Five Issues That Can Rock Law Enforcement in 2019

Being in the law enforcement is a challenge. Police take care of peace and order while also handling those that breach it. Things won’t get easier as we enter 2019. Aside from “business as usual,” policing will become more difficult as community landscapes change. For law enforcement to stay ahead and ensure order, they must be on the lookout for critical issues that can affect their job. Here are some challenges facing authorities in the coming year.

1. Responding to active shooters

The year 2018 emphasized how devastating active shooting incidents can be. If anything, law enforcement will have to work on responding to these types of situations to mitigate the risk as effectively as possible. Some police officer made news for engaging active shooting threats immediately, thereby saving lives.

It’s going to be an even more difficult situation as policy changes seem to indicate the police officers must charge through the so called “burning building” despite risks. Firefighters, on the other hand, have protocols as when to or not to go into life threatening situations where civilian lives are at risk, but police policies are different. There is public pressure on police to reduce casualties as much as possible despite danger to law enforcement.

The answer for law enforcement is to adopt a more analytical approach. They have to analyze situations thoroughly and do de-briefings on learned lessons. There have been quite a few incidents already, and each case offers valuable insights that can help save officer and civilian lives. Aside from policy changes, law enforcement may need to take a step back to see if established protocols are still useful or if they require replacement. If no clear answer exists, then starting a discussion on troublesome issues may help resolve them.

2. Transparency

Police officers know that their department telephone calls, text messages, emails, and other related communications are a matter of public record – private phones and messages do not seem to be. That may be changing. No hard rule exempts the private messages of a public servant, especially in the scope and course of their duty. More importantly, law enforcement should be prepared for more transparency because courts and brewing regulations are leaning to considering all information as a type of public record, no matter the source. Further, the premise of “reasonable expectation of privacy” seems more and more obsolete.

Up until today, you need a subpoena to access any device that may contain evidence for a case. However, it appears that people will have something more to worry about in the future especially in dealing with transparency initiatives involving the government. It will be likely that the government — including the media and the public — will demand more ways to access information in 2019. There have been discussions on increasing transparency through new protocols and policies. Law enforcement may need to be more careful as public opinion on the conduct of civil servants may intensify given the new degree of transparency.

3. Recruitment

As with other industries now facing war for talent, the same goes for law enforcement. The police force and alike may struggle to find and add new people to their pool of officers. This may require police leaders to see if their strategies are still working or they need to change their game plan. Law enforcement leadership may have to evaluate themselves according to the following:

  • What are the parameters that the agency actively enforces? How many good candidates have failed to qualify because of the parameters?
  • If law enforcement entities in the country are sure about their screening processes then why are there so many instances of officers breaking the law? Aren’t they vetted against these parameters?
  • What is the percentage of candidates considered unqualified who may have been good officers compared to those hired?
  • Do you adjust the selection standards based on the geopolitical environment and community?
  • Do you have “gatekeepers” within the agency who can ensure that better candidates can succeed as much as possible throughout the process?

These will require a thorough investigation into the recruitment process of the police force – which may also turn tricky stones along the way.

4. Laws on Immigration and Sanctuary

Immigration and sanctuary laws remain a big mess. Some states have laws that undermine the federal law while there are municipalities that undermine state laws. In turn, the federal government has been threatening those that will breach its statutes. States are also suing the feds. Law enforcement will have to develop an internal documentation process to organize things. They will also need to think about ways how to educate the public about the limitations of the laws.

5. Use of Police Force and Policies on De-Escalation

Use of police force has made headlines throughout the years that we should expect it to be heavily monitored. There should be restrictions on how police can use their authority including physical force. Case in point, the 21st Century Policing Initiative (21CPI) had started three years ago. The initiative encompasses some elements relevant to police-community relations. Some of these appear to be useful to some extent. However, it is the use of force element/factor which has not transitioned smoothly so far. Law enforcement still must examine how different things are before the implementation of the initiative. Some questions to answer:

  • Where there changes in the level of safety in communities?
  • Is it time to re-check the initiative?
  • What should constitute reasonable “rules of engagement”?
  • Are officers hesitant now more than ever to act because of the possible repercussions?

Another major concern to tackle is the inconsistency of looking at the use of police force in the past, at present, and in the future.

Law enforcement will have a lot on its plate in the coming year, and it would be best for leadership and officers alike to be prepared about it.