Where do we go From Here?

Aug. 20, 2020
Sometime in the near future, there's going to be that "new normal" we hear so much about. What will happen between now and then? How long will it take to get there?

2020 has been an interesting year so far, to say the least. What opened as just another new year, by early March had become unique from any experience law enforcement has ever seen. When pandemics had occurred in the past, law enforcement was very different from what it is now and government controls were just as different. Then came along Minneapolis. Riots. Protests. Vandalism. Destruction of private property. And now, in some places, an all-out attack/war on law enforcement. Some might object to the term but when false calls for service are put out so that the officers dispatched can be ambushed, shot, and killed—that’s far from a peaceful society. 

The question is: Where do we go from here? Law enforcement is seeing more challenges than ever before and trying to meet them while still providing adequate levels of service is seemingly impossible. Recruiting and retention is a big problem and going to get bigger. Funding and budgets are likely to become bigger challenges than normal in the coming months, if not years. We’ll be stuck having to do more with less. (At least that’s nothing new.) For example, when the housing bubble burst in 2008 we certainly all saw budget cuts as the municipal, county, and state tax bases tanked.

Beyond a doubt, chiefs and sheriffs are going to have their hands full fighting for sufficient operational budgets, having to decide what programs will be cut and then having to justify to the same politicians who cut our budgets why we can’t provide the expected level of service. Now, more than ever is the time for agencies to work together. Mutual aid agreements, task force formation, and sharing assets will become a “new normal.” Policy language is going to take on a new level of importance as the wording has to become societally appealing, legally defensible, and operationally practical. Above all else, our law enforcement leaders need to ensure that NOTHING is created requiring officers to sacrifice themselves. Constitutional law, state law, county, and city laws/codes all have to be taken into consideration but then weighed against court decisions and precedents.

Soon, jurisdictions will be deciding how to open schools and various segments of society. In some states, everything is wide open but there’s no guarantee that won’t change or get rolled back. Elsewhere, things are opening in phases (one of those words we’re likely all getting tired of) and the pace of phased opening is entirely up to the governor’s perception or health reports. Many agencies are going to be juggling manpower and staffing. How long will it be before some segments of society start to debate the school’s SRO programs (already happening) or attack DARE and GREAT programs? How long until budget cuts make them unaffordable in some jurisdictions? These are eventualities that law enforcement leaders should expect and be prepared to deal with.

For all of that, there WILL be a “return to normal” sometime in the future, whether it’s sooner or later. The return to normal will both be in the health world surrounding coronavirus and in the budget/services area as societal expectations begin to even back out. No matter what we hear about a “second wave” or how the legacy media reports on police-involved events, there will come a time when a law enforcement negative outlook won’t be dominant and when health-fears don’t fill the news every minute of the day.

Until then, stay strong and work together. Support each other. Watch each other’s backs. Stay informed and communicate up and down your chain of command with the needs and values that come to your attention each shift.  

About the Author

Lt. Frank Borelli (ret), Editorial Director | Editorial Director

Lt. Frank Borelli is the Editorial Director for the Officer Media Group. Frank brings 20+ years of writing and editing experience in addition to 40 years of law enforcement operations, administration and training experience to the team.

Frank has had numerous books published which are available on Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, and other major retail outlets.

If you have any comments or questions, you can contact him via email at [email protected].

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