Then & Now: The P1 community discusses changes in policing
How has policing changed in the past 10 years? We collected responses from P1 members and columnists
Editor's Note: PoliceOne has been serving law enforcement officers across the country — in fact, around the globe — for more than ten years. We’ve provided police officers with news, information, training tips, columnist articles, and other resources to help them be successful crime fighters and keep safe on the streets. A lot has changed for officers in the past ten years, and a lot has changed for the men and women of PoliceOne, too.
During the past ten years, we’ve become the leading online information and training resource for law enforcement. The PoliceOne community — our columnists, contributors, editors, sales and marketing staff, and most importantly, our members — continue to celebrate our 10-year anniversary with this retrospective. We hope you are inspired to add your own comments below. Where were you ten years ago? How has policing changed? Where are we going in the decade ahead of us?
"What is different from police work now than a decade ago? Today’s officers must be more aware of the global situation than officers from the previous decade. With the rise of terrorism and the international scale of events, officers must be able to understand, assist and support a united anti-terror effort here in the U.S. than at any time in the past 20 years. I believe that officers today are less prepared in terms of training and readiness for gunfighting than they were a decade ago. Less money, resources, and time is spent on training and officers are supposed to suck it up and keep going. Criminals have started to perceive this drop in preparedness and actively start to take on officers. There will continue to be a price paid in blood until the general public, police administrations, and cops come to the realization that officers can’t be all things to all people.
The basic identity of police officers and their role in society seems to have become blurred as they are pulled this way and that. Now, more than ever, cops need to do what they do best. Protect the public, catch bad guys and follow the law, without trying to sugar coat their efforts. They need more support from the public and less criticism of the heroic job they do."
— Submitted by: Ron Avery, PoliceOne columnist
"Ten years ago, DNA was considered new technology; now, it's a standard."
— Submitted by: James Thompson (Retired), Houston Police Department
"Ten years ago, our homeland hadn’t been attacked. Ten years ago, we still chased bad guys till the wheels fell off. Ten years ago, we didn’t “Tase” people. Ten years ago, we didn’t need foot pursuit policies. Ten years ago, we still had large trunks in our cars. Ten years ago, GPS didn’t track our every move. Ten years ago, we didn’t arrest cops for doing their jobs, even when they made a mistake in good faith."
"Ten years ago, we didn’t live in a perfect world, and we still do not today. It’s our job to serve and protect, even when society signs us up for changes we didn’t ask for and may not like. We have to roll with the changes in law enforcement, sometimes good, sometimes not so good. It’s your career, a new year, a new decade, to stand out, to make a difference in your calling as a cop. Don’t just sit there. Rise up, keep stepping forward. Your legacy is yours for the taking. years from now, give your grandchildren good stories to tell their children as they pass around your old shield, that has been worn smooth from your years of service. Help shape the future of law enforcement--time’s a waistin’, let’s get busy."
— Submitted by: Andrew G. Hawkes, PoliceOne contributor
"Ten years ago, when we made a valid arrest, the bad guys stayed locked up; now, they are out before the reports are complete."
— Submitted by: Genaro Esposito
"Ten years ago: 'You're under arrest, bad guy' 'Go to hell, cop' - hands on, poly pile, torn uniform, abrasions, bruises and cuts, suspect goes to the emergency room with a dislocated shoulder, officer waits 6 hours for medical release, suspect finally booked. Six months later, the Excessive Use of Force IA is completed and the matter is finally closed. The suspect brags to his buddies that it took 3 cops to take him down.
"Now: 'You're under arrest, bad guy' 'Go to hell, cop' - TASER deployed, suspect hits ground and is handcuffed immediately, EMTs put a band-aid on the probe marks and suspect goes to jail. No IA, no officer injury, no torn uniform. Suspect brags to his buddies that the TASER really sucked but he took it like a man."
— Submitted by: Sgt. Bill Campbell, PoliceOne contributor
"Ten years ago, my department had regular, elective, in-service training (minimum of 16 hours), range training, and driver training in addition to the states minimum requirements; now, we are lucky the state has a minimum requirement"
"Ten years ago, policy dissemination was by paper and was somewhat cumbersome to deliver changes to 900+ personnel; now, it is all done digitally which allows for daily changes in policy."
— Submitted by: Capt. Richard Alexander, Tulsa Police Dept.
"I feel the biggest change in policing this decade is a vastly improved ability to deal with mass killing incidents. At the beginning of this decade (and century) we were still recoiling from the shock of the Columbine school attack. The move toward universal rapid deployment training, combined with the widespread adoption of patrol rifles, has put our response capability on an entirely new plane. Active shooter incidents happen so fast that rapid deployment tactics won’t stop the majority of such events, but ordinary patrol officers can use the new training and weaponry to quickly end incidents. Moreover, many departments are now expanding their rapid deployment training to include bounding overwatch as well as fire and maneuver tactics to counter the threat of terrorist attack teams like those who killed so many in Mumbai, India."
— Submitted by: Dick Fairburn, PoliceOne columnist
"Ten years ago, radio did all my data and warrants checks; now, I just type the data into the computer in my patrol car and I get to read the returns myself."
— Submitted by: Lt Chris Jensen, Bainbridge Island Police Department
“From the perspective of K9, the main difference between a decade ago and now would be that the demands on the dogs and handlers now are much more stringent. Ten years ago, police dogs weren’t in the public eye as much as they are now, so the dogs were less social and used less for PR and public demos. Now, the dogs selected must both be able to be very social and PR friendly, comfortable and confident around civilians, especially in schools, and yet be able to, “flip the switch” and make criminal apprehensions with courage and confidence.
"Ten years ago, many patrol officers were more skeptical about using dogs, especially as locators for fleeing suspects and for detection functions, preferring to do searching themselves rather than call in K9 to track or do a building search. Now, since dogs have proven their worth, patrol officers in general rely more on K9 as an integral part of their approach to handling calls. Dogs are relatively cheap, and extremely effective in deterring crime, and will continue to be one of the best bargains in law enforcement for the foreseeable future.”
— Submitted by: Jerry Bradshaw, PoliceOne contributor
"Ten years ago, people believed the testimony of officers; now, they require video."
"Ten years ago, officers drank themselves through problems; now, they exercise, diet, and talk more to their families."
"Ten years ago, a high school diploma or GED was the average education of an officer; now, to be competitive today, it is a minimum of an Associates degree or a Bachelor of Science."
"Ten years ago, media was something you hated and endured; now, the media should be a part of any planning on community connections."
— Submitted by: Commander Mitchell Cushman, Laramie (Wyo.) Police Department
"The difference I see in the past decade is two-fold: first, I think the nature of policing in the suburbs and rural communities has changed. The problems once seemingly restricted to big-city or municipal policing are becoming more prevalent in the suburbs. Police response to violent crimes, robberies and quality of life issues such as drugs and prostitution has increased in these areas.
The second big change or difference I see is in leadership and the creeping vine of careerism, which turns otherwise good individuals into ladder-climbing, rank-obsessed officers. These supervisor types are more interested in their own careers and next promotion rather than in the development and protection of the officers in their command. This is not a blanket indictment of all police bosses, but an observation that there are many more these days that I see. I witnessed this first hand prior to retiring and now in my law practice as I defend officers for petty disciplinary offenses."
— Submitted by: Terry Dwyer, PoliceOne contributor
"Ten years ago, bad guys did not wish to die; now, they want to kill others and kill themselves."
"Ten years ago, police were expected to patrol and control their community; now, they are first line intervention in discovery of local terrorism cells."
"Ten years ago, dispatchers had a radio, a hard line telephone system and teletype machine; now, they have mobile computer, wireless phones, next generation, mapping, respect, and no funding to keep up with public ability and demand.
"Ten years ago, information updates and expectations changed every 5 years; now, information is out of date every 1.5 yrs."
— Submitted by: Anonymous P1 Member
I have spent a good deal of my career sending men and women off to battle, not in wars across the sea but to the streets and gravel roads of our own trouble. From academy instructing in the ‘90s to college professing in the ‘00s, I have seen over a thousand freshly minted cops march proudly across the academy graduation stage and into an unpredictable world of sorrow, fear, and the unknown. Some have killed others. Some have died. All have lost a piece of their soul and gained lessons of eternal significance. Each of them is changed as they enter into the fraternity of those who have seen the dark side. Other than TASERs and terrorism, the decade was less about change to the profession than about the striking sameness of the cop’s fundamental work. We can talk about technology and politics, war, new toys, and techniques... but one thing hasn’t changed is that the thin blue line between chaos and democracy is still the police officer.
— Submitted by: Joel F. Shults, PoliceOne contributor
"Columbine and September 11th have drastically changed American policing in the last decade. American law enforcement has had to update tactics and equipment to meet two particularly vile enemies: the radical jihadist and the active shooter. These murderers with their homicidal bent and twisted logic are killing defenseless innocent victims, showing neither mercy nor conscience.
The bad guys are being met head-on by honorable gun fighters, who are ‘riding to the sound of the guns.’ The tactics that have been adopted and trained in this country are aggressive, heroicm and effective. The jihadists and active shooters are being given the only medicine that seems to work against their ilk: the combination of an effective and efficient act of courage, coupled with a few well placed shots of honorable American police officers. This battle is bringing the worst of humanity face to face with the best of humanity and failure is not an option."
— Submitted by: Lt. Dan Marcou, PoliceOne columnist
"As I reflect over the last ten years in the law enforcement profession, I’ve realized that police officers have consistently gained a better perspective of their personal safety and survival while off duty. I attended my first national-level lecture on “off duty survival” about 10 years ago at one of the last American Society for Law Enforcement Trainers (ASLET) conferences and was profoundly affected. Although I consistently carried an off-duty gun of my own, I wasn’t a very passionate promoter of the idea as a trainer because I (wrongly) assumed that all cops were armed while off duty. As I became more involved in survival training, I learned that off-duty survival, including weapons, tools, tactics, and mindset, is a very personal issue that invokes passion on both sides of the issue.
As we head into another decade, I believe that more and more officers will take advantage of the privilege to be well-armed. Officers are training both physically and mentally for the very real possibility of having to get involved in a deadly force situation while off-duty. Thanks in large part to courses like the “Street Survival” seminar and the teachings (and preaching’s) of trainers like “Coach” Bob Lindsay, Dave Smith, Lou Ann Hamblin and Tony Luketic, I am hopeful that this trend continues. Stay safe!"
— Submitted by: Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith, PoliceOne columnist
"Much has changed in the twenty years I have been a police officer, but nothing as much as technology and personnel behavior. I recall when I started in 1989, wearing a ballistic vest was very much optional because most local law enforcement agencies did not have sufficient funding to provide one for each of their sworn personnel, and those that did gave the officer discretion to wear them. Now, one would struggle to find a law enforcement officer out in the field without ballistic protection.
"Today’s generation of police officers, Generation Y, has also been a significant change in policing. Ten years ago, most cops were so happy to get the job and truly wanted to make a difference their communities, it really didn’t matter that we started on the midnight shift. Now, some of the officers we hire question everything and ask about a homicide investigation assignment upon graduating from the academy, or some other highly coveted position, like CSI. They carry their own computers and cell phones because the ones we provide them aren’t robust enough for their expectations. If the mobile data terminal in their patrol car is not working, they cry “officer safety” because they won’t have turn-by-turn navigation leading them to their calls or call history at their calls for service.
"In the area of technology, the electronic control device (ECD), commonly referred to as the “TASER”, has been the invention of the decade in my opinion, and has prevented many serious injuries both to law enforcement and violent offenders. My agency alone is on a record low of officer injuries thanks in great part to our ECDs. Finally, significant improvements to our communications systems have allowed us to communicate with each other like never before. Since September 11, there have been billions of dollars spend on interoperability, data sharing and better communication devices.
"I’m an optimist by nature and truly believe that the best is yet to come. Our continued collaboration with the private sector of manufacturers of public safety technology can only ensure we pave a better and safer way of doing police work for future generations of law enforcement officers."
— Submitted by: Eddie Reyes, PoliceOne contributor