Here are the events and technologies the P1 team and our readership viewed as having the most significant impact on the profession in the last decade
There is a lot to look back on as we close out the decade. As the calendar changes, so too has the law enforcement profession. From body cameras to reporting technology, from protests to public perception, the changes in law enforcement over the last decade have been sweeping. We asked our readers to help us weigh in on the things they thought had the most impact on the police profession over the past 10 years.
Here are the 12 events and technologies the PoliceOne team and our readership viewed as the biggest LE gamechangers of the 2010s.
1. Body-worn cameras
Body-worn cameras have maintained a growing presence in law enforcement over the past decade. When they first became widespread, the response from cops was overwhelmingly negative. But as time has gone on, their controversy among LEOs has waned. PoliceOne readers pointed to them as valuable tools for both accountability and training.
“Our large recorders miniaturized into small digital pocket recorders, which have morphed into cameras and recording devices that are worn daily, just as much to protect us as to protect the public,” Lt. Jaime Brown wrote. “Gone are the days when an officer’s word was gold.”
“While video doesn’t always capture the whole situation, it’s changed the way accountability works for civilians and law enforcement, as well as providing an excellent training tool,” Caleb Lacy added.
2. Reporting technology
In the same vein, law enforcement officers told PoliceOne they’ve noticed a remarkable shift in the technology their departments employ to make writing and reading reports faster, easier and more efficient – part of a broader trend of automation in law enforcement technology and software.
“My old department was connected to a reporting network that spanned several hundred departments,” Richard Lee said. “I was able to search for someone and read incident reports where they were involved from other agencies, when previously we only had NCIC to rely on.”
Some members also noticed that the decade’s change in technological advancements came with an unspoken mandate for officers to keep up with the technology for on-duty success.
“So much more is being used than a decade ago,” Michael Korach wrote. “Some with positive results, some negative. The next generation of law enforcement has to be able to work with this technology, understand it and apply it day-to-day.”
3. The Ferguson protests and the Black Lives Matter movement
In August 2014, Michael Brown was shot by officer Darren Wilson. The deadly OIS led to a series of violent protests in Ferguson that were mimicked after police-involved shootings in several cities across America throughout the decade. The shooting also led to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and sparked a nationwide debate about the relationship between police officers and the public.
“That’s the single biggest moment that had the most dangerous and crippling effect on law enforcement up to this day,” Rick Foxx wrote.
Doug O’Neill concurred: “(It) started several false narratives that still go on today, which get magnified by the media and blown way out of proportion.”
Many readers believe both Ferguson and Black Lives Matter are significant contributors to the pervasive negative sentiment and lack of respect toward LEOs this decade, as well as the trend toward de-policing in America.
“The large-scale failure to enforce existing laws or de-policing [had the biggest influence,]” Scott Shields wrote. “I realize this is a policy-maker/command staff issue, but its effects are felt far and wide as well as deeply for those who patrol the streets daily. Seems these days that police officers’ hands and feet are tied by those pushing an agenda. This is causing disastrous morale problems resulting in unprecedented hiring and retention issues.”
4. Social media
For better or for worse, social media has had a far-reaching impact on the law enforcement community. Some members pointed to it as an accountability tool, while others expressed concerns at how quickly false or negative news can spread.
“Today’s communities demand more accountability and transparency from their police,” wrote Jose Amezaga. “And police departments are finding new ways to use social media and other strategies for communicating with their communities.”
Joe Lee had a different perspective: “The media, including social media, has practically crippled law enforcement in the most negative way in the past decade!”
5. An emphasis on community relations
Whether it’s a departmental focus on highlighting the good officers do in a community or finding ways to dispel negative rumors, members have pointed out that public engagement has had a significant impact on law enforcement.
“Building relationships and (sharing) information has delivered results with success,” wrote Lucille Murray.
“Today’s communities demand more accountability and transparency from their police,” user Amezaga added. “These changes are not just about finding new ways to reduce crime; they go deeper, to evaluating the basic mission of the police, and what people want from the police.”
6. The rise of ambush attacks
Many of our readers cited the rise in ambushes as having the biggest influence on LE this decade. The Dallas attack sent shockwaves throughout the law enforcement community – the most prominent of a series of targeted killings of cops in a number of cities, from New York to Baton Rouge. This disturbing trend has demanded that cops, already vigilant, exist in a state of hypervigilance that adds even more stress to what is already physically and mentally taxing work, and has companies trying to develop ways to better protect LEOs in some of their most vulnerable positions.
7. The Golden State Killer and DNA evidence
The capture of the Golden State Killer opened the floodgates to using DNA evidence to solve cases that had long gone cold.
“Improved DNA testing and speed has to be on the top [of the list], with many people going to jail decades after the crime,” P1 reader Sc Woz wrote.
As the advancement in DNA testing and technology continues, it’s likely that this trend will continue to yield positive results for police agencies throughout the next decade.
8. Increasing prevalence of soft target attacks, lone wolves
This decade saw an increasing prevalence of soft target attacks: the Pulse nightclub massacre, San Bernardino terror attack, Las Vegas concert shooting and Sutherland Springs church attack among the numerous examples.
The 2010s also saw the evolution of tactics in how attacks are carried out, with one of the most prominent being the use of vehicles as weapons. Many of these incidents were perpetrated by lone wolves, further complicating law enforcement’s ability to predict and respond to such attacks.
9. Sandy Hook and Parkland
The mass casualty incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 children and six adults dead resulted in a sea change on the role of civilians in active shooter situations. Campaigns such as Stop the Bleed put an emphasis on training for the literal first responders in mass attacks: the members of the public who are on the scene.
At the other side of the decade, the Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead, as well as other school attacks like it, underscored the importance of training for solo-officer response to active shooters.
10. The 1033 program tug-of-war and “militarization of police” narrative
One needs to look no further than the increasing severity of violence at mass gatherings like political rallies over the past few years to understand the merits of police agencies being equipped with tools like MRAPs. But for much of the decade, there was a battle over the 1033 program, first in the court of public opinion and eventually by the executive orders of two separate presidents. Will agencies continue to be forced to fight for the tools they need to effectively do their jobs in the next decade? Only time will tell.
11. A shift in LEO mental wellness
The mental health stigma in law enforcement absolutely still exists, but this decade saw police leaders begin to move the needle on prioritizing police officer mental health. It is imperative that this trend continues throughout the next decade, both in terms of resources available to officers in crisis and moving the conversation out of the shadows.
12. The recruitment and retention crisis
There aren’t enough cops, and this decade saw the issue getting significantly worse. From anti-police sentiment to low pay, there are a number of factors at play contributing to this massive and complex challenge that agencies across the US have been grappling with, and it’s arguably the biggest puzzle law enforcement leaders need to work to solve in 2020 and beyond.