Thursday, May 21, 2009
Coming up Empty
Our team recently completed a project and while arrests were made and a small amount of narcotics were recovered, for all intents and purposes, we came up empty in this investigation. Sometimes you just strike at the wrong time. In this case we slowed them down but did not knock them out.
Logically, this has frustrated the case agent, the team and me. Primarily because of the time spent here when other cases that could have garnered better results were temporally sidelined (looking back is always done with perfect vision). But I was struck by the swing of emotions that I went through in about ten minutes. There was the thrill of the take down, the panic when we realized that what we thought would be there was not, the rush of anger as we scrambled to the new locations and the frustration when we struck out.
This reminded me of variable-ratio conditioning. This is the mechanism that get people addicted to slot machines. The payoffs are random and could yield different outcomes (1 coin on the second pull, 15 coins on the 14th pull). It is considered the best way to have an animal (or man) conditioned to repeat an action for the longest amount of time. IE he/she will pull on the lever of the slot machine as many times as it will take as long as they believe that the next pull could yield the reward.
This is very similar to what any Police Officer experiences when they go out on patrol. You could score the big incident (bank robbery) or medium incident (major traffic accident) or low incident(telephone harassment-the bane of many a police officer) or nothing at all.
This would suggest that the nature of Police work could have an addictive quality to it. This could explain why so many officers prioritize this job over everything else (our 75% divorce rate is an example of this).
Is Police work addictive? I will have to figure this out...well once I get back from my double shift at work.