engine Room
Telecommunications is the proverbial “engine room” of all police departments. They are the life-line for the units out on patrol 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The telecommunication workers are the unsung heroes of law enforcement much like the engine room crew are the unsung heroes of a successful cruise experience.
Telecommunicators are relegated to their “engine room,” never quite seeing the festive passengers who loudly laugh, celebrate, and indulge not too far from where they sweat and toil.
If the police departments’ telecommunications sections are not up to the task, then the ship doesn’t cut through the water as it should. Obviously, the issues are far more reaching and dangerous than a ship drifting with the tide. Police officers and others can be killed. It’s truly that important.
April is Police Telecommunications Month. All of law enforcement should visit the proverbial engine room. Embrace what they do. These true professionals who have every law enforcement professional’s back. We must salute them in April and each of the other eleven months that bring us back again through March.
I have had the honor and pleasure of overseeing the Miami Police Department’s Communication section in 2008 and 2009. It’s an experience that I have never forgotten. What a wonderful and dedicated group of people.