Law enforcement trends to watch in 2010 and beyond

Successful police agencies will be those that adapt and change rapidly, embrace technology and analyze emerging trends in their communities

“In the year 2525, if man is still alive, if woman can survive, they may find…” that policing has transformed far more in the fifteen years between 2010 and 2525 than in several preceding generations. The most significant trend will continue to be the application of technology to law enforcement, manifest in nearly every facet of policing. Technology will help solve crimes, prevent crimes, and facilitate crimes that haven’t yet been conceived. Evolving human factors will equally impact law enforcement as the nation’s population ages, immigration increases and minority group fertility rates skyrocket.

Hi-tech Crime Fighting
Almost every high-level police executive conference in the past few years has featured a seminar or two on “intelligence-led policing.” The core of intelligence-led policing is identification of specific criminal activities or specific criminal populations and targeted enforcement against the highest-risk crimes or criminals to achieve overall reduction in the impact of crime in a community. It is essentially risk management applied to law enforcement. In one of the early works advocating intelligence-led policing, author Mark Riebling encouraged police officers to become more like spies. But just where does the intelligence come from?

The human element of intelligence-led policing involves the intelligence analyst. How many police departments even had an intelligence analyst a decade ago? Now even my own small agency of about 40 has a full-time intelligence analyst with a professional background as an attorney and trainer. As we move into the next decade, intelligence analysts will become more common at smaller- and mid-sized police agencies, and are already absolute requisites for effective larger agencies. The 2001 terror attacks and subsequent terrorist efforts awoke police to the need to understand the infrastructures in community food and water supplies, power grids, telecommunications, transportation systems, and even financial institutions as those entities became prime terror targets.

Not only does that mean that police administrators and command staff must develop new areas of familiarity and forge new networks, but it also implies that the increasingly professional intelligence analyst will continue to gain prominence in the police agency. As police agencies make basic changes in gathering, assessing, communicating and sharing information, the analyst will be at the center of systems development and management.

The decrease in cost and increase in quality of surveillance cameras, coupled with a greater public acceptance of street surveillance, will push the trend toward more cameras in high population centers and particularly in high vehicle- and pedestrian-traffic areas. Great Britain, with an estimated four million public surveillance cameras in operation, has led this trend. A spree of Irish Republican Army bombings in the early nineties fed the appetite for mass public surveillance. In some areas of Great Britain, a new camera cluster called The Bug is undergoing extensive testing. This device features an array of eight cameras. The cameras are bolstered by software that prompts them to scan for suspicious behavior, such as running or sudden and violent body movements, and then lock on the suspect and track the suspect on camera. How long will it be before we see similar devices in metropolitan subways and busy street corners in major U.S. cities?

What lies ahead in video surveillance? Among other things, there will be surveillance systems a generation beyond ‘The Bug’ that recognize the patterns of a particular crime, such as an assault or robbery, and instantly dispatch police officers. Facial recognition systems that identify known criminals or wanted persons and telegraph their location and travel direction to officers are already available. One developer is working on small surveillance drone aircraft that can actually follow suspects and record and transmit their movements and actions. Also under development are nanotechnology devices that will detect the components of explosive, chemical and biological weapons. These devices would be deployed in high-threat target areas and would function as constant, real-time passive detectors.

Though perhaps the trend has moderated, the American public has become increasingly tolerant of privacy intrusions following 9/11. Courts are just beginning to struggle with the legal implications of new privacy intrusions. Lawyers and judges are trying to shape new provisions in evidence rules to accommodate the expansion of electronic surveillance and security searches. The Innocence Project estimates that mistaken eyewitness identification contributed to the wrongful conviction in 75 percent of the cases where DNA evidence conclusively exonerated the convicted defendant. This has lead courts to carefully scrutinize how police administer line-ups and show-ups and to promote the use of technology to record identification procedures.

Court rules are already rapidly changing in this area.

Police officers are trained to remember that “if it isn’t in the report, it didn’t happen.” Soon, perhaps, the new maxim will be, “if it isn’t on your daily video log, it didn’t happen.”

In the past few years, more state legislatures and state supreme courts have created statutes and evidentiary rules that either mandate or strongly encourage audio or video recording of interrogations. More than half the states now have some rule on this topic. In 2010, that number is expected to grow.

Though in-car video systems have been around for some time, several agencies in Great Britain and Europe are experimenting with wearable video recording devices that are capable of recording an officer’s activity for an entire ten-hour shift. Constant electronic recording of police activity may become the new core of police accountability. TASER International launched the AXON “tactical computer” that features a tiny, high-quality wearable camera that snugs around the ear, much like a wireless cell phone headset. The camera can also be mounted on other parts of an officer’s uniform or equipment. Whatever the officer sees in front of him, the AXON’s camera captures. One prosecutor in Fort Smith, Arkansas, recently credited the AXON with helping quickly clear an officer involved in a fatal shooting of a man who pointed a gun at him during a domestic violence call. Watch for more and more developers to move into the wearable camera market and more agencies to experiment with the technology.

In 2010 watch for:

• Expanded employment opportunities for police intelligence analysts, even in the face of a continuing recession and declining tax revenues
• Further professional development for intelligence analysts and growth of existing intelligence analyst associations and new degree tracks in intelligence analysis
• More public surveillance cameras and use of facial recognition software
• Advances and simplification of DNA collection and more rapid testing methods
• Court decisions that further guide eyewitness identification methods and a changes to evidentiary rules that create an incentive to record interrogations
• Improved technology in wearable cameras and significantly greater use of wearable cameras

Clashing Cultures
American policing will be significantly impacted by the rapidly-changing cultural dynamics of our nation. The graying of America will see fewer younger violent criminals, but more white collar criminals perpetrating identity fraud, Internet-facilitated fraud, money laundering and other financial crimes. The tech-savvy generation now rising will become even more crime-tech knowledgeable. Police will be dealing with smarter bandits. Agencies who recruit candidates with a few geek qualities will find themselves ahead of the technology learning curve.

In the next 40 years, the number of Latinos in the United States will double, thanks to Latino birthrates and continued legal and illegal immigration. Multi-lingual police recruits will be even more prized. As the Latino population spreads and immigration continues, look for more cultural clashes in both inner city neighborhoods and in formerly homogenous suburbs.

At the same time, the Muslim population in America will grow faster than any other group. Despite the peaceful religious beliefs of most American Muslims, home-grown jihadists will increase. The recent massacre at Fort Hood by American-born Muslim Nadal Malik Hasan may be just the beginning of terrorist attacks by jihadists trained in American mosques. Hasan frequented the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia, at the same time as Nawaf al-Hazmi and Hani Hanjour, two of the hijackers in the 9/11 attacks, in a congregation led by Anwar al-Awlaki. Al-Awlaki is another U.S.-born Muslim now on the run from Yemeni authorities and believed to be a key member of al-Qaeda.

Months before the massacre, Abdulhakim Muhammad murdered one American soldier and wounded another as they stood on a Little Rock, Arkansas, street. Muhammad moved to Little Rock from Nashville, Tennessee, home of the Al-Farooq Mosque, a target of an investigative journalist’s report on extremism. One of al-Qaeda’s more public figures in Adam Gadahn, (A.K.A. Azzam al-Amriki). Gadahn was raised on a goat farm in southern California and studied Islam at an Orange County mosque. Not only will the rapidly-rising Muslim population potentially bring more U.S.-born and trained terrorists operating in American cities, but it will bring culture clashes in communities and police will play a key role in managing and defusing those conflicts.

Homegrown jihadists will be found in America’s heartland, not just in major coastal population centers. They may, or may not, be associated with al-Qaeda and other Islamic fundamentalist groups. Homegrown terror will be an issue for every police agency. A recent terror plot thwarted in Texas and another in Illinois shows that homegrown terror is not just an issue for the LAPD and NYPD. Though homeland security is traditionally considered to be a federal responsibility, local agencies must recognize the trend toward greater numbers and greater violence of American jihadists and take proactive measures.

The police culture will also continue to rapidly change. Reflecting the population demographic changes, more police applicants are likely to be the children of immigrants. Many will have been raised in a home where English was rarely or never spoken, and may have had limited social contact outside their own ethnic group. Forward-thinking police administrators will recognize the potential strengths in continuing to diversify the police work force to better reflect the community composition. Police agencies will, at least in the short term, find themselves competing with the military for the most desirable employment candidates.

In 2010 watch for:

• Rises in identity theft and financial crimes and new methods of fraud
• Terrorist attack attempts from homegrown jihadists
• Continuing challenges to recruit and retain the best candidates for law enforcement employment
• Increasing diversity in police ranks

President John F. Kennedy observed that, “change is the law of life.” This is one law that can’t be broken. The most successful police agencies in 2010 and beyond will be those that adapt and change rapidly, embrace technology and analyze emerging trends in their communities.

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