Preparing for the Future
Law enforcement leaders across the country have been in a state of constant reflection since summer 2014 when several nationally-spotlighted incidents brought policing and community relationships to the top of news feeds and television broadcasts everywhere. Conversations about this recent past have led to discussions about the future.
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With Kentucky’s future in mind, we brought together some of the state’s top law enforcement leaders representing the Department of Criminal Justice Training, the Kentucky State Police, the National Sheriff’s Association and the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police to discuss issues law enforcement may face in the commonwealth in the next 10 years.
THE IMAGE OF THE POLICING PROFESSION HAS TAKEN A BEATING IN THE PAST TWO YEARS FOLLOWING INCIDENTS IN FERGUSON, BALTIMORE AND OTHER HIGH-PROFILE CASES. HOW DOES THIS RECENT PAST AFFECT THE NEXT 10 YEARS OF POLICING IN KENTUCKY?
National Sheriff’s Association Board of Directors member and Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain – I have been involved in law enforcement for more than four decades, and it’s the first time in my career I have seen law enforcement playing defense as opposed to offense. There is no question high-profile incidents across the nation have impacted attitudes of citizens everywhere. The greatest determinant of their impact will be the amount of credibility, or lack thereof, we have with our communities. Although smaller departments are not immune to those unfavorable reactions to perceived-inappropriate actions by individual officers, they may be in a better position because of their day-to-day interaction with their constituents to ensure they have what I refer to as social collateral. In other words, if we’re working every day to engage the community in a positive way and build relationships with them, when we do make mistakes – and we will as long as we recruit from the human race – the community will be better suited to forgive us. The bottom line is, we have to work every day from the lowest ranked officer to the chief or sheriff, to engage our community in a manner that will build positive relationships which will better serve us in years to come.
Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rick Sanders – All these things we talk about should be learning lessons. We hear so much about Ferguson, but we don’t hear about San Bernardino where everything went well, and the police acted very professionally. We need to talk about those things. We, as law enforcement leaders, need to be out front telling the great things we’re doing, but we also need to be smart enough to know that when we mess up, that’s when we dress up and fess up. We made a mistake; we are going to learn from that mistake.
Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police President and Fort Thomas Police Chief Mike Daly – A lot of it is about reality versus perception. There is no doubt these events, when they do happen in a negative way, take us back five to 10 years, and it does affect the image of law enforcement. But 99 percent of officers throughout the United States are great, hardworking, doing their job day in and day out. But there is that one percent making mistakes who sometimes bring negative light to the profession. We have to overcome that and show that 99 percent of officers are doing this job well on a daily basis.
Sanders – We need to communicate the needs of law enforcement. We heard a lot about Ferguson and how police misused some of the equipment there. But what we haven’t heard enough about is what the Kentucky State Police did in February of 2014, when they were called to Shelbyville. They had a deranged individual with high-powered rifles shooting cars and houses and attempting to kill people. The KSP Special Response Team arrived with a BearCat armored vehicle. Had it not been for the BearCat, they would not have been able to diffuse the situation. That BearCat took several rounds from those high-powered rifles – including the windshield. Had it not been reinforced, we would have dead troopers. So we need that equipment, and again, we do a very poor job communicating our needs.
People talk about bayonets being issued to law enforcement. They are knives. It’s a fancy word for a knife, and we’re not affixing them to a rifle. We’re actually using them to cut kids out of car seats at car accidents. But we don’t talk about that enough. And when we talk about guardian versus warrior, it’s important to point out that we need both. Ninety-eight percent of the time we are guardians and we are going to be there to protect the public. To protect and serve is what we do. But if it’s your child at a high school in an active-shooter situation, you’re going to want that warrior to show up with the equipment necessary.
We have a lot of people out there threatening our communities, and they are using some high-powered equipment. It is important we have the equipment necessary to respond to that threat. I also think about the California bank robbery in 1997 where we saw two guys shooting, both donned with bullet-proof vests, and the police department was not prepared. They had to go to a gun store and borrow equipment to respond to that threat. So it’s important we have those tools in our tool box. Hopefully we will never need them. But when we do need them, we need to have them at our disposal.
Kentucky State Police Deputy Commissioner Alex Payne – We wear a lot of hats in this profession. Right now we wear the hats of social workers; we wear the hats of warriors and the hats of guardians. We wear the hats of social media experts and being a first-aid or emergency medical team.
Sanders – Marriage counselor …
Payne – Marriage counselor; and it goes on and on and on. The key is to have the training to know which hat is appropriate for which occasion. And there, a lot of times, is where we find ourselves doing the great jobs we do and also getting in trouble. You know, you break out the wrong hat for the wrong time you should probably expect some repercussions. However, the vast majority of the time, these young people in this profession are wearing the right hat at the right time all across this country.
Cain – I recently attended the National Sheriffs’ Association conference in Minnesota and, while I was there, I attended a briefing from officers who responded to both the San Bernardino and Orlando incidents. Both individuals highlighted the equipment used from the 1033 program that not only saved officers lives, but also saved the lives of people on the scene. That’s the message we need to get out. Here’s the problem with what is being proposed with the 1033 program. If that equipment is withheld, people talk about using taxpayer money to buy it. The reality is, most of us won’t be able to do that, so the equipment won’t be purchased and we won’t have it.
For the most part, American law enforcement professionals in the past couple of decades have surpassed all expectations. We are not doing enough in terms of being cheerleaders for ourselves. We have reduced crime to record lows in the past decade while simultaneously forging new and stronger relationships with our public. Our commitment to those ideas is the foundation of the partnerships I talked about earlier. We simply can’t do our jobs of protecting citizens without the respect and cooperation of those we serve. It’s important that not only we, but also our communities understand it is a shared responsibility. That young officer in Ferguson, Mo., his fate was sealed before he put his uniform on that morning because of the relationship that police department had with its community. That’s not an indictment, it’s just the reality.
Sanders – It also goes back to not being our own cheerleaders. We need to tell people what we do, why we do it and the equipment we need to do it. For instance, in the city of Jeffersontown, where I most recently worked, we had two Humvees we got from the 1033 program. We didn’t have a bullet or rifle in either one of them. We had stretchers, first-aid kits – and we used those Humvees during this past winter when we needed to get out in knee-deep snow and help people get to doctors and the elderly get to their pharmacies. The Kentucky State Police is flying marijuana eradication right now using helicopters from the military. We’re using that equipment to do our job.
Cain – And we need to hold ourselves accountable. This is the root of the 1033 program and the asset forfeiture program that’s under attack right now. Unfortunately, we have agencies that have misused and abused those programs. But we don’t scuttle the program because of abuse by a few. We hold those individuals accountable; restrict them from using it without scuttling the entire program.
Payne – That’s a good point. Any equipment we have, whether it’s equipment we have right now or anything we get through a government program, has the potential to be misused. The thing that sets the DRMO (Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office) equipment apart is that it affords us another level of protection for ourselves, but also for the community we serve. It’s a boon for smaller departments – or any department – to be able to get an armored vehicle for nothing. Those things protect us, and they protect the people we serve.
AS WE’VE TALKED ABOUT BEING ABLE TO BE THAT CHEERLEADER, TO SPEAK UP FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT AND GET POSITIVE INFORMATION OUT THERE, HOW DO WE DO THAT? DO WE TALK ABOUT THAT IN THE REALM OF CREATING BETTER RELATIONSHIPS WITH OUR LOCAL MEDIA, OR DO WE TALK ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA AS IT HAS CONTINUED TO GROW?
Cain – The answer is yes and yes. This generation communicates via social media, and while I’ve got concerns with certain aspects of social media, it is the number one manner in which we communicate information to the public in Daviess County right now and get feedback. Absolutely, we also need to nurture those relationships with our partners in the media.
You know, the Kentucky Law Enforcement Magazine – which is very well done incidentally – every single issue ought to have an op-ed from a chief or sheriff addressing these particular issues. We talk about them on a routine basis among ourselves, but somebody put a microphone or a camera in front of you, it’s like, what do we do? We know the issues; we just need to talk about them.
The media is a tremendous partner of ours in Daviess County. We have solved cases because of them. Are they always going to write what we want? No. But do we as police officers always agree with each other? No.
Sanders – We as leaders need to spend more time with the media. If we don’t give them the facts, they are left to making it up. They don’t know what’s going on, so it’s important we get that information out.
Back to using social media, that’s critically important. We talk about millennials we have hired and many of them bring challenges, but I’ve learned to use them. They are very savvy at working social media. They’re savvy with computers and technology, and they’re a blessing. You need to use those officers to their strengths, and social media is one of the perfect examples of how to do that.
Department of Criminal Justice Training Commissioner Mark Filburn – I would like to jump in because you hear criticism of the newer generation, we heard it when we came on years ago. Today’s generation is as good as we were, maybe even better. Deputy Commissioner Payne’s son has just joined law enforcement. I’ve seen him grow up and he’s every bit as good as I was or better. Those quality people are joining our ranks every day, making a commitment to the commonwealth. Are they different than we were when we came on? Absolutely. But that same quality, that same commitment to the community is there, and I see it in every recruit who comes through that door.
Cain – These young people today are becoming police officers for the same reason we became police officers. They want to make a positive difference in the community, they want to lead lives of significance and be part of something that matters. It’s important that every one of us remember why we started this job. It’s more than a profession. It’s certainly more than a paycheck. It’s more than even a passion. I firmly believe that just as a priest or pastor is called to the ministry, law enforcement officers are called to law enforcement.
THE WORDS TECHNOLOGY AND FUTURE ARE INEXTRICABLY INTERTWINED. WHEN WE LOOK AT TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES IN CRIME FORECASTING, DNA, DRONES AND FACIAL RECOGNITION, WHAT TECHNOLOGY DO YOU SEE HAVING AN IMMEDIATE IMPACT ON THE COMMONWEALTH IN THE NEXT 10 YEARS?
Sanders – We have to talk about intelligence-led policing. We can use data we have in our databases to learn where hotspots are and where we should focus our attention. I also believe technology helps law enforcement in many different ways. Just scientifically, DNA has come a long way. When I started policing, DNA testing wasn’t around. But we have to be cautious not to rely on all the technological equipment we have. We still need good, hard-nosed policing. Unfortunately, television programs have led the public to believe we can get a DNA analysis back in six hours and make an arrest.
Cain –It’s important to realize that a lot of technology will depend on the future availability of grants and other funding streams to make it available to us. That’s a big issue, particularly for smaller agencies. But I do want to spend just a couple of minutes addressing the issue of the human element. That’s powerful. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it or not, but Aldous Huxley wrote a book about 80 years ago called “A Brave New World.” It’s a wonderful novel. But it warns of our over dependence on technology in the future. Now, he wrote this 80 years ago.
Technology, I believe, tends to lull us into a sense of complacency. It can change the most basic aspect of policing and that’s what Commissioner Sanders was referring to and what I refer to as the human element. It’s that element that continues to be the critical factor in our collective success or failure as law enforcement officers. It’s those relationships that will build bridges within our diverse communities. Technology is a wonderful thing. It’s part of the future of law enforcement, but we can’t become overly dependent upon it.
Filburn – I totally agree. DNA is going to be like fingerprinting technology was when we began. But as they both said, the key to law enforcement is the police officer, the deputy who’s out there on the street dealing with people. Because what we do is deal with people and that’s the critical point of the whole law enforcement career – knowing how to deal with people, handling their problems, serving and protecting them. And we have to be able to deal with people in a professional, caring and respectful manner.
Daly – I look at technology as a great thing. However, if we cannot afford it, because we have a lot of small and medium size police departments in the state of Kentucky, then how does it help us? In Campbell County, we have a team for accident reconstruction scenes when you have those critical accidents. To move forward with technology and catch up to 2016, one piece of equipment we need costs $100,000. There are 13 departments within Campbell County. We’re trying to put our heads around this and how we’re going to afford it, because not one department can afford it by themselves. It has to be a process where the 13 departments are thinking together about how the cities can come up with some type of funding to purchase that kind of equipment.
A better example right now regarding technology is body-worn cameras. We have taken a lot of great strides in the past few years because of the events that have taken place in Baltimore, Ferguson and elsewhere in the United States. Not everybody has gone to body worn cameras, but progressively over the next five, 10 years, I think it’s going to be a requirement for police departments. And it’s a good thing. It’s good for court, for evidence, for testimony. It’s also good for officer complaints. Something we, as leaders, have to think about is that the public is going to see the footage. We need to be able to explain our officers’ actions with the situations that take place, because our public wants to know what happened. They have a lot of questions. And this younger generation, they have a lot more questions. We can’t put our walls up and think it’s going to go away. We have to be transparent and open minded to the public.
Sanders – That’s a great point, Mike. I was talking to a chief from Phoenix who had an officer-involved shooting. Every officer had a camera, and when viewing the footage, most of it showed the side of a cruiser because they were hiding behind the cruiser, trying to keep from being shot. We had an officer-involved shooting in Jeffersontown and three officers had on cameras. Two didn’t show anything significant and one helped us. But it wasn’t what you would see from a Hollywood production. Oftentimes a camera isn’t pointed in the right direction and it doesn’t pick up exactly what you want it to pick up. Also, it doesn’t show everything the officer sees. The officer is relying on a lot of different things and that camera doesn’t record it all.
Filburn – The chief brought up a good point, too, about the hidden cost on a smaller department. The purchase of equipment like body cameras is really not that expensive. But when you go into areas such as storage, that’s where the hidden costs become a big issue. Also redacting information from the recordings; that takes real time. If you have an eight-hour video, you have to sit there for eight hours and watch the video to cut out the things like juvenile information and information on your Mobile Data Terminals. That’s costing manpower.
Louisville recently went to body cameras and they hired six people just to handle the open records requests. We need to think about privacy issues. Do we, as a society, want our officers to go in our houses and record them on runs? What effect is that going to have when we want openness to our public and we want information sharing? Are people going to be less likely to talk to us if they know they are on camera and that information is going to be open record material? So there are a lot of areas on the body cameras we need to think about. Our state has done a good job of looking at the issues surrounding them, not just jumping on them all at once.
KENTUCKY’S LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES ACROSS THE STATE ARE PRE-DOMINANTLY SMALL DEPARTMENTS. HOW DO THESE TOP ISSUES LOOK DIFFERENT FOR SMALL DEPARTMENTS VERSUS LARGE DEPARTMENTS? HOW DOES THAT AFFECT THE KENTUCKY LAW ENFORCEMENT COMMUNITY’S ABILITY TO TACKLE THESE ISSUES AS A WHOLE?
Payne – I don’t think small departments can neglect training. If a department makes a mistake due to negligence in the areas we have already talked about, that can have a catastrophic effect. As a matter of fact, it can be the undoing of the entire department. So, just because your numbers are few does not in any way, shape, form or fashion excuse the lack of high standards. We are fortunate to have the training areas we have, and I know Commissioner Filburn wants to expand and make it easier for them to travel. But bad things also can happen in small places.
I’ve been really impressed with a lot of these smaller departments as far as their leadership. This is where the DOCJT leadership program pays off. Now you’re taking these younger people who are becoming chiefs and leaders at these smaller departments and they are bringing the standards up. By bringing the standards up, they’re getting their departments accredited, getting their people trained, and preventing those potential disasters from those subjects I just spoke about. That’s the encouraging thing. I hope that trend continues for them. Chief Daly mentioned earlier the ability to work with larger departments around you. We shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to each other and get things like memorandums of agreement, plan how we’re going to work together under certain circumstances, and have those things already in place. So when it happens, we’re not scrambling around like chickens with our heads cut off. We know what our role is and we can work together. Because of training venues, places like DOCJT and leadership training, the future is bright for small departments here.
Filburn – The thing I saw in my time at the Kentucky League of Cities was that the 40-hour in-service is the standard. Many smaller- to medium-sized departments, that’s all the training they get. KLC provided expensive training – $450 an officer – free of charge to departments. And I’d go in and talk to the chief, and I’d say, ‘Chief, are you going to send anybody to the training?’ And he would say, ‘Mark, it could be $1,000 an officer. I can’t send them because I don’t have the manpower to let somebody off. I don’t have the coverage. I’m a small department, the mayor lets us go to the 40-hour in-service and that’s all we’re going to be able to do.’
I saw that over the 11 years I was with KLC. So it’s very important for us to provide that critical training in diminishable skills during that 40-hour in-service so that the smaller departments that don’t have access to it can get the training they need. Because as Alex stated, it doesn’t matter what size department you are. You’re going to face evil at some point. Smaller departments now are being involved in more shootings because they’re faced with the same issues large departments face all across the country. It’s important for them to get that training, too.
Sanders – It’s also important to partner with one another. I hope the state police are there to help a smaller department in crisis. We are talking to these chiefs about our shooting team coming out if they have an officer-involved shooting. Think about it, you have a small department and an officer-involved shooting, typically those people involved in the shooting are being interviewed and they’re taking time off they need to recover. So it’s important we come in and prop up where necessary. It goes back to if you’re failing to plan, then you’re planning to fail. We have to talk to one another and prepare for the worst.
Cain - If there is one thing I’ve learned during the course of life it is that life will give you innumerable opportunities to fail, if that’s what you want to do. It is incumbent upon each and every one of us as heads of our agencies to ensure that training happens regardless. Period. There will be innumerable reasons not to do it. And if we don’t do it, then who will? And who, ultimately is at fault when the next officer dies?
Daly – You’re right, because the public demands the best of us.
Cain - And we should demand the best from ourselves. I understand budget restrictions. It’s easy to say we can’t do this because we can’t take this person off shift, we can’t do this because we don’t have the money for the ammunition and we can’t do this because of this. Let me tell you what I tell my officers. Don’t tell me the problems. I understand them. I get it. Give me solutions to them. And ultimately we can probably find a way. That’s something else my dad used to tell me. You can find a way to do, Keith, what you want to do. What’s important to you, you can find a way to do it. And I don’t want to be overly critical. I understand the problem. But we can give ourselves an out, if we’re not careful.
Payne – He makes a great point. And that’s what you don’t want to do. This organization I have the honor of being back with, we’re the best I’ve ever seen at doing what the sheriff just described. We do more with less. It’s not a matter of looking at obstacles. That’s just an opportunity to overcome it. And that’s the mentality we need to have. We know where we want to go; we know where we want to get to. You just have to have that mentality.
Cain – Obstacles should be opportunities.
Payne – That’s exactly it. And as long as that remains our attitude, we’ll be fine. If we ever lose that, we have problems.
Group photo by Jim Robertson