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September 22, 2009
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John Rivera Technology Helpdesk
with John Rivera

P1 Tech Help: E-mail as CYA

We all know that e-mail communication is essential in today’s modern workplace. I worked for a company where workers would send you an e-mail communication or service request even when they sat right next to you. I learned quickly that the e-mail was used (there as well as other places) as a form of CYA. You see, when someone sends you an e-mail it leaves an electronic trail. It documents that the sender has sent you the message and there can be no denying you received it.

Some people will send the message to you and “CC” (carbon copy) the message to others to ensure that other folks know you received the message. Some may even send with a “BCC” (blind carbon copy). BCC will send the message but will not show you the other recipient.

In today’s Police Departments e-mail is an essential tool as the radio. E-mail helps us communicate with Prosecutors, administration, detectives and fellow officers.

The main e-mail software used today is Microsoft (MS) Outlook. MS Outlook is usually packaged along with MS Word, MS Excel, and other MS Office products. MS Office is user-friendly and once you log into your workplace computer you are automatically logged into Outlook. Note: some agencies are still using GroupWise. Those users may still need to do another login to get e-mail.

Outlook has several features I personally like to use. Of course, Outlook offers e-mail functionality where you can view and send e-mail (yeah, this one is really obvious), a contacts list where you can maintain your address book (also pretty obvious), and a calendar feature where you can view and schedule meetings and events or set reminders (again, incredibly obvious). But a lot of folks don’t take enough advantage of the “Task” feature. With it you can use really organize your long-term work or projects that have lots of moving parts. The other hidden gem is “Notes” where you can, you guessed it, leave yourself notes.

INBOX
One of the most important things to know about this program is that you MUST organize your inbox.

My previous employer had a sales department and solely existed on e-mail. On one particular day I got a call from an angry sales person who was literally screaming at me that their e-mail was not working. I hurried to the office and looked at the “inbox.” It had 3,635 messages — most of them had attachments. This caused the server to slow down and stop activity on their account. After I moved several messages around, the e-mail started working again.

Of course this happened several years ago — software and servers have grown in capabilities and size but it’s still a very good idea to have an organized inbox.

I have my Outlook set up with several folders labeled according to their subject: District Court, Miscellaneous, Municipal Court, PoliceOne, Traffic, and several others. By doing this I can organize my e-mail and keep those e-mails significant to me and refer to them when or if needed. I have found this beneficial when searching for document attachments or other needed references.

You can add folders to Outlook by selecting (highlighting) your inbox, right clicking, and selecting “new folder.” You can then name the folder. You can then insert subfolders under the newly named folder. The more organized your folders, the better your e-mail will perform. A cluttered inbox can move like molasses going uphill in wintertime.

CALENDAR
I use the calendar feature to help remind me of Court appearances, subpoenas and to remind me of upcoming events. Navigate the standard menu bar to customize or schedule events and reminders. If you need help press the F1 button or select the help button to ask a question or get for instructions.

TASK
The task function enables you to schedule a task, a reminder for the task, set the priority of Task and send the task as an e-mail to someone. The function even allows you to send yourself a reminder and due date for the task.

NOTES
The notes feature allows you to write and save notes. I utilize this to save web sites and even some passwords because in a workplace network setting you are the only person logging on a computer.

Finally, within the tools section you have the ability to track when your e-mail is delivered and read. This function is handy CYA or when you need to ensure a particular person has received the e-mail. Another method I have used to ensure my own CYA is to leave my “Sent” folder full until I feel like clearing it. By doing this I have not helped myself by retrieving old e-mail but helped coworkers by sending them e-mails they deleted or never received.

About the author

John Rivera is a Patrol Officer with the Bremerton Police Department. John’s career BPD started as a Volunteer Reserve Officer and while he volunteered his time as a reserve officer he work as Police Officer at Naval Base Kitsap. He was hired full time in 2006 and attended the Washington State Police Academy. While at the academy, John was selected as the class “Techy” to help with the technologically deficient class instructors. Before John’s law enforcement career, he gained his computer experience through earning a degree in Computer Programming and then working in the computer industry as a Network Administrator and Systems Engineer for several companies.

Contact John Rivera

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