A third trend is civilianization. Do we really need more cops? Can a civilian, maybe a retired or former professional peace officer, serve as a civilian in such areas as recruiting, internal affairs, crime prevention, Public Information Officer (PIO), or backgrounds? How about hiring a professional accountant or computer analyst to work as a civilian in your fraud or computer crimes sections? They can even be dual utilized to help with agency budget. More and more agencies are using contract or civilian background investigators. The Manatee County Sheriff's Department is hiring a civilian recruiter. Las Vegas Metro is looking at hiring a former peace officer part time in recruiting to augment the full time staff. Many agencies have CSOs or PSTs (Public Service Technicians). Can these civilians assist in investigative or traffic functions? Along the line of civilian help, what about part time cops? There are many retired cops who would be happy to work part time or full time for three to six months. We gotta get our motor home time in! While most agencies out west hire only full time, the Reno Police Department hires part time paid "reserves."
One trend that already exists is reduced police services, such as responses to cold property crimes and private property accidents. Each agency is different. These changes make us less popular with the community we serve. Yet the paperwork burden seems to increase. My former agency implemented a computerized report system that set us back ten years and required twice as much time to write a report. Administrators must look at making each individual more productive, not less.
One unfortunate trend in business that will be a major positive for police work is the retirement and medical care most provide along with civil service job security. Some agencies in Alaska and others have done away with the conventional retirement system; this will be a major draw to steal away those officers to an agency that does offer a good system. A strong retirement system, job security and medical care will draw in those from other professions who had not thought about law enforcement.
A final trend will be technology. As more and more technological and scientific improvements arrive (too many out there to imagine) they can replace some functions of humans and at least make us more productive.
So, as you can see, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The answer may be in asking if we really need more cops, or are they ways to free up the cops we have? Are there alternatives to full time sworn personnel? Do all detectives have to be cops or might a specialist in computers or accounting do better?
Also, should we look at some means of state-sponsored or other coordinated regional recruiting systems with multiple agencies to save money and make the smaller agencies competitive with those with big budgets and staffs? As part of that, more and more professionals outside of police work may give us a second look depending on the job security and benefits we provide. Finally, can non-profits be enlisted to help mentor and financially assist youths toward a career in law enforcement?
Hopefully this article will be copied and find its way under the door or on the desk of your administration. Underline the strong points. Hopefully administrators will work with other agencies and the state standards commission to step up to the plate and help solve the problem in a cost effective manner.
There is hope!