6 changes cops think will improve policing in 2017
We asked our Facebook and LinkedIn audiences what they'd like to see in the coming year
Greater respect for law enforcement, stiffer penalties for those who harm cops, and patrolling in pairs for better officer safety were just a few of the changes that dominated the conversation when we asked our Facebook and LinkedIn audiences about the changes they would like to see to improve policing in 2017.
Take a look at the top six answers below, and sound off on what you’d like to see in the coming year in our comments section.
1. National respect for police
With the overwhelming wave of negative attention on law enforcement over the past several years, many police officers wanted to see more support and respect for the police from politicians, the public, and the media.
“This erosion of respect, combined with minimal or no extra compensation, ultimately takes its toll on the LEO community in carrying out the enormous tasks officers have to deal with and are responsible for every day,” William Belfour Doug wrote.
There is a general agreement that the community and officers need to come together because they share the same goals. Some officers had suggestions for how to achieve this – with most emphasizing the need to improve communication with both the public and the news media to get the level of support and fairness they seek.
“I would like to see us being more ahead of the curve in reference to use of force,” Stephen Garrett said. “UOF has become a media spectacle and we rarely ever get out in front of it and educate the public about the need to comply with lawful orders.”
Mark Dewald also weighed in on the issue: “For some reason, command staff with most agencies is still beholden to this old school mentality of ‘say nothing about an active investigation’ when the officer/department is under the microscope. Some agencies are getting the message and have become very proactive with their PR, most have not. Kudos to the departments who really go above and beyond by putting together real-life scenarios and allowing the media and public to come out and role play. Every time this is done it has a positive response and often changes the bias of some in the media and anti-police community.
I'm not talking about premature, uninformed comments. I'm talking about this stone wall of ‘say nothing’ that many agencies employ. It's not working and allows the media to control the narrative. The public's idea of police work is totally based on Hollywood and the media. Shouldn't it be the police who educate the public on these situations?”
2. Stiffer penalties for those who harm or kill cops
“Blue lives” legislation to impose stiffer penalties for attacks on LE was introduced in many states and at the federal level this year, including in Texas and Kentucky. In May, Louisiana became the first state in the nation to expand its hate-crime laws to protect cops and other first responders.
Many cops called for a continuation of this trend in 2017, saying criminals who target police should face tougher prison sentences. Some even called for a mandatory death penalty for cop killers. One thing is clear: Officers believe violence against LE is rampant and must be put to a stop, and many believe harsher penalties would go a long way to reversing the trend.
3. Patrolling in pairs
This year, two devastating ambush attacks on officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge shocked the nation and rattled all those who wear the badge and uniform. For many cops, it was their worst fear becoming reality. So it’s no surprise that a large numbers of officers told us that the most important change they’d like to see is patrolling in pairs. Many said this would better protect cops from ambush attacks and other forms of violence. With the dramatic uptick in line-of-duty gunfire deaths this year, officers believe constantly watching each other’s backs is more important than ever.
Other suggested safety improvements to help reduce the chance of a deadly attack included adding bullet-resistant windows on patrol cars, in-car cameras that capture 360-degree video as well as motion sensors on patrol cars for better situational awareness, and the ability to automatically clear radio traffic to all nearby departments when an officer under attack calls for help.
“The last thing you should have to worry about is keying a mic,” Jeff Lasko wrote.
Cheryl Lin had a different perspective on running two-officer cars: “For large agencies, this might be doable, but for smaller departments, like the one I currently work at, that isn't an option. That said, I don't think two-man cars are the end all to violence against officers. I think better tactical training, being aware of your surroundings at all times, not putting yourself in a tactical disadvantage when responding to calls, waiting for backup to arrive before you make your approach, if possible … there are any number of things.
These were things I learned 30-plus years ago that I don't think are harped on as much in training new recruits. You can't teach common sense but you can train for scenarios so that as you are driving around, on a slow night, you can ‘what if’ yourself to keep your mind sharp.”
4. Ending the stigma around mental health treatment
How can police officers and agencies prevent and treat the crippling effects of trauma that can occur after an officer has been involved in a critical incident? Ending the stigma attached with seeking help would go a long way, as well as improved access to services and policy that makes treatment mandatory.
“At a time where an officer's activity, actions and judgements, both personally and professionally, are immediately questioned and criticized by the public, having trusted, confidential, knowledgeable and accessible professionals available 24/7 is the least we can do for our officers,” Holly Lemke Hakes said.
“Mandatory counseling,” Marcia L. Gould Crosby wrote. “No one can judge because everyone goes. Every 17 hours in this country, an officer takes their life. We must do better by our officers. PTSD awareness is crucial. In the end, after a long 30-year career, there should be something left of these men in health and in mental health. Let's make it easier in any way we can for the men and women with the rarity of courage to wear the badge.”
5. Better training and equipment
Officers should never have to suffer due to lack of equipment or training. For many cops, this was the biggest change they’d like to see to improve policing in the coming year. SWAT gear and training, patrol rifles, more scenario-based training and better body armor were just a few of the tools and training Police1 readers would like to see for patrol officers, no matter the cost.
“Teachers, nurses and doctors are never viewed by politicians as an opportunity cost. I would like to see mayors, governors and federal leaders view policing as an investment in the quality of life of its citizens,” Frank Hartle III wrote. “More and better trained police means better relationships and better communities.”
“I'd like to see a national committee on training standards for all LEO,” Larry McFann said. “All departments need to become accredited to those standards.”
Those who weighed in also pointed to the need for better training for command staff, in addition to cops on the beat.
“One big and important change I would love to see in 2017 is for mid and upper management to periodically and consistently remind themselves where they came from and what it was like for them as a grunt,” Gabriel Bogart said. “Think about the things they wanted and needed from their department during that time and then give it to their subordinates when they ask for it.”
Chris Trublood agreed: “All ranks required to go 10-8 as a beat car at least twice a month. Too many command staff are removed from the everyday grind that patrol staff endure and make policy that hinders patrol operations.”
6. Better pay and benefits
To say cops have a difficult job is an understatement. Better pay and benefits would let them know they’re appreciated and make their lives easier at home – a key component to the long-term health and wellness of public servants who carry a heavy load on every shift.
“$25/hour minimum mandated for law enforcement and first responders,” Tom Lakia said.
Officers also want these benefits to extend to retirement (healthcare included in pension), those critically injured on the job or forced to medically retire (financial and medical support), and for the families of fallen officers (financial support).
Some also argued these benefits would also help combat staffing issues.
“For officer safety and service to the community, nationwide there needs to be better coverage and staffing,” David Dempsey said. “In this day and age, it is going to get harder to find good candidates as LE gets more dangerous and more disrespected by the media and some members of the public. Pay and benefits will have to be excellent to compete with other industries and opportunities to retain and attract good officers. There will be a staffing crisis for several years until communities and politicians recognize this and pony up the funding.”