"You don't know the value of public safety service until you need them. The public must become aware that "you get what you pay for,'" adds Love.
Limited resources joins staffing as a top problem confronted by criminal justice professionals. Hennepin County (Minnesota) Sheriff Richard Stanek knows all about it. Stanek heads a department totaling 850, including sworn and civilian employees. Among his responsibilities commanding one of only two accredited crime labs in Minnesota, the challenges of heading an agency of this size add up fast, but Stanek puts his experience to work finding innovative ways of dealing with them. One strategy in particular stands out -- he takes his case to the private sector.
The sheriff says public-private partnerships give law enforcement agencies the edge they need to stay ahead. "[The private sector is] light years ahead of us, and they want to help, want to be engaged," Stanek says.
When upgrading the department's computer forensics section, Stanek sought help bringing the division up-to-date. "By using our fantastic public and private partnerships, we doubled, almost tripled our computer forensics capabilities and size," he says.
The crime laboratory has also benefited from the private sector. With increased demand for complicated analysis, lab personnel strain to meet obligations. When the lab needed help refining crime scene videotapes, Stanek went shopping for assistance at the Target Corporation based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
"Target is great at computers and video forensics," he says, "when we have a difficult picture, they are more than happy to [help] us."
Stanek says payback to the private sector isn't in dollars and cents, but in community service. "They have a vested interest in the community here," he says. His advice to departments with limited resources that want to draw the community closer together: Embrace partnership with the private sector and use their resources and experience.
We'll see you in court
Liability issues remain at the forefront of many criminal justice agency challenges. Richard Kreisler has spent several decades looking after police interests from a legal standpoint. The attorney, who practices in California and acts in an advisory capacity to several police agencies, says he is impressed by the way improved technology interacts with civil liability issues. "Those black-and-white digital cameras that automatically activate when an officer makes a traffic stop -- I can't think of anything that has cut down more on felicitous citizen complaints," Kreisler says. "More often than not, they show proper conduct by the officer. I can't imagine an officer on the street without one."
Another technological advance Kreisler says can cut down on liability and also create a different level of officer safety are Global Positioning Systems (GPS) -- especially the sometimes controversial tracking of cars. Like cameras that record traffic stops, GPS units have been the subject of endless debate between departments, officers and union representatives. Although officers and unions fear a "Big Brother" approach, Kreisler says most of their fears are groundless, and indeed, the devices can save an officer's life. But, he also admits that the units can be useful in identifying officers who are not on target.
"If you have a problem officer who is not out there pushing the radio car where he or she should be, GPS can be used to keep track," he says.
Kreisler also says criminal justice agencies should maintain close liaison with their attorneys to avoid liability pitfalls. "What I see are clients -- police chiefs -- who realize they have to have attorneys involved at all stages," he says.
Today's officers must not only master the techniques of arrest, search and seizure, but also learn to use sophisticated equipment that a few years ago exited only in the minds of scientists. How agencies choose to use their technological muscle and know-how helps them meet many future challenges head-on. For example, take a look at another type of GPS technology.