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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Don't understand the question

Informed or incensed but not both

Anonymous sources (Pilot article) suggested that it was difficult to recruit police for Costa Mesa because of the “Political Climate.” This climate seemed to be defined as the efforts of the majority of the City Council to decrease spending on police wages and benefits to amounts the City can afford. The sources’ stated expertise was present or past or employment as a police officer in Costa Mesa.

Staffing levels and recruitment are, like patrol car purchases and communications-system design, management decisions. Management is skill based. Management skill sets almost always differ from operational-level skills.  The anonymous sources appear to be free of police management experience but anxious to share their opinions about it. This is so common that it has a name.

Them as can, do  . . .can't -- just criticize

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias -- unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority. They mistakenly rate their ability much higher than it is. This bias results from a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their deficiencies

When they study the field and become informed they become less sure of the superiority of their opinions.

Why would folks pontificate about something before they understand it?

One possibility is that they just crave attention. That hypothesis is supported by a count of citizen comments in two Council meetings:

Three people each spoke either five or six times and three others spoke four times. Each speaker offered their expertise to the Council on at least four different subjects. One evaluated a traffic engineer’s work. It’s hard to believe that such broad professional expertise resides in six residents.

Beyond the Council's "talons"

As a matter of interest, the article also mentions that most local departments have to work hard to recruit qualified police officers right now. That’s true as far away as Florida (which isn't affected by our City Council at all) (Hollywood FL):

“Nineteen officers plan to trade in their Hollywood badges to take jobs with the Broward Sheriff's Office . . . (some of the officers expressed) outrage over pay cuts and drastic pension reform. The cuts were made after the city declared financial urgency in 2011. The city  . . . (will) raise the department's starting pay from $42,400 to $50,500.”

Unsupported opinions -- with animosity

Commenters and anonymous sources evaluating outside their areas of expertise might accidentally be right -- occasionally. However, they haven’t the knowledge or skill to reliably formulate a valid solution. If they aren't acknowledged professionals in the area discussed, look for their supporting data. If it’s absent, their comments could be just the Dunning-Kruger effect and personal animosity.

Avoiding simplistic solutions

A few Costa Mesans – like most City Council members -- study the issue, consider different perspectives and try to identify the best solutions. They either have some knowledge about the field, or develop it as they research a question. They rarely offer absolute solutions and almost never impugn the motives of those responsible for solving the problem.

Avoid pitfall "solutions"

Watch out for those who “know the answer,” for they probably don’t even understand the question.

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