The Next 10 Years
In 2007, the Department of Criminal Justice Training gathered a group of law enforcement professionals and hosted a symposium to discuss issues they expected to be of concern during the 10 years to follow. As we soon will reach the culmination of those 10 years, Kentucky Law Enforcement magazine is opening the discussion again to begin preparing for what might lie ahead.
With Marty McFly’s DeLorean showing its age and the magic law enforcement crystal ball lost somewhere in Oz, leaders interested in gazing into the future are left to gather their own conclusions about what Kentucky’s policing profession might look like in the next 10 years.
Today’s technology makes that a little easier. Body camera wear among law enforcement is on the rise nationally. Drones are beginning to make their mark on the friendly skies. Predictive policing may not quite have risen to the level of Tom Cruise a la Minority Report catching killers before they strike, but it has definitely made strides in identifying crime hot spots.
But technology is only one part in the vast picture of what lies ahead. We must look at the past and learn not only from our mistakes, but also from our triumphs. We must look at the deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Freddie Gray and learn what truths can be garnered from cases such as these and the aftermath. But we also should look at out-of-the-box thinking of agencies like the Boston Police Department, who recently added an ice cream truck to their fleet to up their community policing game.
Confucius once said, “Study the past if you would define the future.” Agencies across the commonwealth already have begun studying recent history to make a difference in their communities, whether through training or equipment, recognizing that how officers respond to potentially volatile situations is a current hot topic.
For example, Covington Police Department has taught de-escalation techniques to all sworn employees, Chief Bryan Carter said. More than 30 officers have been trained in Crisis Intervention Training skills with more scheduled to receive the training this year.
“Additionally, we purchased our second generation of Tasers and our third generation of body cameras to increase public confidence and transparency,” Carter said. “The Tasers give the officers a less-lethal option when dealing with unarmed subjects who are combative, and the cameras help administration recognize potential problems early on, through use-of-force reviews.”
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office also has elevated its emphasis on de-escalation, use-of-force and active-shooter training for deputies, said Jefferson County Lt. Colonel Carl Yates. Civilians who work in the court system now are being trained for active shooters.
“Additional Tasers were purchased to equip and train all full-time sworn deputies,” Yates said. “[We also] purchased a firearms simulator system with updated, current, real-life scenarios equipped for all weapons carried by our deputies.”
Thankfully, Kentucky law enforcement, to date, has not experienced anything to the scale of riots in Ferguson or tragedies in Dallas. But that does not mean we are immune to the ripple effects that are sure to continue into the next 10 years.
“We have had to recognize the reality that controversial events involving law enforcement in other parts of the country can impact attitudes in our area as well,” said Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain. “We have taken a close look at how to adapt our training and procedures in order to maintain the atmosphere of trust we have established over the years with the people we serve.
“The focus, I believe, should be on continuing to train our officers to determine what alternatives may be available in a particular situation and how to better articulate their choices and the reasons for them,” Cain continued.
Part of that training must include increased attention to diminishable skills, said Department of Criminal Justice Training Commissioner Mark Filburn. In the first six months of 2016, 70 officers were killed across the nation. Of those line-of-duty deaths, 61 were killed by gunfire, vehicle incidents or assaults.
“Diminishable skills training is not only going to increase safety, but also improve the safety and professionalism of how our citizens are treated,” Filburn said. “That’s what we’re all here for.
“When we talk about Ferguson, and we talk about use-of-force issues, those are training issues,” Filburn continued. “The more prepared someone is to face these use-of-force issues, the more appropriate force they are going to use. They are going to act out of confidence rather than reaction. Not only is this going to make our officers safer, it’s going to provide the public a more professional, more well-trained officer who is going to use force when they should.”
DOCJT already has begun the process, through changes to the existing Kentucky Administrative Regulations, to make an allowance in future training schedules for 16 of an officer’s annual 40 hours of in-service training to include an option for physical training, defensive tactics, driving, firearms and legal courses. Doing so allows officers from all departments — including smaller ones that may not have the funds or manpower to conduct their own diminishable skills training — to refresh their attention regarding those critical skills.
“We have a moral, legal and ethical obligation to be as good as we can possibly be with those tools of our trade,” said Kentucky State Police Deputy Commissioner Alex Payne. “And in so doing, you’re going to take care of a lot of these other issues.”
While adjusting the training allowance will create new opportunities in the future for agencies of all sizes, Payne contends there are multiple options law enforcement leaders should consider for increasing the safety and professionalism of their officers right now.
“A lot of people will complain, ‘We don’t have a driver’s track,’ or, ‘We don’t have the equipment,’” Payne said. “Well, just follow the laws. There are a couple things you can do just right off the bat. Make your people wear their seatbelts. Not only is that the law in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, it’s a smart practice because of the way we have to operate these vehicles.
“Do your homework as far as driving,” he continued. “What are the psychological, physiological effects of driving at speed? You don’t really need a track to be familiar with the effects of pursuit driving or driving to and from critical incidents. That’s a subject that needs to be addressed, in my opinion, every year. The same thing could be said about firearms training. The criticality is very high. Although you may not use it very often — at least we hope not — the criticality of being able to do it well may affect your life or the lives of other people you’re trying to protect.”
Public Trust and Communication
The first pillar of President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing is dedicated to public trust and police legitimacy, noted Lt. Colonel Robert Schroeder, assistant chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department. It is not coincidence that the White House also launched the Police Data Initiative, encouraging agencies to be more transparent in communicating with the citizens they serve.
“Over the next 10 years, this trend will continue,” Schroeder said. “The public demands trust and legitimacy from the departments that serve the community. Police agencies will continue to return to concepts of community-oriented policing and other trust-building efforts to reconnect with their local communities.”
Hopkinsville Police Chief Clayton Sumner agreed.
“In short, national attention has caused strain on the trust of the justice system,” he said. “Law enforcement officers are the physical feature people can project their anger onto, even though the real issues often are at the policy-maker level.”
Establishing clear, attainable ways agencies and officers can not only be transparent, but also interact well with their communities will be an even greater need in the future, perhaps, than it was in the early 1990s when the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services was established nationally.
“For the sake of our employees as well as our citizens, we must continue to build relationships to understand all the smaller communities within our community, while remaining transparent and being proactive in dialogue about how, what and why we operate the way we do,” Sumner said.
Schroeder suggested that the future will include taking community-oriented policing a step further by bringing citizens into police operations — an idea encouraged by the president’s task force.
“Many police agencies already have citizen advisory boards or committees,” he said. “These committees will be expanded to cover additional areas of police operations including hiring and training to improve public involvement and transparency.”
The future of increased public trust and technology intersect when considering how information will be distributed to citizens. Scottsville Police Chief Jeff Pearson agreed the federal government will request a higher level of transparency from law enforcement in the next 10 years. The likeliest place for that communication to grow, he said, starts with social media.
“You have to stay connected in today’s world of social media with your community,” Pearson said. “It has such a great benefit with backing from a community when police issues come up. It was proven in Ferguson what can result when the majority of the community does not back law enforcement.”
Community backing is what Sheriff Cain refers to as social collateral — the idea that communicating with the public and developing positive relationships leads to citizens who are more forgiving when something goes wrong. They recognize in those cases, regardless of the issue, the problem is not the norm when they know their officers on a personal level.
“Those relationships we have with the communities we serve will make or break us,” he said. “They will determine our success or failure. And they won’t just give it to us — that respect will have to be earned. It’s earned on a daily basis. You can’t wait until a crisis occurs to expect the community to rally behind you. It’s not going to happen.”
The ideas of good communication and relationship building certainly are nothing new. For the past decade, “doing more with less” has been a common phrase. Through gas price spikes, manpower shortages and shrinking budgets, agencies in the past 10 years — and in some cases, much longer — have been encouraged to find more ways to work together and make resources stretch further.
It isn’t likely, looking into the next 10 years, we are going to see law enforcement funding climb significantly. But what is continuing to climb are the demands being placed on officers every day.
“It’s very important, especially for your small- to medium-sized departments that they have to collectively work together with each other in specific areas, like a crime scene unit or SWAT team,” said Fort Thomas Police Chief Mike Daly. “Small departments just can’t do it by themselves any longer. Medium departments can’t do it by themselves.”
In response to rising demands on his officers, Alexandria Police Chief Mike Ward has created a new position within his agency — a full-time social worker who is a member of the force. It’s an idea he thinks could take hold on a much bigger scale in the future.
“We continue to make, or attempt to make, social workers out of cops,” Ward said. “We are failing miserably in that area. There are two things I think cops do very well. One, we respond. Two, I believe, particularly in Kentucky, we handle ongoing crisis exceptionally well across the board. It makes no difference if you come from a 1,200-man department, 12-man or even a two-man department — the training we give them from how to handle calls to Crisis Intervention Training and everything else is by far exceptional to any other state. That’s why we don’t have the problems others do.”
However, Ward argues law enforcement falls short because most solutions available to officers are temporary. For example, if a person is arrested for domestic violence, Ward explained, an officer will take him or her to jail, an emergency protective order might be issued, but in two days, the arrestee likely is back in the home.
“Community policing tells us we need to follow up with that family when the problem does not exist,” Ward said. “That follow up might be easier for large agencies with a dedicated domestic-violence unit to follow up from a victim’s advocacy perspective, which is important. But once it goes to court, our responsibility to that family is no longer there. So how do we ensure that family was taken care of? We can’t. Because when you’re a slave to a portable radio and to a dispatch center, you can’t do proper follow up.”
Bringing a social worker under the roof of a police agency does not replace or supplant the work done by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Ward said. Instead, it enhances the ability of the police to conduct effective follow through.
“I think it’s time social services as a profession and law enforcement as a profession be under the same roof,” Ward said. “Because from a human perspective, helping these families definitely is the right thing to do. The police administrator in me says the ultimate goal is to reduce the number of recurring calls to the same household.”
Whether it’s bringing in a social worker or bringing in the local hardware store owner for his input on public safety, continuing to expand the way we think about police relationships is going to be a necessity. KSP Deputy Commissioner Payne suggested bringing in the community is not just about serving them, but helping them understand they play an integral role in their own safety.
“You have to go out there and convince them that you’re there for them,” Payne said. “And also convince them to take some ownership into what you’re there for. This is your community. This is our community. You help me make it safe.”
The RAND Corporation, a research organization tasked with developing solutions to public policy challenges, released an essay in June entitled, “How Will Technology Change Criminal Justice?” The organization gathered a varied group of law enforcement officers and experts to make their own estimations about how technology will affect the future of the policing profession.
The panel brought creative imaginations to the discussion and threw out ideas ranging from hand-held language translators, stress-monitoring biometric sensors embedded in uniforms and smart glasses that feed real-time information to officers. While some of their ideas may sound a little too futuristic for the next 10 years, they noted this reality check: “Ten years ago, nobody outside of a top-secret Apple test lab had even heard of an iPhone.”
Louisville’s Assistant Chief Schroeder suggested a few ways he expects technology to take hold in the next 10 years. An increase in portable technology use like tablets and smart phones to streamline tasks, an expansion of body cameras and use of video monitoring in hot-spot areas were a few items on his list.
“The public has come to expect video evidence in many types of investigations,” he said. “This expectation will only increase. Police will see a proliferation of new types of software in the upcoming years. Existing software will become easier to use. There is a shift in software overall that is making it more user friendly for the public. This will benefit law enforcement as records management systems, reporting systems and other types of software will benefit from the trend toward ease of use.
“Many law enforcement agencies are adopting predictive-analytics software that allows agencies to analyze and predict areas that may see an increase of criminal activity,” Schroeder continued. “As costs come down, more agencies will adopt this and similar types of analytics software.”
As previously mentioned, social media technology, as it continues to grow and evolve, will be an integral part of policing moving into the next decade. However, just as the options and tools within social media sites and apps continue to evolve, so will the ways in which law enforcement uses it to communicate and interact with the public.
“Social media has become a major part of citizens’ everyday lives,” Schroeder said. “This will impact law enforcement over the next 10 years as agencies will need to remain current on the types of social media products the public utilizes. This will be critical for law enforcement both for public outreach and transparency, but also for investigations. Agencies will either purchase software to allow them to maintain currency or contract with services to do so.”
RAND panelists agreed social media would be a headlining piece of tomorrow’s technology, calling it an “electronic neighborhood watch.”
“It ranked as a need, not a want, a way to reconnect police to the communities they serve and to foster a mutual cooperation instead of mutual distrust,” the essay states. “That would require more than just sunny Facebook posts and chirpy tweets — a real online give-and-take, with police sharing information and trends at the neighborhood level and engaging the community in solving problems as they occur.”
One thing is for certain: as technology increases and more information is gathered, data is going to be a major issue going into the next 10 years. Many agencies already are battling this issue with the addition of body cameras to their tools and the massive amounts of recordings that must be maintained along with them.
“The RAND panelists envisioned a future so saturated with data and information that police agencies will need new ways to tag, sort and share what they know,” the RAND essay states. “Computers, for example, might be able to read a face and match it instantly to a national registry of most wanted mug shots.”
Collecting, storing, organizing, redacting and monitoring the sharing of that information also will be an issue.
“We will be challenged to share as much data as possible with the public to ensure transparency,” Schroeder said. “This will challenge many agencies who do not have the tools.”
All things considered, the future is here now. Agencies across the nation will have to continue thinking ahead as new technologies develop and the demands of today’s law enforcement culture become routine.
“There is little reason to doubt the video age is here to stay,” Sheriff Cain said. “Consequently, our officers’ decisions about use of force will remain subject to ever-increasing scrutiny. Our belief is no matter the level of scrutiny, a well-trained and ethical officer is far more likely to be vindicated than condemned. Our goal is to adjust to this new reality and to ensure our officers’ actions meet the public’s expectations, and that they be appropriate and justified, both legally and morally.”
Photos by Jim Robertson
Photo Illustrations by Kevin Brumfield