This list was based on an analysis of over 20,000 news stories in 2017. While the information is somewhat anecdotal, and the examination of the new stories was, at times, cursory, the listed issues listed were raised continuously throughout the year. The purpose of this list is to create conversations among law enforcement officials about these issues.
These high-profile events seem to have four common concerns. First, is the investigation conducted internally or externally. Closely related to that issue is the public perception of a lack of transparency. Third, was the suspect armed with a firearm or other deadly weapon, or were they un-armed. Lastly, an emerging topic on conversation is the police tactics which precipitated the event.
2. Body-Worn Cameras:
Implementation continues to be an area of conversation. Underlying the implementation are two major policy concerns: When is the camera activated; and, 2) Releasing the video. Less discussed, but emerging, are questions on retention of video archives and redaction of information from same during release.
In response to opioid related overdoses and deaths, more police officers are becoming emergency medical first responders with anti-overdose drugs such as Narcan. Moreover, issues such as treatment over incarceration are becoming more prevalent.
4. Active Shooters/Mass Casualty Shootings:
Police agencies are increasing and refining their training to respond to these events. There seems to be a trend of police agencies identifying and reaching out to “soft-targets” and providing information for location security and site-specific training.
5. Legalized Marijuana:
The current focus is police agencies looking for technologies and training that will enable their officers to detect impaired driving. Looming in the background is police response to public consumption (such as complaints about your neighbor’s smoke) and internal policies. In the future, what will be the standard for recruit police officer “recreational use?” And, in the not-so-distant future, what will be the policy for sworn employees off-duty use of a legal substance?
6. Vehicle Pursuits:
Public reaction to the sometimes tragic consequences of vehicle pursuits has yet to rise to the level of reaction to questionable officer-involved-shootings. In addition to police agencies continuing to provide policy guidance, officer training and on-scene supervision, the search for a technology to minimize risk continues.
Policies concerning the identification of undocumented persons in police custody varies widely. Additionally, organizational policies concerning cooperation with Federal authorities also varies. It appears that police managers are going to continue to struggle to find a balance between engendering community cooperation with an under-served and vulnerable population and ensuring undocumented persons who commit crimes are properly processed.
8. DNA Evidence:
The number of jurisdictions allowing for the sampling of DNA of arrested persons increased slightly in 2017. DNA databases are going to get larger and the focus on retaining DNA related evidence at crime scenes (including relatively minor crimes) is going to increase. Policies, training and facilities for evidence storage are going to have increase, also.
9. Intelligence-led Policing:
This issue was a strong undercurrent in many law enforcement related news stories. From the actual technologies (crime analysis to gunshot detection) to policy and practical responses. Among the policies/practice issues are the efficacy of zero-tolerance in high-crime areas and police deployment practices in response to “spikes” and “trends.”
10. Human Trafficking:
The language and community perceptions around human trafficking seemed to have evolved quickly in 2017. Police managers will likely re-visit their “vice unit” policies and practices in the next 12 months; turning from the idea of criminals to victims.
About the Author:
Information about Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.) can be found at Police Consultant.