The Future: Part IX

future 3Future of Policing Essays: American Policing in 2022

Part IX

During the next few weeks I will be publishing excerpts from twenty or more of these essays with the hope of generating some discussion on what these police leaders and academics have to say about the future of our men and women in blue.

Enjoy and please comment!

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“Modern America is made up of a divisive citizenry. This division is greater than any time since the 1960s and perhaps more than any time since the Civil War. This divide is brought on by several issues that include the growing frustration with the Global War on Terror; differing ideas on how to handle immigration and illegal immigrants; conflicting opinions on the redistribution of wealth, health care, gun control, and the legalization of drugs; and ever-changing demographics. Increasingly, it is exhibited in anger and hostility directed at government. Although it is uncertain how our divided attitudes will impact our communities, the social conditions are ripe for widespread protests and riotous behavior in the future. The police will be placed squarely in the middle of conflicts that will arise in the next few years. The wise police leader will have his or her organization trained and equipped to deal with sudden disorder that can erupt.

“With the social networking sites that exist today, the tactics employed by protest groups and radicals will be vastly different than the ones that have existed in the past. Police agencies will be required to monitor these sites and develop intelligence networks within their communities and other agencies. They will also need to ensure that their mutual aid pacts are current and have plans in place to deploy the necessary re­ sources rapidly and effectively to prevent widespread violence and property damage.

“During the recent NATO summit held in Chicago, the police and federal law enforcement agencies wrote the book on how to handle large-scale protests in that city. They monitored websites and gathered intelligence about what to expect, ensured the protection of protestors’ constitutional rights, and made clear boundaries about where the protests could occur. The officers were equipped, trained, and ready to handle any disturbance that might arise (my emphasis). No one should think, ‘It can’t happen here.’”

[David E. Dial, retired chief of police in Naperville, Illinois.]


“In May 2012, several British policing services began to explore privatizing aspects of their operations. This step was not only to privatize low-level aspects of policing in these regions but also to out-source core tasks, including routine patrol, investigations, and detention. With a starting contract price tag of over $2.4 billion spread over seven years, the announcement generated considerable interest from a number of major corporations involved in military, industrial, and public safety contracts.

“Whether privatization of such services truly creates financial gains, results in better service delivery, or is in the interests of communities or citizens is irrelevant. This event signifies the death-knell of what historically has been a bedrock assumption of the public sector—that government agencies are too big to fail and too entrenched to be supplanted or replaced…

“Previously sacrosanct government agencies could find themselves dramatically restructured or disbanded altogether.

“What this means for the future of policing is that ‘business as usual’ assumptions about police organizations, operations, leadership, tradition, and culture must change (my emphasis). Calls for change in American policing can be traced back to the roots of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the 1931 Wickersham Report, and various other inquiries arising during the past century. What has changed is that agencies that do not change by 2022 will face the real threat of elimination, something previously unknown.

“To respond to these changes, American policing must initiate real, honest, and critical dialogue and innovation. Paramilitary bureaucratic organizational structures and operational approaches were vital in removing systemic corruption from policing more than a century ago. They are decidedly ill suited for modern public safety needs (my emphasis). Bureaucracy is slow and entrenched and resists change. It suppresses creativity, innovation, and flexible ways to address problems. In a world where technology changes at an exponential pace and society is undergoing continuous rapid transformation, agencies employing bureaucratic government structures risk being rendered incapable of addressing their core missions.

“The prevailing bureaucratic command-and-control structure noted in the majority of American police agencies is the wrong model if agencies hope to attract and retain the services of those entering the modern labor market… Policing must explore new ways to think about personnel systems, recruitment, hiring, training, culture, and internal operations. Policing cannot force the modern labor force to fit into a historical organizational model. The profession must find an organizational design that will attract bright, competent, and capable people and will encourage them to continue to work in policing…

“Above all else, policing needs real leadership. Herman Goldstein once wrote a scathing critique of leadership in American policing; his observations centered on the lack of true leadership, courage, innovation, and forward thinking by police personnel and within police organizations. Changes in the past half-century have, regrettably, been quite minimal. The policing profession continues to systematically suppress innovative ideas and creative thinking, insisting instead on reinforcing tradition and conformist thinking (my emphasis). While the profession develops competent supervisors and administrators, in the future policing will need courageous leaders to remain viable (again, my emphasis).

“What are the future solutions to these daunting circumstances? No one knows. However, this uncertainty cannot be used to justify inaction and a continuation of current operational strategies. Discourse and dialogue are needed; the conversation cannot be limited to policing executives, scholars, or policy makers. Bold and innovative ideas are needed. Courageous leadership is needed. Experimental efforts must be initiated, and we must be prepared for many of those efforts to fail. If the policing profession remains passive and reactive in shaping its own future, the result will be increasing irrelevance for the police and greater vulnerability for communities and citizens. The policing profession must mobilize itself to shape its own future in a way that does not simply seek to preserve a mythical image of bygone days” (my emphasis).

[Joseph A. Schafer, chair of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Southern Illinois University.]