As the world rapidly approaches the year 2020, one thing is apparent – the future is upon us. Technology is moving at a rapid pace, the earth’s climate is shifting, and the global population continues to skyrocket.
With all of these changes, society and its institutions must adjust to the new realities. Especially when it comes to maintaining law and order in a world rife with shifting norms and rules.
Here are 7 challenges that law enforcement agencies will be forced to address in the coming years.
It’s no secret that globalization and societal unrest are at the forefront of current events. Protests and riots are commonplace throughout the world. And when police are confronted with these issues, many departments are ill prepared to handle such large-scale disturbances. Especially because many of the disturbances are orchestrated by well-equipped professional organizers
Unfortunately, many law enforcement agencies do not address training for crowd control until they are thrust into the situation. Experts recommend that officers receive training right before an event and annually. This gives them the opportunity to adjust to new riot tactics, inspect their tactical equipment and become more comfortable dealing with massive crowds.
Data Focused Law Enforcement
Since the US has a decentralized policing system (approximately 18,000 different police departments), it has been a challenge for many departments to shift to a system based upon hard data, as opposed to one built strictly upon politics, local values and tradition.
As trust in our institutions has been declining, it is imperative that police departments transition to a more transparent, evidence focused approach. Such strategy would rely less on traditional methods and instead would be based upon analyzing and assessing data provided by state-of-the-art technology and highly trained crime analysts. And in using such data effectively, our departments would begin to have a more stable, uniform approach to crime deterrence, prevention and enforcement.
Emergency Response Technology
In recent years, the emergency response systems of law enforcement agencies have come under attack. This is mainly due to the lack of available technology being deployed, resulting in fatal human errors. Well, that will become a thing of the past, as police departments roll out technologically advanced 911 systems.
These systems will include Artificial Intelligence capabilities, thereby eliminating some of the issues that arise from improperly trained people. New emergency infrastructure is being built and tested throughout the country, which will allow communication hubs to receive photos, text messages and videos from people reporting emergencies. Not only that, but social media integrated platforms will be installed in police vehicles. This advance will allow police to cast a wide net when deciphering, responding to, and investigating emergencies.
Virtual and Digital Evidence
The age of technology is upon us. And our reliance on tech will continue to expand in the coming years. Law enforcement is already preparing for the explosion of the “Internet of Things (IoT),” which is the interconnection of computing devices embedded in everyday items. IoT devices range from door locks, to watches, to eyeglasses – and, in the near future, to just about anything we use.
As IoT becomes more prevalent, police will be dealing with much more virtual and digital evidence. This, in turn, will force departments to establish new protocols for storing, substantiating the authenticity of, and preserving such evidence. This effort will be a monumental undertaking, both logistically and financially. And this massive task will expand into new territory as the digital age expands into virtually every aspect of our lives.
Of course, DNA analysis will continue to be at the forefront of criminal investigations. And, the technology used to perform these analyses is moving in a fascinating direction.
Examples of emerging DNA tech are methylation analysis, which detects non-visible genetic markers that are unique to a specific individual, and phenotype prediction, which can tell investigators about a suspect’s specific visible characteristics, such as dimples, shape of nose, etc.
Experts believe that in the near future, police will be able to use to DNA samples to determine a perp’s habits, addictions and personality traits. These developments will certainly assist in significantly narrowing potential suspects and aide in decreasing the chance of wrongful convictions.
Many law enforcement agencies have been slow in making progress in an effort to better assist officers who are recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The stigma associated with PTSD has begun to wane as scientific studies continue to demonstrate that many officers have suffered, and continue to suffer, from PTSD. Officers are constantly risking their lives and involved in traumatizing, high adrenaline situations. So, it’s no wonder, that a good number of law enforcement personnel experience PTSD.
Over the next decade, state and local lawmakers will work with police departments to ensure officers are offered adequate PTSD related disability pension and workers’ compensation benefits (for those unable to recover.) Such measures will ensure that these brave men and women receive the benefits that they so richly deserve.
One thing is apparent – our society cannot arrest its way out of the opioid epidemic that’s destroying both rural and urban communities. Fortunately, law enforcement attitudes have begun to shift, and must continue to shift, with respect to the root causes of the problem and the solutions.
Many departments are engaging in proactive, community-based programs which aim to prevent overdose deaths, improve the safety of neighborhoods and increase the trust between police and the public.
Police departments will have to implement cutting edge policies in order to deal with this very serious problem. The current system is not working, so the need for innovative approaches is desperately needed. One thing is for sure, and that is – interagency cooperation is necessary in order to prevent the epidemic from continuing to spread like wildfire from city to city, and town to town.
The world is changing at a pace never before seen. Police departments are at the battlefront of these changes, in that they must anticipate and adapt accordingly so that public safety is not compromised. Can you think of any other challenges that law enforcement will certainly face in the near future?
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