I’ve been in public service for 18 years, and because I work for a Department of Public Safety, I am fortunate enough to be triple-certified as a police officer, a firefighter and an Emergency Medical Technician. In my career, I’ve been on countless calls, solved a lot of crimes, and I have been fortunate to count myself amongst the relatively few that are entrusted to help those in need of help.
The opportunity to perform that kind of service does not come at a small price – government is an incredibly stern taskmaster. In fact, at times it’s incredibly frustrating to deal with the bureaucracy, the petty bickering and the fact that you’re still required to make 5 carbon copies per report.
I’ve served on a federal task force, and loved it. But I spent most of those 18 years doing community-based work. Personally, I’m satisfied knowing most of the people to whose homes I have been called (even in tragedy) felt I was making a difference.
One thing government is not good at is pointing out ways to improve it. If you’re not an elected or appointed official, then you’re often asked to act within set bureaucratic parameters. In some cases that’s good. You don’t want public servants going rogue.
But there’s a big difference between going rogue, and being an individual who makes a difference. Leadership is key: Fortunately, I work for a Chief who fosters a culture of service and encourages people to make a difference. Over the years I’ve become the guy people come to when they needed something technical done. To be honest, much of the work is undoing something.
That’s not to say I’m some kind of hacker. But as new technologies have emerged, I paid attention. I realized the power of tech – not just to me personally, but to the job I do. The technologies I used at home were great, but at work they looked like something out of the 1960s. Over time, I began to realize that it wasn’t that technology wasn’t made for what I do, it was that I hadn’t built the technology that would help me perform better. So I started to imagine what that would look like and how technology should interact with me and those in my profession.
It wasn’t as hard as I might have thought. By visualizing this tool, I was able to explain and build the technology I would need to do my job more efficiently. To me the first breakthrough was realizing that things just didn’t need to be as hard and tedious as they seemed.
I’ve seen many frustrating things in my career, but few are more frustrating and personally devastating than not being able to make a difference. I’ve watched young children become hardened recidivists, fought house fires only to lose families and provided CPR to patients who later die in the hospital.
It’s tough, but there’s one thing I know I can do – I can use my experience and my passion to make what my coworkers and I more efficient. I can make it easier to help others.
The technology I’ve helped create doesn’t just save money, it protects people. We’re protecting the cops who hunt fugitives and get them out of the community, and we’re protecting the fugitives themselves by giving cops the information they need to make a smooth apprehension. We’re offering a large amount of data in a short amount of time and that makes a big difference.
I Code for America because I believe the people who might be best able to bring government back to the people, are those who’ve already worked in government. It’s not just that we “get” the technology and its promise, it’s that we know deep down exactly what those with a servant’s heart are trying to accomplish. I Code for America because I am passionate about public service, and about empowering those we trust to protect us to do so more efficiently, with greater accountability and transparency.
I Code for America for the same reason I became a police officer, a firefighter and an EMT: I do it to serve others.
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