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American COP Magazine August 2012 Digital Edition - Page 14

sTREET LEVEL JOHNMORRISON hen I was a young detective in ’72, I worked for a sergeant who had “the perfect filing system.” I had been amazed at how much paper the PD spewed on me as a patrolman and detective, and stunned at the paper tsunami sergeants drowned in. Other sergeants bitched and moaned about it. Not Sergeant S. Every morning, Sergeant S. went through the pile, sorting cases out from all the other memos, announcements, department orders, complaints, changes to rules and regs, hot W The File Wars STRAIGHTTALKONSUPERVISION&LEADERSHIPONTHEFRONTLINES—THESTREETS. Paper-Pile Management irst let’s deal with your incoming paper. Do not just receive and file it all. If you do, you’ll be keeping crap you’ve no need to keep, and the rest will quickly become not only “filed,” but also “filed & forgotten.” Establish three folders: Incoming, For HiLite and Final Review. Everything goes first into Incoming. Go through it, tossing any obvious junk. Pull “immediate action required” items and handle them. Speed-read through the rest and then move them to For HiLite. Later, read all papers in that file again with a highlighter pen in hand, marking all the important points; the things you most need to remember. Put them in the Final Review file. Finally, when you go through Final Review, read only what you’ve highlighted. Now you’ve read everything you need to read in varying detail three times. You did a quick reading (Incoming), then you read and highlighted critical points (For HiLite), and then you reexamined the highlights (Final Review). You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll remember critical details. Now you can file much of that material from Final Review, into existing files and binders like agency rules and regulations, legal briefs, etc. But what about the remaining “homeless” or 14 sheets, route slips and assorted road kill. He read the title or first line of each one, rarely glancing at the rest of the document. The lower right-hand drawer of his stout wooden desk was a foot deep, and that’s where they went, unsorted. He’d cut a thumb-sized groove about 4" deep into one side of the drawer. When the sheer weight of its contents made it hard to pull the drawer out, he’d insert thumb and forefinger into the groove and pull out the top 2" of paper. The rest he put in a cardboard box and took to the incinerator at City Shops. The top 2" went back into the drawer — end of story. Sergeant S. had almost 40 years in; at any moment he could’ve got up, walked to Personnel, signed a paper and happily retired. I’m assuming that first, you don’t have that latitude, and second, like so many of your peers, paper piles threaten to suffocate you. Before you reach for the flamethrower, try this: Organizing OverWhelming PaPer Piles F time-sensitive documents? Create three sets of file folders; one set alphabetical A-Z, one set numbered 1-31 for days of the month, and one set labeled January-December. The A-Z set is for documents without logical homes in existing binders. If any one category starts dominating an A-Z folder, for example, if the maps (of parks, industrial areas, malls, housing projects, etc.) get too fat in your “M” file, make a separate MAPS folder and place it between “M” and “N.” It works as long as you keep titles simple, and review the tabs a couple times a year. The 1-31 files are pretty self-explanatory. Just be sure to check that day’s folder religiously. Make sure you give yourself enough lead-time. On a task or assignment due for action the 15th which you need 4 days of prep time, file it in the 11 folder. Day-of-week folders aren’t necessary, and don’t make sense for cops typically with weekdays off anyway. The 1-31s eliminate needless shuffling and possible loss of papers. For example, if you get or write notes on the 2nd and you don’t need to see them again until the 24th, they’re secure and out of the way, just waiting for you. Frequently, you’ll have materials extending into the next month or even months ahead, hence the need for Jan-Dec files. Just take a moment once a month to rifle through all 12. I can virtually guarantee you this system of A-Z, 1-31 and Jan-Dec will pay off big in efficiency, organization and retention of knowledge. You can rule the paper or it can rule you — your choice. Journals Times Two Y ou won’t like this, but it can save your reputation, your badge, bank account — essentially, your ass and everything attached. Keep two daily journals, recording where you went, what you did, and anything noteworthy. I’ve tried several systems and have used “Day-Timer” for years, the “Journal” size (5.5x8.5") for work and the “Pocket” (3.5x6.5") for personal business. Keep only work-related notes in one, and only personal notes in the other. Enter nothing in your work journal you wouldn’t want entered into evidence and exposed to the world at large. And be able to swear under oath there are NO professional entries in your personal journals. If you can’t see why, ask an old salt, one who’s been to more than one rodeo — and a couple of (professional) lynchings. * WWW.AMERICANCOPMAGAZINE.COM • AUGUST2012

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