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The field of police work is constantly being forced to develop and improve its protocols, procedures, and practices in an effort to keep pace with the ever-changing society in which it operates and criminal behavior it seeks to eradicate. While the history of policing has been marked by substantial changes throughout time, the work of modern-day police officers and officials demonstrate some of the most substantial adaptations to its surrounding environment that the field has ever seen.
In order to understand where the future of policing is heading, it is important to first understand these current trends that are affecting the current landscape of the profession. By doing so, some foreseeable critical issues that may affect policing in the future can be identified, and potential changes can then be proposed and implemented to effectively address these critical issues.
Perhaps the most important current trends in policing are those that affect the operational aspects of its crime fighting function. The first and foremost trend amongst this group has been the development of intelligence-led policing, which at its most basic, deals with the “identification of specific criminal activities or specific criminal populations and targeted enforcement against the highest-risk crimes or criminals to achieve overall reduction in the impact of crime in a community” (Wallentine, 2009, para. ). Within this broadly encompassing trend have come a few important changes affecting police departments across the nation.
One is that many police agencies have begun to incorporate professional intelligence analysts into their ranks, a brand new position for most departments and one whose importance will likely continue to grow in the years to come (Wallentine, 2009). Another is that police leadership and command staff has had to incorporate and learn new technologies, and djust to new methods of collecting and sharing information between one another and with the general public (Wallentine, 2009). The overall result of these efforts, particularly in big cities, is a trend away from forceful policing and towards enlightened policing (Herbert, 2007). With that being said, there has also been a trend of increased rates in the commission of violent crimes that has certainly affected policing regardless of what tactics are implored.
This includes upticks in international terrorism-based crimes, as well as traditional domestic criminal behavior (Cetron & Davies, 2008). Yet perhaps an even more troublesome aspect of this trend, especially when it comes to homicides, is that these increases have not been spread across the country through moderate rises in all cities, but rather through dramatic rises in homicides in some cities that simply outpace the substantial decreases other cities have experienced (Herbert, 2007).
Most of the explanations offered for this imbalanced trend deal with financial cutbacks that have been made to federal crime fighting programs and others that have left many police departments shorthanded (Herbert, 2007). Thus, budgeting strains and constraints serve as a final trend currently affecting policing, as over half of all policing agencies suffered budget cuts in 2012 alone, which comes on top of nearly 80-percent having experienced the same in 2010 (Police Executive, 2013).
Alongside the policing trend of improving intelligence and technology, there has naturally been an increase in smarts and technological acumen of criminals. When this is combined with the trends of an overall increase in crime and a decrease in police budgets, the result is that a number of foreseeable issues that could potentially affect policing in the future have risen to the forefront of concern.
As each generation becomes more and more Internet and electronic-savvy, there is an increased likelihood that in the years to come America will be plagued with more white-collar crimes than ever before (Wallentine, 2009). This issue becomes even more critical as globalization continues to spread ideas and technologies worldwide on a faster pace than ever, and the gap between rich and poor in the global marketplace increases as well, because he foreseeable result is the strengthening of domestic gangs and international separatist and extremist movements, which of course will lead to even greater spikes in crime rates and terrorist attacks (Cetron & Davies, 2008). Unfortunately, the financial trend that has been seen in policing will likely continue for the foreseeable future, which will not only limit the ability to confront these new critical issues, but will likely exacerbate them as well (Police Executive, 2013).
It is also foreseeable that new state efforts to combat their overall economic struggles will serve as a critical issue with adverse policing affects as well. More and more states continue to modify their early release policies, putting criminals back onto the streets sooner and in greater numbers than ever before, which has caused police officials to almost unanimously report that they expect to see increases in their crime rates as a result (Police Executive, 2013).
While these foreseeable critical issues certainly pose a set of substantial concerns for and potential threats to policing in the future, many can be dealt with and effectively addressed in the present-day through the implementation of a handful of changes. The first change that can start to take place in the policing world today is to establish partnerships between police forces operating in different parts of the nation and even those positioned in different societies throughout the globe (Cetron & Davies, 2008).
While there has been a trend towards more collaborative police efforts in recent years, these efforts may need to take on a more international scope in order to address the critical issues that are likely to arise in an increasingly globalized world. The effectiveness of this change would be to allow police departments, particularly those in large U. S. cities, to address newly developing problems in their communities by connecting with other police forces that have already had to deal with the same exact types of problems in their societies for a long period of time (Cetron & Davies, 2008).
For example, Israeli law enforcement officials have ample experience when it comes to dealing with the threat and realization of modern terrorist attacks, and their knowledge would serve as a great asset to big-city police forces in the U. S. if it were to be conveyed through joint-training or planning exercises (Cetron & Davies, 2008). Preparation and planning are also the keys that are essential to the changes that may be needed to effectively address the critical economic issues facing policing in the future.
Although funding for police departments has been trending downwards for most localities in recent years, there has also been a concerted effort by federal and state governments to make new funds available when it comes to responding to natural disasters and terrorist attacks (Cetron & Davies, 2008). In light of this, police forces should develop contingency plans that will allow them to efficiently and effectively access funding and take advantage of external support structures that would be made available to them in the wake of these occurrences (Cetron & Davies, 2008).
Likewise, a dual-financial purpose would be served if changes to how retired officers are viewed were put in place. Using retired officers as auxiliaries in particular situations would benefit them by helping to counteract the negative pension trend they are faced with, and would also help their employing departments by offering them a means in which they can extend their resource supply without having to pay the full-time salary requirements of newly hired officers (Cetron & Davies, 2008).