This is the third blog in a Hillard Heintze series on the top trends in 2015 we expect to see driving best practices in investigations, security risk management and law enforcement program improvement in the U.S. and worldwide.  

Over the last two weeks, we have outlined our perspective on the top 2015 trends in security risk management – Part I and Part II.  Today’s blog highlights the top trends related to law enforcement issues that the Hillard Heintze team believes will be prominent in 2015.

Trend #1: Community-Oriented Policing Is Now a Strategic Priority for Every Single State and Local Law Enforcement Agency

This is a strong statement – but we think community-oriented policing will command greater prioritization and resources in 2015 than in any prior year.  Public scrutiny of police behavior is at an all-time high.  Comments by President Obama on Tuesday and by the U.S. Attorney General last week indicated that reforming policing and rebuilding trust in law enforcement across minority communities will be a high priority for the current administration and a “legacy item” for President Obama.

As the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) has championed in a range of reports, this will require – in 2015 and beyond – a consistent focus on aligning organizational management, structure, personnel, and information systems to support community partnerships and proactive problem-solving.  We anticipate that law enforcement agencies – particularly at the state and local level – will bring much greater resources and attention to priorities such as the following:

  • Creation of greater openness and transparency for communities served
  • Organizational transformation from a protective or closed culture to one driven by police accountability
  • Integration of opportunities for community outreach and partnership into police operations
  • Identification and implementation of problem-solving strategies
  • Commissioning of organizational evaluations that inform police leaders of critical issues

Trend #2: Federal Oversight of Police Accountability Will Increase Dramatically

We expect to see a substantial increase in federal oversight of policing operations in 2015.  Much of this scrutiny will focus on appropriate use of force, procedural justice and police patterns and practices that infringe on constitutional rights.  Other high-priority areas of review will include crisis intervention, management and supervision of officers, and preventing biased-based policing.  Given media pressure and both the DOJ threat of, and public outcry for, federal investigations designed to lead to a consent decree, government leaders from aldermen and city managers to police chiefs will place a much higher premium on funding and fast-tracking strategies such as:

  • Early intervention systems that identify officers with a pattern of problematic performance
  • Improved and expanded training for police
  • Transparency in accountability and enforcement
  • Policies and procedures that are comprehensive and up-to-date
  • De-escalation of officer-citizen encounters
  • And most importantly, a greater emphasis on the sanctity of life

Trend #3: Pressure on Agencies to Use On-Body Cameras Will Increase

One of the many outcomes of Trends #1 and #2 will be an increase in the rate of police agency implementation of on-body cameras for heightened police accountability.  Evidence indicates that these cameras dramatically reduce use of force complaints.  Police behave better and citizens are less likely to lie.

We anticipate, however, an even more vigorous debate this year on the need to balance the benefits for law enforcement agencies using these cameras to gather evidence on both behavior and criminal activity and privacy rights.  This national discussion will range across the following law enforcement issues:

  • Development of best-in-class standards
  • Limits on dissemination
  • Defining discretion to record
  • Protection of privacy for both citizen and officer
  • A common national legal authority for police to record both audio and video
  • Constitutional authority to record in a private residence
  • Cost implications for law enforcement departmental budgets already under duress

Trend #4: Social Media Will Play an Even Stronger Role in More Law Enforcement Investigations

Social media is arguably the single most important new tool for investigators over the last five years or more.  As innovation in technology and across the Internet evolves, police and law enforcement investigators will continue to discover new ways and means to incorporate social media in criminal investigations.  The extent of information that can now be gathered from postings – not just by criminals or witnesses but by subjects of almost any investigation – is prompting investigators in the public sector to increase their application and knowledge of social media to disseminate information and gather intelligence.

According to the IACP Center for Social Media, more than 8 of every 10 agencies in the country are leveraging social media to fight crime.

We expect to see this trend accelerate in 2015.  As the courts continue to clarify how social media can be used, law enforcement agencies will refine their approaches to engaging social media.  We’ll see innovation in new areas and also greater adoption rates for emerging best practices in law enforcement social media use.  Police will use social media more often, for example, to engage with communitiesexpand the distribution of crime alerts to smart phones and mobile-broadband devices, and strengthen prosecution cases by demonstrating that police notified the suspect via social media, among other tactics.

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Next week, we’ll complete this Top Trends in 2015 series with a focus on the top investigative trends (Part I and Part II) we expect to encounter over the course of 2015.  If you find these posts informative, consider becoming a subscriber of the Front Line blog.

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