My grammar doesn’t need help. Bob Dylan wrote that classic song in 1964 about the times a-changin’. I’m just repeating it for my message this month.
I want to share a conversation I had with a much older, retired officer about 20 years ago. I wish I could remember his name or even his department, but I’ll never forget the conversation. He talked about the day walkies were being implemented in his agency sometime in the 1960s. Who knows, maybe Dylan wrote that song for the two-way portables.
I’ll never forget the chat because you could have pushed fast forward on the conversation and inserted any of our “newer” gear and policies used in modern policing: GPS, body cams, Tasers, licensing, dashcams, etc.
I love the old-school stories, and this was a gem. “It was a bunch of bulls—. You think I wanted to be told where to go my entire shift?” he told me. “Some idiot behind a desk isn’t going to tell me where to go. We knew how to take care of ourselves, we don’t need to call anybody else for help. You aren’t adding that brick to my belt.”
He also quipped that most of those walkies somehow didn’t come back to HQ the following morning.
“I don’t remember. I think that some guys must have accidently lost them that night,” he added.
Good answer, sir. Bob Dylan nailed it for those officers that night. For the times they are a-changin’.
Can you imagine leaving your station in 2023 without a walkie? Can you imagine that the only communication to HQ was through a telephone booth or a call box when YOU called them?
Detroit set up the first police radio system in 1928. It was a one-way-only system, transmitting only to the cars. I’m sure those one-way radios went over as well as the walkies did in the ‘60s. The FCC gave Detroit a license and named it KOP. But to comply with FCC rules at the time, they had to transmit music between calls and make it publicly accessible.
Our very own Bayonne PD was the first police agency to implement two-way police radios in 1933. I’m sure the stories are lost to history, but how much “spilled” coffee do you think made it down those original units?
“Sir, it was an accident!”
Maybe that very first Brady list started one night in Bayonne in 1933.
Fast-forward to talk about dashcams. Those weren’t exactly embraced when they were gaining popularity with agencies. Does anybody remember the disarming and killing of Texas Constable Darrell Lunsford in 1991? It was caught on a dashcam that he purchased himself. He ended up recording his own ambush and cold-blooded murder. That chilling video is still used in tactical training today, and I’m sure has continued to save many lives in law enforcement. It was also used to convict his three killers.
Dashcams have saved countless jobs since they gained widespread use. They have helped convict thousands over the years and have given us a ton of content to watch on midnight shift. It’s now just another part of our daily lives.
So, what’s the point, here? Change isn’t easy, and there certainly has been a lot shoved down our throats during the past few years. Let’s face the reality: We usually need to take a hard look in the mirror when it comes to change in our field.
In a rare nod to management, somebody somewhere in Detroit decided not to call in on the call box for a few days in 1928. So they rolled out the one-way radios. Somebody else said they didn’t hear the radio in 1933 in Bayonne, so they rolled out the two-way radios. You get the point. We’ve done a pretty good job over the years of doing this to ourselves.
Is all the change good? Certainly not. But as we have done over the decades, we adapt. We’ve gotten good at that. And honestly, sometimes that change ends up working out for the best. And, yes, sometimes it doesn’t.
Regardless, the times they are a-changin’. And this is still the best job on the planet!