The Stupidity of the Manual

You can summarize everything in the manual with the phrase: “do a thorough, diligent job prosecuting your cases.” Our manual is extremely detailed. It’s over 700 pages long. It covers virtually everything that could come up in a felony prosecution. The list of things that the manual requires a deputy to do is so long and particular.

At the same time, every few months, the office comes up with another bit of paperwork, another form, another something, that takes away from the time that we have to spend actually working our cases. Every single time we get a new piece of mandatory paperwork, our actual case preparation gets worse. There are only so many hours in the day to work. We can spend those on case preparation if the bosses want us to; or we can spend it on a form for this or an online database for that.

The worst part is the trap created by the manual. On the one hand, the manual says you must do a huge amount of stuff to ensure that your cases are thoroughly prepared. On the other hand, the office wants you to do all this paperwork that isn’t related to case preparation. But you can’t do both. Here’s where the trap is sprung. The office has given you so many cases that you can’t do both jobs. They haven’t hired enough prosecutors so that you can adequately prepare and do all of the paperwork. Some new prosecutors struggle valiantly to get everything done, working long hours and weekends. But at the end of the day, this trap is a failure of management. You should not give your employees more work than they can do and then punish them for failing to do it. If you are serious about thorough case preparation, we need time to do it, time that shouldn’t be spend with silly paperwork.

Notes

One county’s manual was created by a decorated war hero. No one is perfect, I guess.

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