Life on Mars

I am DM’ing Josh, asking which television series I should invest time in next. It’s a monumental decision that I know from experience will usurp my spare moments for anywhere from several days to a few weeks. Josh pings through a few ideas when he hits on a familiar name – Life on Mars. I remember the show that ran awhile back and honestly the only actor that comes to mind is Christuhfuh from The Sopranos (why learn his real name when it feels so great to say Christuhfuh).

Josh tells me to search for the British version. He had never seen the US series but he says that BBC1 did an excellent job.

Fast forward two days and I am watching the series finale with 15 cracking episodes in the ol’ brain bank. Amazing. The show has everything I love in a show: 70s clothing, 70s music, and filthy British slang preempted or followed by a car chase. It is worth noting that every episode has a scene where DCI Gene Hunt races his orange Ford Cortina into a waste bin or pile of boxes, just to get to a crime scene that is prepared and waiting for him.

For anyone not familiar with the plot: Detective Tyler is hit by a car in the present day (several years ago really) and wakes up in 1973. He wonders if he is crazy, a time traveler, or just dreaming in a coma. Tyler is also confounded by the steps back that he has taken by joining a police force that is lacking from decades of advancing police work including the ability to pull fingerprints from skin, the introduction of heroin to the UK, typewriter police reporting, and large walkie-talkies instead of vest mounted communications and smart phones.

Just Get Me to the 90s

About an hour ago I shared Detective Tyler’s shock at the technological divide upon reading a report regarding the SFPD’s new crime reporting app. As the police force of a tech hub awash in engineers I expect San Francisco’s officers to have facial recognition contact lenses similar to MI: Ghost Protocol (why did you kill Sawyer so early on) not an orange screen Brother word processor or typewriter straight out of The Wire.

Ok, so I am exaggerating, but only slightly. According to California Watch, the “in development” mobile application that would allow SFPD officers to file reports from the field, touted just last week by Mayor Ed Lee and his police chief, Greg Suhr, is really a pen in need of paper. The police force never budgeted for smart phones or tablets from officers. California Watch reports that San Francisco “has no contractual relationship with mobile app developer ArcTouch, according to the company’s Chief Operating Officer Adam Fingerman.”

Further on, according to Susan Giffin, the SFPD’s CTO, “she had not given serious thought to acquiring such technology before the mobile app project began.”

It is estimated that to buy smart phones for every officer as well as the accompanying data plans, the budget would need to allocate $1.5 million annually to the advancing technology.

The point is made in the article that technology advances quickly and frequently outpaces governmental agencies that require longer review processes than checking in at their local mobile carriers and the Apple store.

However, it appears that the SFPD has been left practically in the 1970’s like our poor Detective Tyler and it is Giffin’s ob to move them forward a decade at a time.

According to California Watch:
Last year, officers received individual departmental email addresses for the first time. And with Suhr’s help, Giffin hired two civilian staffers and spent $600,000 to replace the old computer system and build a new database, which the department calls its Crime Data Warehouse. It holds 12 years of portions of police incident reports. Staffers are now working to integrate it with other regional crime databases.

Giffin certainly has a long road ahead and the pace of advancement is slow. Hewlett-Packard is helping by donating 60 laptops for use in patrol cars, for tech savvy cadets of course, however the department needs 1,700 laptops needed to equip the entire 2,100-officer force, according to the article.

As a communications executive who has been in charge on bringing online and social services from their infancy to maturity, I am empathetic to Giffin’s plight. On the one hand there are tremendous strides to be taken that will ensure better performance from colleagues however these advances can only be taken as fast as staff members can acclimate. It’s a tug of war not made any easier by media scrutiny and what appears to be a lack of public speaking training.

A Treat

For everyone who enjoyed Life on Mars or to help anyone decide to watch it, here is a mash-up (one of the few good ones on YouTube). Share your favorite moments in the comments section or better yet, the most memorable quotes from DCI Hunt. Enjoy!


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