Monday, November 8, 2010

Demise of cursive

A couple weeks ago, I was the entertainment for the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Face the Chamber.  I’m normally invited once a year, when the list of more interesting topics has been exhausted.  It is an event I always look forward to, as the room at the Lincoln Country Club is always filled with movers and shakers, opinion leaders and muckity mucks. 

My topic this year was the changing paradigm in policing, as we move away from the style of policing that has dominated the past 80 years: patrol.  Patrol, in modern police parlance, is a system of delivering police service that relies upon citizens using telephones to call the police, the police being radio dispatched to respond to these calls.  In between these calls, patrol involves driving around aimlessly burning fossil fuel waiting for the next call.

I explained to the Chamber why I believe this era of policing is rapidly drawing to a close, and I told them about the style of policing that I think will replace it.  In making my point, I asked the audience to think about three things that have changed in the very recent past.  The change has been remarkable, and we hardly even notice until we think about it. 

First, personal navigation.  A few years ago, your local Phillips 66 station gave out complimentary road maps. That’s how you found your way to Duluth or Joplin.  Folding the map back up was an exercise in the art of Origami, and would confound most 30 year olds today.  Personal navigation has been transformed by the Garmin, the GPS-enabled cell phone, the on-board navigation system, and by MapQuest, Google Maps, and Yahoo Maps. 

Second, digital photography.  I can barely remember the Photomat.  It wasn’t that long ago that the back counter at Walgreen’s was lined with envelopes of prints returned from film processing.  When we opened our new police headquarters in 2000, it had a nicely-equipped darkroom—which has never been used and today is a storage room.  The world of photography shifted beneath our feet, and it did so incredibly quickly.

Third, handwriting.  Not long ago, we gave very little children very large pencils (what’s the deal with that?) and politically incorrect Chief tablets upon which to practice their penmanship.  By third grade, they were learning cursive.  When is the last time you wrote anything in cursive, other than your signature?  If you’re like me, it’s been a good long while.  I can no longer write in cursive without an incredible effort, and Mrs. Hogan would scowl at the scrawl I produce as an adult.  The demise of cursive, however, has hardly brought about the fall of western civilization.

I can think of many more examples, but the point is this:  change happens.  It happens radically or subtlety, gradually or quickly, but it is an inexorable.  He who adapts to change thrives.  He who resists change withers. 


JIM J said...

For older people, change is out of the question. Even a new cable box causes much stress. A new freezer causes sleepless nights. And any change of the normal day is a cardiac problem for lots of older people. Wither is a bit harsh, come on Tom wheres your heart?

Steve said...

Don't be so sensitive. I'm quite sure the Big Chief writing tablets were not a slam on police chiefs (or any other chiefs for that matter). :)

By the way, they are no longer being produced, at least not the same style that we remember. You can, however, by a small, half-a**ed replica of one for 99 cents through the Internet.

Anonymous said...

New technology is great but sometimes I wonder if some of these technologies are a step backwards instead of forward. For example texting! During my teen years our telephone on the farm was still a big wooden box on the wall that had a crank you turned to ring the phone operator. Just a few science fiction writers envisioned a phone that could be carried in your pocket. A great technology indeed. However most of the young people I see using their cell phones are sending text messages. Go figure. Wouldn't it be faster just to say what you wanted to the person on the other end? The keyboard shortcuts that these texters use is showing up in our language also. A quick read of the local fish wrap gives you examples of this all the time. I wonder if this is really progress.

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

Chief-I guess I never considered the art of patrol as just driving around wasting fuel. Maybe it was my nature, or the way I was trained, but I thought proactively looking for bad stuff such as open doors, burglaries, or just a car load of kids in a silver Cavalier with loud pipes and a golf club driving through a residential neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning and stopping them was my job.

Don't get me wrong, I think your guys need to get out of the car, walk a business district, ride a bike through a park, and have a purpose behind what they do. Most importantly, they need to interact with the public.

I don't believe patrol equates to just wasting time and fuel.I think we're on the same page. It probably just revolves around planning your activities and having a purpose when you patrol. That's what the good cops already know and practice.


ARRRRG!!!! said...

Some of us are old enough to remember the Dick Tracy watch phone which is now a reality.

It's still not a cool as my watch.

Anonymous said...

Not all resist change. Some can't afford change. These new gadgets are expensive for not only the initial cost but the monthly fees to keep them running. So in other words the rich, or people who want these gadgets and not pay for their childs education will thrive, while the poor will wither.

Steve said...

I'm not so sure patrolling is any worse than sitting at the sub-station even if the officer is busy filling out reports or something. I recall reading about your concern for officers doing their reports from the car, but I think the risk is quite small around Lincoln. Any police presence is likely going to prevent someone from doing something that is bad for someboady. Cars parked in a sub-station parking lot have no effect on crime, except perhaps in the immediate vicinity (and one car would be enough).

Anonymous said...

Hi Chief! Big fan of your blog!
256's comment about interracting with the public got me thinking about something I heard the other day.

With your SRO's leaving the middle schools in December, I was shocked when I heard a rumor that LPS had offered to pay to keep the SRO's there, but the Chief refused! Any truth to the rumor?

Steve said...


Maybe the demise of cursive writing is because of your administrative privileges on this blog. I haven't seen many curse words since I've been following it.

Anonymous said...

Talking with student leaders at the University, taking notes by hand is still the most time effective way to record notes. ...and graphs and charts are way more easy to create.

Tom Casady said...


Very funny! No profanity, no cursive.


Not an accurate rumor. Actually, never negotiated price. As I explained to the Superintendent, my issue isn't the amount of revenue, my issue is that I am not increasing the number of officers at the pace of population growth.

Even if LPS was paying more money, it is my judgement that I need those officers on the street more than I need them in Middle Schools. I like having SROs in Middle Schools, but something has to give when you are adding the equivalent of the City of Auburn to your population every year, and not adding the equivalent of the Auburn Police Department.

We also discussed other alternatives that are available to LPS for dedicated security services, along with the fact that we will not abandon schools, will try to maintain a good personal relationship between our beat officers and all their schools, and will ALWAYS respond to emergencies and calls for service at schools when summoned.