The Law of Inertia
BY: Nick Torre III • Jun 19, 2019
In every assignment that I report to, one of my top priorities is the inspection of the stockroom. The purpose is threefold: first is I look for equipment that can still be used, second is declutter the room so that only essential equipment is left, and the third is ensure that there are no hazardous materials sitting forgotten there. More often than not, I see the effects of inertia in action (pun intended) in these inspections. Newton’s first law of motion says, “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” Its illustration in many police stations is almost literal that it is funny and sad at the same time. Almost always, I see dilapidated equipment—in and out of the stockroom and almost nobody cares. If I ask around, there is almost always a reason given why equipment is rotting. Civilian cars are “ebidensya,” patrol cars are “BER or beyond economical repair,” and guns and ammunition are “for turn-in.” These reasons are known for so long and there are procedures applicable to remedy it but nothing is done—unless somebody pushes the person in charge. Why is there a need for a push to get things done?
The PNP is quite different from the corporate world in the sense that while personnel and equipment are property of the central office, there is very little accountability imposed on middle level managers in whose stead this equipment are issued. And in the rare cases that there are, the personnel concerned almost always have reasons. A short visit to a police station will give ample illustrations about this. A dilapidated patrol car sitting on hollow blocks with its tires missing since time immemorial, an air-conditioning unit rotting in the elements, computer sets stacked purportedly for repair yet almost sure never to be used again, and so many others. And this phenomenon is not exclusive of the PNP! This is also observed in motor pools and depots of other GOVERNMENT agencies. And why not (or just seldom) in private enterprises?
The reason is accountability. Seldom is a Chief of Police being charged for any misconduct if a patrol car rots to eternity after its battery dies. Yes, many times, equipment is discarded as BER because of the flimsiest of reasons. Once the tires are worn out, a patrol car is used less and less thus other maintenance schedules and items are skipped or forgotten altogether. Soon, the car also needs change oil—that is also skipped, thus soon after, it needs a top overhaul. Along the way, its side mirrors are “borrowed” by another patrol car whose own was broken during patrol. And soon after are the rims, and then the seats, and the steering wheel and at the end of the day, only the chassis and engine block remains. And it is not because of any noble reason but that the engine block and chassis carry the identity of the car through its serial numbers and transferring it entails paperwork! As a mid-level supervisor, I remedy this by holding my subordinate commanders accountable for the equipment entrusted to them. I always remind them that the PNP is not a bottomless source of equipment and materials. On the contrary, the PNP budget is always not sufficient to fund all the needed acquisitions of a year thus the national headquarters is always hard pressed in prioritizing procurement. Imposing accountability is more than sticking to the rules. I encourage my men to treat equipment as if it is their own property. Indirectly, I encourage them to have “ownership” of the property. This is quite easy to do because in the PNP, it is almost literal that your life depends on the reliability of your equipment especially the gun and ammunition.