June 12, 2007
THE 'POT-LUCK' SYNDROME & AWARENESS
The pot-luck syndrome can be encountered in every profession and occupation. Retail, industrial, services and government etc... When pot-luck occurs within the law enforcement and code enforcement profession the damaging impact on a community can be long-term and far-reaching.
There are people who fill positions that, much like a flight instructor identifies a student as a 'natural pilot' , know what they are doing. There are also people who are educated or 'certified' in their position (police academy, code enforcement certification etc...doctor, lawyer etc...) who are qualified in what they are doing but lack the natural instinct to be good at what they are doing. In other words they have met and passed what a state or association has determined to be a minimal body of knowledge to be eligible for employment in a certain position. Unfortunately, there is no way to test, certify or qualify for 'common sense' or natural insticnt.
'Pot-luck' is exactly that. Who the employee, service provider, retail person, government official is and what results the client, customer or citizen is going to get.
EXAMPLE: (True Story) June 11th, 2007. I observed 3 males playing basket ball, in the dark of night in a light rain at the park behind my house. They were mouthy and using foul language but it was after-hours and raining with no children present so no big deal. Then I saw a large black Lincoln Town-Car drive across the grass ball field and pull up to the basket ball area. The 3 males approached the car and a exchange occurred. The car departed and the 3 males sat down at a covered picnic table. I then called the police and advised that they were more then likely using a substance provided by the car. The PD dispatched a car. I was listening on my radio. Pot-luck syndrome #1 occurred when the dispatcher relayed information regarding the car and the 3 subjects but no mention of the exchange. Prior to the police arrival, I observed the 3 subjects passing back and forth something that required short use of a lighter. I called the PD dispatcher again and updated this info. Pot luck syndrome #2 occurred when this info was not relayed to the police officer. I stopped watching until I saw the spot-light of the police car. The officer approached the subjects, had a short talk and left. He radioed in as all clear no report. After his departure the 3 subjects started laughing a searching the pitch black grass near the picinic table where they had tossed their 'items' upon seeing the approaching police car. I called the dispatcher again and relayed the above info. The officer returned. He asked them to leave the park which they did. He radioed in that he escorted them out of the park and they had nothing on them. The 3 subjects must have had kryptonite on them because supemans x-ray vision did not see anything on them...he did not check them or use a flash-light to check the grass behind the picnic table resulting in pot-luck syndrome # 3. The community as a whole was impacted: the reported activity was not investigated and the substance in use not located or confiscated. Had it been, one of them may have given-up the identitiy of the black lincoln town-car supplier. The dispatchers and the officer are 'certified' to do their jobs and dispatched and responded accordingly meeting a certain minimal requirement. (NOTE: In the past I have called in noise at the park and the responding officers checked IDs, looked in the trash cans, ran lic tags etc...) Who you get is the result you get...Pot-luck.
This is encountered in the code enforcement arena all the time. Often its not the officers ability but a jurisdictions mandatory following of procedure preventing creative thinking. A code officer receiving a complaint regarding a junk car is a good example. While one officer might respond and address the junk car, another might arrive and address the junk car, the broken window, the tall grass, the junk and debris also present. One might place a stop-work order at a unpermitted construction situation while the other might run lic. tags, identify persons involved, determine if they have licensing and notify state level agencies. This is encountered in the huge variety of calls that code officers handle vs. these two simple examples.
The key is to identify those individuals who know what they are doing and utilize them to train those who are simply certified to do what they are doing and elliminate the pot-luck syndrome resulting in less blight, nuisances and dangers to the public health, safety, welfare and the over-all community and its economic stability.
If the pot-luck syndrome goes on long enough the city officials and the citizens start to believe that this is the correct response and become accustomed to it as their property values ever so slowly slide downward. Or their safety slowly declines over the years. Or the retail establishments reputation slowly goes rotten. Or the service providers reputation slowly declines.
The answer is simple. Set up new detailed guidelines to follow. If responding to a complaint regarding something as simple as a cargo trailer stored in the front yard of a house. Make sure the responding code officer does not simply address the trailer violation. Run the tag of the trailer and see if it belongs to a company. is the company using the residential address. Determine if the occupant is a tenant or owner. Run bother their names through the department of Corporations and see if they own a business. Is it addressed at the house. Now the officer can abate the nuisance, bring in missing occupational licensing tax money etc...
The 'Pot-Luck' syndrome has roots in mandatory state / federal certification or licensing. it is kept out of code enforcement to some degree with the use of 'associations' enabling county and city / municipal administrators to hire the best canidate based on interviews and contact vs. a little paper that proclaims the canidate has met and passed a minimum of knowledge. Then competent staff can teach competent new-hires. N.A.C.E.O.I.