What were the biggest challenges law enforcement faced throughout the past year?
Chief Kiederlen: Increased demand for service and lower budgets.
Lt. Twombly: It's budget right now. This is going to be one of the big issues if not No. 1 issue ... that's going to be facing departments for the next couple of years at a minimum until the economy improves. As Wisconsin, I think we've been pretty fortunate in comparison with other parts of the country ... where they've had to lay off big numbers of staff and cut budgets pretty dramatically. We haven't had to do that at this point.
Chief Yaniero: Because of the most recent downturn in the economy and the housing market, one of the greatest challenges will be in meeting the demand for services with reductions in tax revenues. In addition, state and federal mandates, without additional federal funding, have forced police agencies to cut services. In my opinion, these mandates and budget constraints have had a profound impact on the ability of law enforcement agencies to engage in proactive policing. This forces an agency to become reactive to crime and community problems.
Have there been any changes to the threats your officers face?
Kiederlen: I think there's a higher concern of those unknown threats -- not so much the potential of terrorists, but the individuals that look at some of those things that have been done and idolize that thing; the bomb-making, IEDs, those types of things. I think there's a heightened awareness.
Is it necessarily a firm belief that, "Oh, it's going to happen to me" type of thing? No, I don't think so. But I think all of that type of awareness nationwide and worldwide has put everyone in a different mindset.
It used to be we were worried about the guys in the traffic stops; now we're worried about somebody who's going to blow up their entire car. For me, I think the best way we can even come close to preventing something like that is by establishing those firm relationships with your community is really your best bet. That's what my focus has been as a chief -- finding ways to interact with your community through everything from class type situations ... and just a lot of community interaction in whatever way you can to hopefully befriend that one person who might actually find out something that could save a lot of lives.
Twombly: I would say that we're coming in contact with more and more people that are much more likely to use force on us as far as either fighting with us or using weapons. There's always been a certain segment of the population that didn't like law enforcement or would do whatever they could to evade capture if they felt cornered. But I've seen that segment sort of increasing. [When I started] they were less hesitant to try to take a swing at an officer, let's say, as an example. That that hesitancy has deteriorated somewhat over the years, which I think is also evidenced by the amount of officers that have been assaulted and killed this year and last year, especially ambush style.
People are starting to view suicide by cop more as a viable option. Especially you're getting these people where they've lost their jobs, they can't make their bills. The economic times [are] a huge stressor on them and they just don't care about their actions.
Yaniero: Today, police officers generally face a different type of criminal: one that has no regard for human life. The recent ambushes of police officers, indiscriminately targeted for violence, may be a reflection of the current anti-government sentiment in our country. Police officers are the most visible symbol of government in any community. I believe that this anti-government sentiment will continue with the current economic climate. In addition, because of an increase in gang activity in smaller and medium sized communities, police officers have seen indiscriminate violence toward the communities that we serve.