This is the fourth blog in a five-part series on the top trends in law enforcement in 2018 that we expect to see driving best practices and priorities across the U.S. and the world in: (1) threat and violence risk management, (2) investigations, (3) security risk management, (4) law enforcement, and (5) private client and family office services.

Trend #1: Domestic Terrorism Will Remain America’s Top Homeland Security Concern

At the top of current issues in law enforcement in 2018 is terrorism. Along with our projection that domestic terror incidents in the U.S. will increase (as noted in our blog on top trends in 2018 in the security risk management arena), we believe that our nation’s police, law enforcement and public safety organizations will encounter significant challenges in the coming year. They’re already occurring in nearly every state. (For a bird’s-eye view on terror in the U.S., visit this interactive map researched and curated by the Investigative Project on Terrorism.) Apart from the impact on businesses and the need for the private sector to increase its focus on prevention, another outcome of this trend is that law enforcement agencies of all sizes – not just major-city organizations – will be called upon to adapt traditional policing tactics to accommodate counter-terror capabilities.

This will involve, for example: (1) greater departmental training on recognizing the potential indicators of an attack; (2) a stronger understanding among officers of radicalization and its phases as a “homegrown terrorist in the making” proceeds through pre-radicalization, self-identification, indoctrination and jihadization; and, (3) continued improvements in federal, state and local law enforcement collaboration, cooperation and information sharing.

Trend #2: Vehicle Attacks May Well Become the #1 Weapon for Terrorists

Until just a few months ago, terrorists’ use of vehicles as a way to inflict mass casualties appeared to have been limited mostly to France, Germany and the Middle East. Since then, the use of vehicles as a weapon of terror have taken lives in London, Barcelona, Paris and Edmonton as well as in New York City. According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), from 2014 through 2017, terrorists carried out 17 known vehicle ramming attacks worldwide, resulting in 173 fatalities and 667 injuries. These attacks will likely continue and grow in 2018.

What are the best countermeasures for this threat? One of the most effective is installing concrete bollards in high-traffic areas such as tourist sites, shopping and entertainment and critical transportation hubs – as major cities and other metropolitan jurisdictions are doing in New York and all over the country.

A second countermeasure to confront this growing trend is greater education and awareness among rental car company personnel. These prior incidents offer insight into the behaviors and mannerisms which may assist law enforcement detect, deter, defend and defeat this terrorist activity. Another is encouraging commercial vehicle owners and operations to be alert to theft or hijacking and to report these incidents immediately if they occur. Additional tactics, as the TSA has emphasized, include ensuring law enforcement personnel and citizens in general are alert to (1) unusual and unexplained modifications to commercial motor vehicles – especially metal plates on the front grille; (2) nervousness or lack of familiarity on the part of individuals seeking to purchase, rent or “borrow” a commercial vehicle; (3) efforts on the part of a commercial vehicle driver to illegally enter areas occupied by large crowds; and (4) operation of a commercial vehicle in an erratic or unusual way at an unusual time and in unusual places.

Trend #3: As Long-Range and Extended Threats Emerge, Police Agencies Will Advance Counter-Sniper Tactics

In the aftermath of the recent terrorist incidents in New York and the Las Vegas attack that killed 58 and injured 851 in October 2017, many law enforcement agencies and their leaders are exploring the most effective ways to observe, locate, identify, communicate and neutralize threats from a distance of 1,000 yards, particularly in major cities such as Boston, Houston and Los Angeles, where outdoor activities draw large crowds and high-rise buildings provide potential platforms for attackers. Planning to manage this threat, from prevention to response, however, requires the use of specialized technical equipment, assets and operational capabilities not included in standard training for most law enforcement personnel.

What are the benefits for a police department of improving its capabilities in extended perimeter security? They include the enhanced ability to: (1) protect large-scale, multi-attendee events from attacks originating from distant or elevated positions; (2) conduct advances of locations using sophisticated technical equipment in concert with a tactical survey; (3) identify individuals with hostile intentions; (4) ensure crisp communications across response teams, venue operations centers and on-site security and law enforcement resources; and (5) neutralize the threat with response teams or highly skilled marksmen trained in ballistics, field craft and long-range precision fire.

Trend #4: Local Governments Will Increase Independent Assessments of Police Practices

Police departments across the country remain under intense scrutiny – from mayors and city managers, citizens and communities to members of the press, regulators and even officers themselves through the lens of their respective unions and bargaining boards. This is why, over the last few years, we’ve seen the surge in demand for an independent review of policies, procedures and practices related to a variety of law enforcement operations.

As we have learned, through our work with dozens of cities and police departments over the last few years, the areas that typically draw the most attention include: (1) use of force; (2) implementation of body-worn cameras; (3) the design and delivery of training for topics such as procedural justice, de-escalation and crisis intervention; (4) internal audit operations and the manner in which agencies respond to officer-involved shootings and active shooter situations; and (5) the processes for receiving, investigating and adjudicating complaints against department personnel.

Trend #5: Large and Small Municipalities Will Continue to be Challenged with Recruiting, Hiring, Training, and Retaining Qualified Law Enforcement Personnel

Many law enforcement agencies are finding it increasingly challenging to recruit, hire, train, and retain qualified officers. What factors are driving this? Some point to millennials and the gaps that some in this generation perceive between law enforcement’s mission and how it is carried out. Others blame the press and how it portrays the actions of officers, especially in life-and-death encounters. But perhaps more than anything else, the greatest driver is the challenges agencies confront competing with neighboring agencies to provide better pay, broader benefits, more generous retirement plans and more promising professional opportunities.

This is one of the hot topics in law enforcement in 2018. We expect more agencies will turn to outside experts for assistance in asking and answering questions such as the following:

  1. “How do we identify the most important variables a recruit is prioritizing when deciding which agency to join? If we are a smaller agency, how do we compete with a larger one which seems to offer more career opportunities? If we are a larger agency, how do we compete with smaller surrounding agencies that are offering enhanced pay and benefits?”
  2. “How might we leverage our relationships with other community leaders and members to help us recruit individuals from within our own community?”
  3. “What are some of the emerging best practices other agencies are using successfully to recruit talented millennials to join their departments?”
  4. “What questions might we ask our own department members of all ranks to gain insights into what they believe might help with recruiting and hiring new officers, and how are they themselves contributing to these efforts?”

Trend #6: More Local Governments Will Elect to Consolidate Police and Public Safety Services to Benefit the Taxpayer and Tighten the Focus on Reducing Crime

One of the trends we are starting to see among government leaders at the local and county level – and also university administrators – is greater interest in consolidating and synchronizing approaches to police, sheriff and public safety services in order to (1) reduce total costs; (2) focus scarce resources on delivering better policing and public service outcomes; and (3) improve the agency’s focus on reducing crime.

We are advising several clients on these challenges today. In this capacity, we are helping our clients’ plan and implement various “pure” and hybrid approaches to consolidation. One such approach is sharing leadership and administrative personnel within a unified organizational structure. Another is sharing services such as police, fire, parking and emergency management across more than one jurisdiction. Factors that influence the decision to consolidate range from each jurisdiction’s respective geographical footprint, population, demographics and community issues to its fiscal health and political environment.

The reason we call this out as a trend in 2018 is that – subject to the factors outlined above and each jurisdiction’s particular decision environment – the benefits can be compelling. These include: (1) better initial responses with increased staff; (2) a single chain-of-command resulting in a streamlined authority structure and resource allocation; (3) cross-functional training for more available resources for multiple types of emergencies; (4) single-purpose recruiting and hiring strategies; and (5) a greater concentration of personnel on preventive – rather than reactionary – strategies and tactics.

Where are your concerns and challenges in 2018 with respect to law enforcement? What trends are you seeing? Tell us how you are preparing for this year.

Read More: Lessons Learned in the Field on Reform and Organizational Transformation