Today's law enforcement agencies are experiencing unprecedented challenges and rapid change. Transparency is at an all-time high, as is accountability and ‘boots on the street’ safety. Ensuring adequate staffing to 'protect and serve' using shrinking budgets is a continuous challenge. Keep overtime in check is key, as is compliance with collective bargaining agreements and regulatory requirements. Many agencies have complex rotational schedules and managing fatigue is an important performance factor.
Technological advances are also redefining how law enforcement professionals do their jobs and the way officers and community members interact. The following excerpt taken from a recent University of San Diego article outlines key trends that are shaping the field as a whole.
With continuous nationwide attention on the issue of community policing, most agencies have already begun implementing new tactics and strategies to work more collaboratively with their local communities. And it is predicted that this focus on community policing will continue for the foreseeable future, as it remains a top priority at both the state and federal levels. According to discoverpolicing.org, community policing “involves three components: developing community partnerships, engaging in problem solving and implementing community policing organizational features.” While multiple strategies are being employed and tested, the answer for many is education.
Technology is making it much easier for police professionals to ensure public safety and security, freeing up resources, and enabling proactive policing, while at the same time creating a new level of transparency. There are many new technologies taking the forefront:
- Social media – will be used more frequently to gather and disseminate information, as well as engage the community.
- Body cameras – will be required at many agencies as they have been shown to decrease the number of complaints due to police force, offering greater transparency and making it less likely that citizens fabricate incidences.
- Facial recognition – has great potential and is being used more widely in surveillance as its accuracy and sophistication increases.
- Predictive policing – is a fundamental shift in how police operate, moving from reactive policing to proactive policing.
- GPS applications – being used to track and locate suspects and parolees faster.
As baby boomers retire, many leadership positions are opening up. Yet, there is no one to fill these leadership positions, either because the current force does not have the skills or training necessary or because the positions are unwanted by millennials who would prefer to avoid the responsibility captains and higher ups have.
Furthermore, many departments today are functioning in antiquated organizational structures with layers upon layers of management. The next generation of officers is turned off by this bureaucratic structure believing that it stifles innovation and growth. In response, departments are beginning to re-examine the way they are structured. In the coming years, substantial policy and structure change is expected within the law enforcement community.
In light of recent events across the nation, the law enforcement community is under extreme scrutiny. In the coming years, police oversight is expected to increase as the nation watches closely for any sign that police officers are infringing on citizens constitutional rights, using inappropriate and undue force or acting biased towards particular groups. Thanks to new technology such as body cameras and mobile video combined with a hungry media and citizen journalists, police today are much more likely to be held accountable for their actions.
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