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Public Safety Column

The IPSA's Public Safety Column is an opportunity for our members and corporate sponsors to provide thought leadership articles about all topics facing public safety. 

The articles we publish are not necessarily the views of the IPSA, rather they are opinions shared by each contributor.

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  • 18 Apr 2017 5:48 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    Are you thinking about a new job or promotion? Wondering about your options for a better career?

    Today’s job market requires you to set yourself apart from the competition. Experience, skills, awards and membership in professional groups are certainly worthy methods, but education is vital to gaining job consideration and respect.  

    Improved decision making

    This carries over to the area of law enforcement, as your education level can often be the determining factor in hiring and/or promotion for second-tier and management posts. In fact, “The Impact of a College-Educated Police Force: A review of the literature,” indicates police officers who have earned a college degree have better overall job performance and greater advancement opportunities than their coworkers without a degree of some kind.

    Interestingly, a 2010 research study suggests that having a college degree reduces the likelihood that officers will use force as their first option to gain compliance. The study also indicated educated officers demonstrate greater levels of creativity and problem-solving skills.

    Degree options

    Boost your education and law enforcement career with an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree in criminal justice administration. Courses in criminal justice degree programs cover topics, theories and practices that deal with law enforcement, courts, corrections, administration and more. 

    Degree programs in criminal justice provide a strong academic foundation with an exploration of current key issues in law enforcement that instill a dynamic knowledge base and skill set in students.


    Birmingham, Alabama, Police Sergeant Katrina Johnson can attest as she said her online master’s degree in criminal justice administration from Columbia Southern University led to her promotion from a precinct, evening-shift supervisor to an investigator in internal affairs. 

    “My degree has enhanced my knowledge in the field of criminal justice administration as it relates to managing personnel and problem-solving,” she added.

    However, if a degree is not part of your education plan right now, you may also want to look into certificate programs in areas that could aid your career as well. A few online certificate programs that might interest you include:

    • Project management
    • Public administration
    • Management
    • Human resource management
    • Finance

    These certificate programs are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels and feature 12 semester hours of courses and instruction.

    About Columbia Southern University

    One of the nation’s pioneer online universities, Columbia Southern University was established in 1993 to provide an alternative to the traditional university experience. CSU offers online associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees such as business administration, criminal justice, fire administration and occupational safety and health. Visit or call (877) 347-6050 to learn more.

    The IPSA has a Learning Partnership with CSU. All Members receive a 10% tuition discount on all online classes and an application fee waiver. Contact us about how to reedem. 

    Paynich, R. L., Dr. (2009, February). The Impact of a College-Educated Police Force: A review of the literature [PDF].

    Rydberg, J., & Terrill, W. (2010). The Effect of Higher Education on Police Behavior [PDF]. Sage Publications.

  • 15 Apr 2017 6:37 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    In recogntion of NPSTW 2017, the IPSA Communications Committee worked on several projects to raise awareness.

    From webinars and photos to personal stories about what it's like being the first, first responder - we invite you to read and share the stories below we received from telecommunicators around the country. 

    The thin gold line: What it’s like being a 911 call taker or dispatcher in today's climate

    What is the story behind the #IAM911 movement?

    #IAM911: An apartment fire and the calming voice in the dark

    How a dispatcher, 911 call taker took cautious steps to save a woman’s life

    Why the tough 911 calls, worst days are officer involved or when translation services are needed

    How tragedy affects 911 call takers, dispatchers

    #NPSTW Video Stories from the Field IPSA

    Webinar: Integration of Tactical Dispatch: Critical Support for Incident Commanders

    Webinar: 911 - The Critical Voice of Dispatchers/Call Takers

    In addition to the articles and webinars, we also received a number of photos of agencies celebrating NPSTW. Here are some of our favorites:

    Above: CMPD's Telecommunicator of the Year and Supervisor of the Year ceremony . Our Telecommunicator of the Year is Yessica Rodriguez and the Supervisor of the Year is Sonya Shores. Congratulations! 


    Above: The City of Troy (Alabama) recognizes the hard work of its dispatchers during the National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week Proclamation Day signing, a yearly event. 


    Above and below:  CCEMS (Texas) Communications Center rolled out the red carpet for their telecommunicators this week! 


    Below: Augusta (Georgia) Communications Center shows their NPSTW spirit from by having a Super Hero Day and Tacky Wacky Day! 

    Thank you to everyone who participated in NPSTW and sharing your stories with the IPSA. We appreciate your dedication and service to the public safety profession. 

  • 13 Apr 2017 12:00 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By J. Scott Quirarte

    “Fire as a weapon” is a bad term. A weapon is defined as being something designed or used to inflict bodily harm. When fire as a weapon is discussed, it is usually in the context of discussing terrorism and other intentional criminal acts directed at others.

    In the past few years, there has been an increase in fire at violent incidents. This is especially true regarding barricades, which more and more are ending in fire.

    In these incidents was fire used a as weapon? Was fire a means to an end? Or was it suicide by fire?

    Flaws with the terminology

    The term, fire as a weapon, is keeping first responders from getting prepared.

    The issue with policy makers using terminology like fire as a weapon, is that it is defining only one possible use of fire, and more importantly, one possible scenario. When was the last time you had an incident where fire was used as a weapon? Arson does not count because fire is being used as a tool, not a weapon.

    When was the last time fire was a result or byproduct of a criminal act? I can hypothesize that fire was not used as a weapon, but your department has likely experienced an incident in which fire was the result of some other criminal act.

    It’s very hard to convince first responders, managers and policy makers to spend the time and money to prepare for something they do not think they will encounter often. For example, if I tell your department that it needs to prepare for fire as a weapon many will ask why because a lot of first responders view terrorism as something that occurs in other jurisdictions. This is a major problem, it is limiting and not a true picture of the threat fire presents. 

    Criminal, violent acts and fire

    Fire has been and will continue to be part of violent incidents. Instead of planning for a term, lets plan for what needs to be accomplished: fire suppression in the hot and warm zone. If you don’t agree and think the term fire as a weapon is the correct term, that’s fine, just plan for it. 

    If your department can handle a large-scale fire as a weapon incident, the single-family home or apartment building will be no problem. The point here is that your department better be prepared, because this is already happening.

    Fire during a criminal or violent act is going to happen in your jurisdiction. First responders will receive a call for service that has them answering to a fire in the middle of a law enforcement incident. The scenario may be a domestic incident in which one person ignites the belongings of another, or it may be as complex as an armed person barricaded in an apartment that’s burning. 

    We must prepare for these threats. Doing nothing is not an option. Deciding whether to let the involved house or structure burn to the ground because someone is shooting may be justified, but is letting the neighbor’s house burn or putting the community at risk justifiable? How about the entire block? 

    The only way to answer these questions is if you have planned the response out in advance and, the plan has procedures for doing more than standing back. When the incident is over, the policy makers and civilians we serve are going to ask questions. Will you have an answer? Will you be able to defend your plan? 

    If your answer today is that we have never thought about it or trained for this, then you are going to have problems.

    I am not advocating for unsafe operations. I am advocating for a plan prior to the event. If you have not planned for this type of event, then you have no way to properly analyze the risk, and by default, are already operating in an unsafe manner.

    Integrated response programs

    Rescue Task Forces, and other integrated response programs, can be used for these incidents. If you have a program to provide medical care at violent incidents, you have training that will work for incidents involving fire. A warm zone is a warm zone. The same skills used by law enforcement officers to protect firefighters conducting medical care can also be used for fire suppression.

    The biggest error made regarding integrated response is that it is only thought about for large scale AS/MCI incidents. Limiting the utility of an integrated response program is a shortcoming because there’s no limit to how these programs can be used. From simply shutting off a fire alarm, to forcing a door, or throwing a ladder, law enforcement protects and fire complete a task. 

    It’s an easy transition to use integrated response skills for fire suppression.

    Fire in the hot zone

    There will be fire in the hot zone. Firefighters can’t operate in a hot zone, so any fire suppression in hot zones will need to be done by law enforcement. Again, it’s about being completely prepared versus not having a clue about how to respond during this type of scenario.

    The first objective for firefighters – after rescue – is to protect exposures. Exposure protection can be done from a distance. So, why can’t a cop do this?

    If we let the involved structure burn to the ground and protect exposures everyone wins. Now, I am not saying give cops an SCBA and step back. What I am advocating is to train and educate law enforcement, as part of the integrated response program to give them the skills to support firefighters during this type of scenario.  

    While it’s unrealistic to train and educate every cop, it is realistic to teach your SWAT team. Teach SWAT about fire behavior, how smoke is fuel, don’t break windows and to open doors. Teach SWAT how to use a hoseline to protect exposure and do some transitional attack. Practice putting a firefighter in the armored vehicle as the fire expert while cops use a hoselines from the turret. Develop methods for working together to keep the block from burning to the ground.

    We are one team. Sit down together and discuss fire suppression in the hot and warm zone. Plan now because it is coming. 

    Related Content

    Webinar: Is this scene safe?

  • 13 Apr 2017 7:48 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Kassey O’Hara, Troy (Alabama) Police Department

    I received the first of a series of calls reporting a serious motor vehicle accident. An elderly lady had a medical issue that caused her to travel over the median of a four lane highway. She struck another vehicle head on. That other vehicle was driven by a young female with her toddler in his car seat in the back. The two females were pronounced dead on arrival.

    The child was transported, air lifted to the local hospital. Unfortunately, the little boy passed away mid-flight.

    I have taken many 911 calls involving motor vehicle accidents, fatalities, incidents involving children and even calls involving people I knew personally. However, for some reason, this call distressed me in a way that I can’t explain, even now.

    The aftermath

    After we found out that the little boy had passed, I went to go on a food run. On the way, I completely broke down, as I never had before and haven’t since. I began having trouble sleeping and really considered finding another career.

    The reason that I stayed with it is, during my soul searching, I realized that for every person that we are unable to help, there are hundreds that we do. I replayed calls and transmissions, looked at dispatch and response times, and replayed the whole scenario in my mind over and over. After doing so, and speaking to some of the responders who were on the scene, it became obvious that there was nothing that anyone could have done to change the overall result.

    I find myself thinking of that day often, especially when dealing with motor vehicle accidents where children are involved. I think of that little boy and use it as my drive to keep going, to continue to do my job to the best of my ability. I like to think that their passing is being honored with every person that I help save.

    Related articles

    National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week 2017

    The thin gold line: What it’s like being a 911 call taker or dispatcher in today's climate

    What is the story behind the #IAM911 movement?

    How a dispatcher, 911 call taker took cautious steps to save a woman’s life

    Why the tough 911 calls, worst days are officer involved or when translation services are needed

    #IAM911: An apartment fire and the calming voice in the dark

  • 12 Apr 2017 8:00 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Nicole Hoover, Cypress Creek EMS, Communications Training officer

    The voice in the dark, the face that isn’t seen and the last to know the outcome, is where my story comes from.

    I took a 911 fire call that I will never forget. No different than any other fire we work in the center; call volume is high especially for an apartment fire. My partner and I took a dozens of calls for a working apartment fire, but I was stopped and kept one person on the phone during the intense call volume coming in.

    It was a male and his wife, unable to leave the apartment due to the fire. I don’t think I will ever forget him telling me that he was unable to get out because flames were outside his door. On the inside I was panicking, but I knew I had to remain calm so they knew they were in good hands. I instructed them to get into the bathroom in the bath tub. This was the safest spot at the time.

    Trapped in a fire

    I remember him telling me that he and his wife were together in the bathroom. At this point you start to make an image for yourself. A couple, scared on the phone with a stranger telling them that help was on the way, all the while they could hear and feel the fire outside their apartment walls.

    We talked and both remained calm. What do you say to someone that is trapped in their apartment while it’s on fire? I honestly couldn’t tell you the details of our conversation; we tend to block things out to cope.

    During the call, while we were waiting for the fire department to arrive on scene and make it to their apartment, the phone went dead. I lost the connection.

    Tragedy strikes

    A couple of days later while on shift I overheard people talking about the fire and that people passed away. So of course my ears tuned into the conversation. I was informed that the couple that I was on the phone with never made it out. After more information came out I was also informed that our fire marshal did a time line and smoke inhalation caused this outcome and the fire department would not have made it to them in time.

    Months later, my agency decided to use this as a training scenario, for our employees and new hires. At this point, the couple’s identity was released, and I could put a face to the voices. After people hear the recording and watch the presentation, I get asked, “how do you deal with that?”

    I know that I did everything I could for them to get help, I was their calming voice in the dark.

    Related articles

    National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week 2017

    The thin gold line: What it’s like being a 911 call taker or dispatcher in today's climate

    What is the story behind the #IAM911 movement?

    How a dispatcher, 911 call taker took cautious steps to save a woman’s life

    Why the tough 911 calls, worst days are officer involved or when translation services are needed

  • 12 Apr 2017 7:57 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Dylan Prather

    It was around 4 a.m. on Monday, April 17, 2016, when I answered a 911 call from a female.

    The very first words that I hear from her is “PUT THE GUN AWAY.” I immediately knew that I needed to act fast if I was going to save someone’s life. I had no idea what was going on, but I knew every second I was on the line counted. She needed help right away.

    Keeping the line open, text to 911

    She wasn’t answering my questions. It was just an open line –an open line, and I felt helpless. I kept reassuring her that this was 911 and that I was going to get her help. I was able to obtain a GPS ping with the cell phone, and I immediately dispatched the road deputies to the general vicinity of where the phone was located.

    I then used our communications center’s texting capabilities to make contact with her. While keeping the line open, and still listening to what was going on in the background, I used the texting system and sent the female a text message.

    During the course of our text message conversation, she was able to tell me what his name was, the weapon used, and that he was saying that he was going to kill her. These messages were only minutes apart, if not seconds. However, in these situations they seem like hours.

    The female lived in a remote area of the county, so it took the deputies awhile to arrive at the scene. While they were responding to the call, I was continually updating them on the information that was vital while simultaneously running information to see if I could determine who owned the phone number so we can see if we had previously dealt with the subject.

    Incredible vigilance

    I wasn’t going to jeopardize her life by calling her back, but instead I just maintained an open line and continued to communicate with her over text message. The officers arrived a short time later and took the suspect into custody.

    In the days following this incident, the media swarmed our communications center and this story was used as a promotional to promote the text-to-911 system.

    I am thankful that I was able to save a life that day, and this is something that telecommunicators do every single day. We must recognize their hard work in safeguarding the community.

    Related articles

    National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week 2017

    The thin gold line: What it’s like being a 911 call taker or dispatcher in today's climate

    What is the story behind the #IAM911 movement?

    Why the tough 911 calls, worst days are officer involved or when translation services are needed

  • 11 Apr 2017 11:02 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    When considering the design, development and deployment of police technology there are several factors to consider — funds being a big one. There is no doubt police workload has increased fivefold since the 1960’s with resources not keeping pace and funding falling to the wayside.  

    Technology funding has become a large problem many departments face. Thirty-five years ago, the only “technology” needed was a police radio and the location of the nearest pay phone. Today, police radios scan thirty-plus channels and officers typically have in-car video cameras, traffic monitoring radar units, access to automatic license plate recognition (ALPR), in-car laptops or tablets with Internet access, body-worn cameras, department-issued cellphones and, of course, personal cellphones. 

    Police are being tasked with increasingly complicated challenges as the state of technology evolves, but today’s most effective agencies aren’t exactly lacking in technical fortitude.

    Take the following questionnaire to gain insight into the challenges many police departments are facing today:

    1. Are you uncertain on how to implement a new technology solution to your department?
    2. Do you lack the resources to train your department on newly rolled out IT equipment?
    3. Do you long for a solutions integrator who truly understands the challenges within your workforce?
    4. Are you tired of waiting weeks for a replacement device when something breaks?
    5. Do you lack the space to stock and store equipment?
    6. Does your department struggle to support the latest and greatest technology?
    7. Do you always know where your product is?
    8. Is your agency’s online capacity its greatest struggle?
    9. Does your IT department leave field staff ‘out in the cold’?
    10. Are you tired of managing multiple vendors?
    11. Do you struggle to keep track of your department’s technology assets?
    12. Does your department have an issue with a device and not know where to turn?
    13. Are you uncertain of what our warranty covers?
    14. Are you exhausted of constantly needing replacement batteries for your devices?
    15. As you bring in more advanced technology into your department, are your officers struggling to keep up?
    16. Do you need help with installation and training for your department or agency?

    Did you answer yes to many of the common challenges police departments are facing today? If so, you’re not alone. 

    Group Mobile, an IPSA Supporter, understands the challenges departments face when selecting, evaluating and implementing the right mobile technology deployment for law enforcement. Our pledge to the public sector — coupled with our years of experience on how to define and design, install, train, and maintain the most reliable, best-in-class, long-term technological solutions — make us an industry leader among public safety agencies nationwide. 

    Our specialized professional services directed towards the public sector include:

    • Product advising
    • Installation
    • Tests and evaluations
    • Storage solution setup
    • Networking
    • Mobile data communication and integration
    • Full scale deployments
    • Project management
    • User training
    • Inventory management

    The experts at Group Mobile work with police departments nationwide and will assist you in determining the best equipment for your application and budget. 

    If your agency is strapped for funding, we can help with that too. Group Mobile iCare sets us apart from any other reseller in the rugged computing market. For law enforcement agencies struggling to keep pace with today’s technology because of no capital, we developed a revolutionary solution called TaaS or Technology as a Subscription. 

    We will work with you to create a bundled solution that fits inside your budget requirements — in turn, your department will be in line with the most effective agencies today with the most up to date technology with hassle free management, now that is peace of mind. Contact one of our public safety technology experts today.

    Related article

    Rugged Laptop or Rugged Tablet — How to Decide on the Right Mobile Computer for Law Enforcement

  • 10 Apr 2017 7:28 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Alexis Craig

    Working in police dispatch in a major metro area, it often feels like everyone wants a piece of you and the ones you keep for yourself are running at a premium. It’s only eight to ten hours, but sometimes it can feel like days.

    My favorite days, the really good days, were the busy ones. The days where we were going from the moment we sat down until the moment we handed it off to the next shift. The pace makes the day go by fast, plus my partners and I could entertain each other with snarky between-radio transmission commentary. We were never short on commentary.

    Back to back robbery, homicide and car chases could make for a day where you feared blinking lest some other catastrophe burst forth, but it made the time pass quickly as you worked to get ahead of the criminal and support the officers at the same time. It’s like chess with real people instead of pieces.

    The good days pass pretty quickly, some with great stories, most quickly fading into the aggregate of memory entitled ‘working at Communications’.  The really bad days, though, tend to leave scars that you carry even after you’ve left the profession.

    A large number of bad days (that aren’t officer-involved incidents) involve translation, because I can’t imagine being that terrified and not able to speak the language of the people trying to help. It’s heartbreaking to ponder.

    Story of a 7-year-old Spanish boy

    I had a little boy call in one night on the midnight shift, while I was still in Dispatch before I moved over to Control. He was seven years old, hiding in a closet to get away from what sounded like Armageddon just beyond the door. It was his dad beating the brakes off his mom. He told me all about it (in Spanish), how his dad had been drinking all day, how scared he was, how much he hated his dad when he drank and how worried he was about his mom. We were on the phone for what felt like hours, but was about five minutes, and I have never been so glad to hear officers kick in a door. I often wonder what happened to that kid and his mom.

    French speaking woman from Somalia

    A woman Somalia called 911 terrified because she was in her house with her kids, her husband at work driving a taxi and someone was breaking into her house. She’d just come to this country, and now she’s in a situation where language is a barrier to help. We made it work, and the suspect got away, but I was upset for her, because what if someone who spoke French hadn’t been working, what would she have done then? (this is before the implementation of the language line)

    Some of the worst days

    The worst days involve your friends and family.

    The worst days involve hugging loved ones, wives and mommas, apologizing for loss and feeling responsible for it in your own way. You’re more than likely not, but that’s not how it feels.

    The worst days involve sitting with your friends at the hospital, waiting on news of whether it’ll be a long road to recovery or a short one to the funeral home. Sitting there waiting is not something I did well before this job, and I haven’t gotten any better about it since.

    This job changes you. Your identity, your sense of self. You become part of something. It changes your expectations, your patience with small talk and it recalibrates your b*ll sh*t meter all the way into negative numbers. After a while, the department/agency becomes a large dysfunctional family that would make a decent prime-time sitcom with coworkers on your side of the radio and the officers on the other. It’s a good job and sometimes a hard job – it’s the best one I’ve ever had.

    Related articles

    National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week 2017

    The thin gold line: What it’s like being a 911 call taker or dispatcher in today's climate

    What is the story behind the #IAM911 movement?

    Author bio

    Alexis Craig began as a 911 dispatcher at the Marion County (Indiana) Sheriff’s Communications Center in November 2002 and became a Control Operator in 2003. She’s worked at the East District radio channel for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (and IPD before it) from 2003 until she joined the Cumberland Police Department as a civilian admin in 2014. Currently, she’s the office manager of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 86 in Indianapolis.

  • 05 Apr 2017 12:00 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    April 9 - 15 is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week and we want to see & hear how your agency is celebrating! 

    Request for photos

    If you are celebrating NPSTW, formally or informally, send us your photos. Be sure to include the following: 

    1. Send photos to
    2. Identify Agency Name, City, State in photo 
    3. Twitter handle if you or your agency has one (optional)

    Share a story about a recent, memorable call

    1. Use Microsoft Word
    2. Include first name, last name, agency name, city, state
    3. Provide a working title
    4. No word limit (long or short stories)
    5. Send story to 

    Training opportunity on April 11

    The IPSA will be hosting a Webinar on Tuesday, April 11 @ 12pm Arizona time on the Integration of Tactical Dispatch: Critical Support for Incident Commander and we encourage you to register for it soon as space is filling up! 

    Questions? Contact us 

  • 05 Apr 2017 6:30 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Dr. Jim DeLung

    Generational research has an abundant footprint on classic and contemporary literature. A generation is defined as a group of people who have similar life experiences concurrently developed due to historical events (Mannheim, 1936; Massey, 2006). These similar life experiences affect an individual’s worldview both personally and professionally. Individual anomalies may exist within a generation, but this research focused on generational commonalities. Members of a generational cohort are generally bound together by historical world events that create a context for life, and this context appears to be carried and replicated through life.

    Derived from private sector research

    The private sector has more generational literature than the public sector, and policing has nearly none.  This research combined generational literature of private industries with many civilian public sectors to include military and correctional references similar to policing.  Generational divides appear to exist in all American workplaces, yet policing is different because of its culture (Cappitelli, 2014).

    The four generations

    The four major generations currently in the American public safety workforce include:

    1. Traditionalists, born prior to 1946.
    2. Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964
    3. Generation X, born 1965-1979
    4. Generation Y or Millennials, born after 1980. 

    Often the literature has slightly differing demarcations for the generational cohorts, but the above dates are generally accepted (Cogin, 2012; Kaifi, Nafei, Khanfar, & Kaifi, 2012; and Lester, Standifer, Schultz, & Windsor, 2012). 

    Generational diversity in the workplace is not a new subject, but it has become a highly-investigated topic in contemporary peer-reviewed and popular media literature (Lancaster & Stillman, 2010). 

    Beliefs and values

    Each generation possesses and exhibits unique beliefs and values in the workplace developed from their shared life experiences (Lester et al., 2012) through the history of the time. These unique beliefs and values may positively or negatively affect the workplace through lack of understanding or communication.  It is clear that the literature on generational differences is growing, but it is unclear if generational differences and characteristics are identifiable and generalizable across a single or multiple work industries.

    Expectations and motivators

    Literature suggests distinctive expectations and motivators exist amongst each of the diverse generations: (a) Traditionalists, (b) Baby Boomers, (c) Generation X, and (d) Millennials. Organizational decision-makers would benefit by identifying genuine generational differences through research data rather than relying on popular media literature. A legitimate research study might assist in identifying generational characteristics that organizational leaders could utilize for hiring, satisfaction and retention.

    Each generation exhibits unique strengths and weaknesses in the American public safety workforce.

    What influences these generations?

    Members of each generation are subjected and influenced by cultural, societal and family events that occurred during their formative years. The formative years are generally accepted across the literature as pre-teen through teenage years of life (Massey, 2006). 

    As individuals develop through their formative years, various historical events impact each generation differently and are displayed open or latently for a lifetime. These historical events are what usually bind an individual to a particular generational cohort.

    Generational anomalies, cuspers

    Again, anomalies may exist due to life events that differ from the general generational population. For example, generational cuspers may not fall in line with the norms and characteristics of a single generation. Individuals born somewhere near the widely-debated birth-year demarcations or within a few years of the generational split are known as cuspers. 

    Cuspers sometimes have the ability to move between two different generational cohorts due to the historical events that bind cuspers during their formative years. But, these individuals usually identify with the generation that most closely fits their underlying values and lifestyle characteristics (Hammill, 2005) identified throughout their lifetime.

    Traditionalists, born prior to 1946

    Members of the Traditionalist Generation are usually defined by the Great Depression. These individuals grew up in an era of great economic hardships and self-sacrifice. Their core values are usually a life sacrificed to an employer and conformity to the general society. Traditionalists are described as patient, loyal and they put work before play (Clare, 2009).

    Cates (2010) stated traditionalists represent over 59 million of the present-day employees in the workplace. They want to continue to make a difference in their organizations through challenging and stimulating work. Professional growth and learning for Traditionalists comes through hands on experiences, and they appear to have difficulty with the fast paced changes in technology.  Literature reveals that Traditionalists actually have a positive view of technology, but they may require more training (Cates, 2010) due to their unfamiliarity with the new and often changing technologies.

    Traditionalists work well with Millennials

    Emelo (2011) suggested members of the Traditionalist generational cohort appear to work well with patient Millennial mentors. Millennials appear to focus on their relationships with thus older generation as they explore technologies such as social networking with them. Matching Millennials with Traditionalists in law enforcement may have an immediate positive organizational impact.

    Characteristics of Traditionalists

    Traditionalist public safety employees often exude extreme loyalty, self-discipline and organizational knowledge (Cekada, 2012) to their superiors. Many in this generational cohort have retired from the workplace, but continue to value a working lifestyle through volunteer of part-time employment.  The apparent diversity of blending Traditionalists with Millennial employees in the workplace could cause collaboration and conflict which required further research through this study.

    Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964

    In contrast to the Traditionalist Generation, individuals from the Baby Boomer Generation generally grew up with drastically changing economic and political events (Dittman, 2005, as cited in Cates, 2010). 

    For example, the formative years for a Baby Boomer likely experienced the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy assassinations, as well as Watergate, increased feminism, and Woodstock (Howe & Strauss, 2007). 

    Baby Boomer work ethic

    Baby Boomer family units also moved from urban to suburban areas into homes, and for the first time families owned multiple cars. Raised by strong work-ethic parents, the almost 80 million Baby Boomers entered the workforce at a furious pace like never before in American history. To get ahead in the workforce, this competitive, hard-working generation started to work more than the standard 40 hours per week. Current literature exists with varying opinions about the positive or negative impacts of the increased work hours (Cekada, 2012) introduced and maintained by members of the Baby Boomer generational cohort.

    Today, over 76 million Baby Boomers still occupy the American workplace, and they are often found in positions of higher authority in organizations due to workplace experience and seniority. They often define work ethic as long hours and face-time. This Baby Boomer approach to vocation and their definition of work ethic are displayed in both management and followership styles (Cates, 2010). 

    Therefore, Baby Boomers are less likely to push against their superiors while spending long hours at work and away from their families.

    Baby Boomers and organizational culture

    Baby Boomers have created an organizational cultural value in the number of hours a person spends working as well as the amount of money paid for working (Cates, 2010). This face-time, butt-in-seat, at the workplace, organizational institutionalization is respected and desired by Baby Boomers, but not Millennials. 

    Baby Boomers often contrast with Millennials

    Many Baby Boomer organizational leaders complain about Millennials who do not fit the company mold, yet they themselves created them as their own children (Scheef & Thielfoldt, 2004 as cited in Cekada, 2012). This workplace leadership incongruence can often conflict with the workplace behavior and acceptance of the younger Millennial Generation employees (Simons, 2010).

    Generation X, born 1965-1979

    The work-driven, many-hours working environment implemented by Traditionalists and Baby Boomers developed the unique members of Generation X through a pseudo-rebellion against the long work hours away from the family. As a result, Gen X members became independent and adaptable employees who saw their parents’ loyalty to employers rewarded with layoffs and considerable cutbacks (Cekada, 2012). 

    The increase of divorce and moms going to work evolved into latchkey kids who helped raise their siblings autonomously. These negative formative years experiences translated into the current informal, self-reliant Generation X employees and bosses (Hammill, 2005 as cited in Cates, 2010).

    Gen Xers work environment

    The constant need for independence in the workplace, and the dislike of micromanagement comes as a result of their lonely albeit autonomous upbringing. Gen Xers prefer to receive and give feedback immediately in an informal manner. Work must be fun, loosely structured and combined with many opportunities for personal and professional growth (Cates, 2010).

    Career options are usually viewed as open to Generation Xers who watched their parents’ reduction in force and layoff in the 1980s. They may prepare for their opportunistic departure from an employer due to an economic downturn as a defense to their parents’ negative experiences during the Generation X formative years (Cekada, 2012). 

    A Generation Xer will often have an eye on a few new job opportunities or even an entirely new industry ready to go at a moment’s notice.

    Gen Xers, opportunism and Millennials

    Members of Generation X take their employment status seriously, but they are continuously building their personal resumes in preparation for lateral or external opportunities (Simons, 2010).  This behavior may be a result of trying to obtain employment that allows the Generation Xer to maximize time spent with their families. 

    Twenge (2010) stated in cross sectional data from the Families and Work Institute, 52% of Generation X was family centric as compared to the 40% of Baby Boomers. This may suggest some of the current conflict between work, life, and family balance Generation X experiences in the workplace with their Baby Boomers supervisors.

    These Generation X workplace satisfiers may also be in conflict with the Millennials, and is further discussed in this research study.

    Millennials (Generation Y), born after 1980

    The literature commonly identifies the latest generation in the workplace to be the most diverse. More specifically, Millennials are identified by their unique dress, body piercings, tattoos and constant electronic connectivity (Cogin, 2012) rather than just race and gender. 

    As a generation who was constantly showered with attention and praise, Millennials are often described from confident to arrogant (Cekada, 2012). Alsop (2008) referred to the Millennial Generation as self-absorbed trophy kids who aspire to be financially successful, with strong global/environmental and socially-responsible consciousness.

    Conflict that seems to work

    Millennials are uniquely different because their own goals and desires seem to conflict while interestingly working well together. For instance, Alsop (2008) also described how contemporary popular and research literature often depict Millennials as narcissistic and egocentric, furthermore they are described as the most philanthropic generation in history as reported by the Pew Research Center (Taylor & Keeter, 2010). Maybe these contrasting behaviors and beliefs are why Twenge (2006) described today’s youngest Americans as confident, assertive, entitled and more miserable than ever before.

    Millennials in the workplace

    Incongruent behavior internal to the Millennial Generation is also described by Alsop (2008) because Millennials desire strong supervision and direction in the workplace, but demand the flexibility to complete tasks on their own terms. 

    Lancaster and Stillman (2010) further described the Millennial Generation as the most difficult generation to work with as reported by the Baby Boomers and Generation Xers interviewed, but further qualitative research is required to identify the root cause of this legitimate or perceived revelation.

    According to a Pew Research Center report (Taylor & Keeter, 2010), the Millennials identify their generational uniqueness through technology, music/pop culture, liberalism/tolerance, intelligence and clothing. 

    Values listed by the other three generations in the workplace included items such as honesty, work ethic and respect/morals. 

    Without this deeper investigation and research directly from Millennials, it could be too easy to conclude their uniqueness would greatly contrast with the other generations in the workplace (Bristow, 2009; Crumpacker & Crumpacker, 2007).

    Related Articles

    What you need to know about the recruitment, satisfaction and retention of Millennial-aged police officers

    Workplace satisfaction for millennial-aged public safety employees

    About the Author 

    Author: "Hellofa motivator!" - Dr. Jim DeLung is currently serving with pride as the CEO of DeLung International at, a professional leadership and organizational development firm. As a successful private entrepreneur and public-sector leader, Dr. DeLung utilizes his education and experience for effective leadership and inspiration to organizations through interactive, adult-oriented training programs. More information available at

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