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 news stories was, at times, cursory; the 10 issues I’ve listed were raised continuously throughout the year. The purpose of this list is to create conversations among law enforcement officials about these issues.
- Officer-Involved Shootings
These high-profile events seem to have four common concerns. First, is the investigation conducted internally or externally? Second, and closely related, is there a public perception of a lack of transparency? Third, was the suspect armed with a firearm (or other deadly weapon), or were they unarmed? Lastly, an emerging topic of conversation, which police tactics precipitated the event?
- Body-Worn Cameras
The implementation of body-worn cameras continue to be an area of conversation. Underlying the implementation are two major policy concerns. First, when is the camera activated? And second, how and when is the video released? Less discussed, but emerging, are questions on the retention of video archives and the redaction of information in advance of the video release.
In response to opioid related overdoses and deaths, more police officers are becoming emergency medical first responders with antagonist drugs such as Narcan. As a result of the opioid epidemic, treatment over incarceration is becoming more prevalent.
- Active Shooters & Mass Casualty Shootings
Police agencies are refining and increasing their training in order to better respond to these events. There seems to be a trend with police agencies of identifying and reaching out to “soft-targets” as well as providing information for location security and site-specific training.
- Legalized Marijuana
Police agencies are currently focused on finding technologies and training that will enable their officers to detect marijuana-impaired driving. Looming in the background is the 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 police recruits’ “recreational use?” And, in the not-so-distant future, what will be the policy for sworn employees’ off-duty use of a legal substance?
- Vehicle Pursuits
The public reaction to the sometimes tragic consequences of vehicle pursuits has yet to rise to the level of attention as officer-involved shootings. In addition to increased policy guidance, officer training, and on-scene supervision, police agencies continue to search for a technology to minimize the risk vehicle pursuits pose.
Policies concerning the identification of undocumented persons in police custody varies widely, as do organizational policies concerning cooperation with federal authorities. It appears that police managers are going to continue to struggle to find a balance between engendering community cooperation with an underserved and vulnerable population and ensuring undocumented persons who commit crimes are properly processed.
- 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 also going to increase. As a result, departments will need to increase their policies, trainings, and DNA storage facilities.
- Intelligence-led Policing
The issue of intelligence-led policing was a strong undercurrent in many law enforcement news stories, ranging from the actual technologies (such as crime analysis and gunshot detection tools) to policy and practical responses (such as deployment tactics for “spikes” and “trends”).
- 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 to address victims of human trafficking.
Raymond E. Foster is a retired Lieutenant of the Los Angeles Police Department. With over 24 years of service, he is now an international policing consultant and author. This article originally appeared on his Police Technology blog. To hear more from Lieutenant Foster, download our on-demand webinar Turn to Tech: How to Navigate Today’s Police Leadership Challenges.