Protecting citizen safety has become increasingly more difficult in recent years because of various factors, including rising crime rates, officer shortages and decreased public trust. From implementing new technology to modernizing recruitment efforts, law enforcement leaders nationwide are strategizing to adapt their departments to a changing landscape.
To best meet the needs of their communities and work effectively moving forward, leaders will need to recognize and prioritize the following three trends for law enforcement this year.
Applying grant funding effectively
New public safety grant funding from federal, state and local governments creates opportunities to enhance your department’s efforts. To maximize this potential, department leaders need to be strategizing on how to apply for and promptly implement this funding.
Designated officials should regularly review the most recent funding programs and determine if the department is eligible to receive funding. Luckily, there are several resources available to help identify recent grant and funding opportunities, including the grant page of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). You’re also likely to find resources on your state government’s web pages.
Oftentimes, grants will fund the creation of a short-term task force to work on a specific focus, such as reducing incidents of violent crime — the top priority of the DOJ’s recent public safety budget. To ensure funding is used effectively, leaders need to plan proper training and equipment for their task forces.
Incorporating modern collaboration tools
Law enforcement departments are required to work faster and more efficiently than ever before in order to combat rising crime rates and other issues prevalent in communities nationwide. Effective communication methods are essential to unite teams as they work to protect and serve their citizens, which is why leaders must focus on identifying modern solutions to connect their teams in today’s digital age.
Many departments struggle to collaborate effectively because they still rely primarily on traditional communication methods, such as email and radio. With 92% of first responders using mobile devices to communicate with one another while on duty, department leaders need to lean into mobile solutions that help their teams connect instantly and effectively.
While implementing new platforms, however, ensuring security and compliance is essential. Some of the largest public safety agencies nationwide have dealt with significant security and legal trouble due to reliance on non-compliant messaging platforms. Leaders should keep their teams informed about these risks and implement agency-wide effective and compliant communication tools to enhance collaboration.
Focusing on transparency and trust building
In recent years, lack of trust in first responders, especially police officers, has contributed to damaged relationships with communities and historic rates of officer resignations with fewer recruits interested in taking their place. By engaging with citizens and leading with transparency, departments can effectively rebuild trust and strengthen relationships within their communities.
The definition of transparency tends to vary between department leaders and citizens. Departments should strive to meet or exceed public expectations of transparency by sharing the information consistently for all incidents so that citizens do not become skeptical that departments are purposely changing the narrative or hiding information to improve their public appearance.
During and following critical incidents, agencies should share public information directly, outside of traditional media outlets. Sharing updates on social media is effective, but too often, departments will post without engaging with citizens in the comments. Best practices include responding to all comments, even the negative ones, and refraining from deleting any unless they are inappropriate or harmful. Instead of deleting a comment, thank the commenter and offer details about the next community forum as an outlet for them to give feedback.
When citizens feel involved in decisions regarding law enforcement in their community, they are more likely to support and value the law enforcement officials enacting those policies. Departments should offer various opportunities for citizens to get involved, such as holding forums at community centers to have conversations with community leaders; allowing citizens to review policies digitally and give feedback; and contracting an independent group to survey citizens on how they feel the department is succeeding and how it could improve. Once you receive community input and ideas, make a genuine attempt to use the feedback and demonstrate improvements to your community.
With continued staffing and rising crime rates impacting police departments, this year is a crucial time for enhanced strategies across public safety. Leaders need to identify opportunities to strengthen efficiency and connections so they are better able to protect and serve citizens. Staying on top of effective strategies and trends will prepare departments for the future of law enforcement by reducing challenges and risks.
About the author:
Jeff Halstead dedicated nearly 35 years of service to law enforcement and corresponding local communities. For more than two decades, Halstead worked for the Phoenix Police Department, departing as Homeland Security Commander (Fusion Center) to join the Fort Worth Police Department. As Chief of Police in Fort Worth, he faced many national and global crisis incidents before retiring in 2015. He went on to co-found Evertel, a WSI Technologies solution, which offers a secure and compliant mobile communication platform for first responders and government entities to solve the communication disparities he witnessed firsthand as a first responder and law enforcement agency leader.