19 on 2019: Expert predictions on the top police issues in 2019

What challenges will law enforcement face in 2019?


For more from our expert columnists on the year in policing, check out our full "2018 in Review" special coverage here

By PoliceOne Staff

As 2018 comes to a close, it is time to look ahead to the critical issues, challenges and trends law enforcement faces in 2019.

PoliceOne asked 19 law enforcement experts to share their predictions of the biggest issues police will face in 2019 and their top tips for how to navigate the path ahead. Read their predictions in this slideshow – which you are welcome to download, print, or share on your social networks. You can also read the full text of the predictions and tips below the slide share and keep scrolling to the end of the article to add your predictions in the comments area for the top issues confronting law enforcement and police officers in 2019.

Active Shooter Response

The active shooter trend will not abate in 2019. While attacks from garden-variety crazies will certainly continue, it's possible that we'll see an increase in politically motivated attacks, as disaffected political groups continue their slide toward the violent radicalism that plagued America from the mid-1960s to mid-1970s. My hope for 2019 is that law enforcement leaders will take a more active role in promoting training the responsible citizens in their communities in the lawful and ethical use of force in self-defense.

Top Tip: If you're not already carrying an individual first aid kit (IFAK) on your person while on duty, fix that immediately. You can easily bleed out before you reach the kit in your patrol vehicle.

— Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Mike Wood is the son of a 30-year California Highway Patrolman and the author of “Newhall Shooting: A Tactical Analysis,” the highly-acclaimed study of the 1970 California Highway Patrol gunfight in Newhall, California.

Communications Technology

2019 will usher in three major technologies – Next Generation 911 (NG911), Artificial Intelligence for 911 (AI911) and FirstNet. Implementation of NG911 infrastructure will allow emergency communications centers to accept text, photos and videos from citizens. This rich data, which will be supplemented with robust artificial intelligence search engines, will provide emergency call takers with more complete information before dispatching first responders. A social media dashboard, integrated into the CAD system, will generate mind-blowing possibilities. Even if only location accuracy is augmented for the caller with NG911 and AI, this will be a significant improvement compared to the current capabilities of most emergency call centers. FirstNet is being rapidly deployed to first responders, which will allow for quick and seamless transition of the super-rich data collected by call takers to first responders in the field.   

Top Tip: An unintended consequence of this intelligent information will be that some call takers will find it challenging to witness the images coming into call centers, which will create vacancies in 911 centers and require a major training shift in order to replace those who depart and ensure that those being hired are capable of processing graphic information.

Eddie Reyes is director of the 911 center in Prince William County, Virginia. He retired from the Alexandria Police Department with the rank of senior deputy chief after 25 years of service. He also served as a project manager at the National Police Foundation.

Crowd Control

Civil unrest will continue to be a challenge for law enforcement in 2019. Currently, most agencies do not address crowd control training until they are found ill-prepared by a large disturbance. I predict that more academies and agencies nationwide will begin to deliver training to ensure every police officer is equipped to respond to civil unrest and the challenges posed by today's professional rioters. 

Top Tip: Team training should take place shortly before any anticipated event, and at least once a year. The latter can be an opportunity to have officers clean and inspect their tactical equipment.

Lt. Dan Marcou is an internationally-recognized police trainer who was a highly-decorated police officer with 33 years of full-time law enforcement experience. He is a co-author of “Street Survival II.”

Digital Forensics

Law enforcement needs to prepare for the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) such as wearable technology, internet-connected home assistants and vehicle infotainment systems. The growing reliance on digital evidence in both cybercrime and conventional criminal investigations will necessitate that agencies re-evaluate how to address the subsequent increased inventory of “virtual evidence” that must be preserved. Police agencies need to be able to substantiate the authenticity of digital evidence, while still providing access that offers verifiable accountability. This has the potential to become a mounting financial and logistical challenge.

Top Tip: Cloud-based storage options may offer an affordable solution over investing in servers maintained on an agency’s premises. However, departments must diligently consider various issues such as rules of evidence, cybersecurity and fiscal sustainability before deciding what solution meets their needs now and in the future.

Major Christian Quinn is a 22-year veteran law enforcement officer and currently serves as the commander of the Cyber & Forensic Bureau with the Fairfax County Police Department in Fairfax, Virginia. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

DNA Technology

Genetic genealogy will successfully be used to identify active serial offenders in addition to solving cold cases. New forensic technology advances, such as DNA methylation analysis and phenotype prediction of novel physical traits, will assist with these identifications.

Top Tip: Don’t wait for a case to go cold before employing advanced DNA analysis.

— CeCe Moore is the lead genetic genealogist at Parabon NanoLabs, and an internationally recognized DNA investigative expert, educator and pioneer in the field of genetic genealogy.

Evidence-Based Policing

My hope is that evidence-based policing will enhance strategy, operational deployments, initiatives and policy while being aware of policing’s inherent uncertainty. Unfortunately, we will continue to resist research and data partly because U.S. policing is decentralized (18,000 individual police departments) and based mostly on tradition, culture, politics, law, agency-specific values and public opinion. However, if we look deeply at our roles in a democratic society and restructure reward systems that focus at times on deterrence/prevention (where appropriate) and legitimacy, then we may align our actions to desired outcomes. The result might be the institutionalization of evidence-based approaches to policing based partly on analyzing and assessing data with the exponential growth of leveraged technology and more crime analysts.

Top Tip: If police leaders can build a receptivity to scientific research in policing, then we might understand the impact of our responses by reviewing and using the best available evidence to inform, challenge and strategically inform our long-term decisions, policies and practices, and place cops at times and locations of crime to make us more effective in improving public safety.

Jason Potts is a lieutenant with the Vallejo (Calif.) Police Department, a NIJ LEADS scholar, an American Society of Evidence-Based Policing (ASEBP) executive board member, a Police Foundation Fellow and a reserve special agent with the Coast Guard Investigative Service.

Homeless Outreach

I predict that law enforcement agencies will push for more social service involvement with their homeless populations, as most issues facing these populations are best handled by those outside of law enforcement. Communities across the country have already begun to make this shift and I expect this to continue in 2019.

Top Tip: Engage your social service community and encourage them to respond to calls involving those who are experiencing homelessness alongside your officers. By doing so you can start the process of getting people the help they need from those who are best suited to provide assistance.

Dr. Booker Hodges has been a police officer for over 11 years and currently holds the rank of undersheriff for the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Dr. Hodges is the only active police officer in the history of the NAACP to serve as a branch president. 

Media Relations

More law enforcement agencies will hire civilian PIOs. This concept has been trending upward for approximately five years and it makes sense. Former journalists or candidates with communications backgrounds make for strong storytellers, which is traditionally a skill set law enforcement has lacked. This is not to say sworn PIOs can't do the job and do it well, but hiring media professionals to do a media job makes sense. Having a PIO who knows how the media operates, what “sells” and the ability to do it on a reporter's timeline generally generates positive press for the agency.

Top Tip: The civilian PIO or lead spokesperson should be a direct report to the police chief of sheriff. Barriers cause delays and there is little time for delay in today's split-second news cycle.

Julie Parker is a former TV news reporter in Washington, DC, turned media relations director for two large suburban DC police departments, turned communications consultancy president.

Mental Health Response

Local law enforcement agencies will be asked to assist federal law enforcement in the handling of potential targeted mass violence subjects who suffer from mental illness. These subjects often do not reach the threshold for prosecution and diversion to mental health linkages is a more appropriate response.

TOP TIP: Local agencies should reach out to their local mental health authority to determine what resources are available for these subjects. Federal agencies need to reach out to their local agencies to learn about their law enforcement/mental health collaborations and develop a system to refer subjects.

Lieutenant Brian Bixler is a 22-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department and is in charge of the Mental Evaluation Unit and Threat Management Unit. He is the LAPD's Mental Illness Project Coordinator and is appointed to the Los Angeles County EMS Commission.

Officer Training

There will be continued training emphasis on responding to persons in crisis, the mentally ill and impaired. Health and wellness programs will be adopted by more agencies as part of officer survival. Technology will become increasingly important to the delivery of training from use-of-force simulation that approaches virtual reality to the development of on-demand learning modules that will enable officers to call up training they need while working on a problem in the field much as we might ask Alexa or Google for the weather forecast.

Top Tip: Body worn and other cameras are providing us with improved feedback on the effectiveness of training and increased transparency for law enforcement. Trainers can be of value in educating the public, politicians and pundits of the realities of use of force and other aspects of police work. Without this context we may be burdened with politically motivated training/policy that will not increase safety for anyone. 

— Harvey V. Hedden is ILEETA’s executive director, having previously served as deputy executive director for six years. He served 38 years in law enforcement in ranks from patrolman to chief.

Officer Wellness

Millennial officers will continue advocating for increased resources for emotional wellness and a stigma-free culture in policing. While many administrators will see the value, they will be challenged in successful implementation if they are resistant to seeking out mental health services for themselves, having come up through the ranks when counseling and psychiatric medications were viewed as only for the weak. As a result, clinical depression, anxiety disorders and PTSD will go untreated in police officers and suicides will remain the same or increase because continued stigma prevents cops from seeking out services from a licensed mental health professional.

Top Tip: Make emotional wellness as important as tactical training. In order to be tactically strong, an officer needs to be emotionally intelligent as well. Begin implementing a wellness check program where officers are able to see a licensed mental health professional of their choosing in a completely confidential setting, three times a year. This will de-stigmatize the act of seeing a counselor, provide a therapeutic outlet and foster a relationship with a professional before a crisis hits.

Officer Mike Wasilewski, LCSW, is a full-time police officer for a large Chicago suburban department. Both Mike and his wife, Althea Olson, LCSW, are psychotherapists at Fox Bend Counseling in Oswego, Illinois.

Operations

In the latter half of 2019, policing will begin to feel the effects of the coming global recession. This will be exacerbated by the impact of climate change on policing in the form of increased flooding, hurricanes, fires and drought, and flare ups of civil unrest in urban centers resulting from controversial police use-of-force incidents gone viral via social media. This will begin a noticeable reduction in personnel in many policing agencies and force the re-examination of basic service delivery models, civilianization, volunteers in policing and regionalized or consolidated/contracted services. It will also accelerate the expansion of disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, biometrics and drones in policing. These technological advances and integration in policing will outstrip practitioner understanding of their consequences and policy/legislation development, which will lead to increased tension in community-police relations.

Top Tip: To prepare for an increasingly unstable operating environment, agencies should make an organizational decision that focusing on the department’s future is a priority and take definitive steps to operationalize and support the decision. Agencies should designate an organizational champion to lead the “developing organizational foresight” initiative. 

— Chief Jim Bueermann (ret.) began his policing career in 1978 with the Redlands (Calif.) Police Department, retiring as chief and director of housing, recreation and senior services in 2011. In 2012 he was appointed the President of the National Police Foundation, America’s oldest non-membership, non-partisan police research organization.

Opioid Response

We recognize that we cannot arrest our way out of the opioid epidemic. This has led to a shift in police culture toward proactive non-arrest programs that prevent overdose deaths, improve public safety and enhance trust between police and communities. Police now have tools in their toolkit that enable them to create pathways to treatment and recovery. As more departments join PAARI and see the benefits to their communities, my prediction is that these non-arrest responses to the opioid epidemic will become a widespread practice in many more police departments across the country.

Top Tip: As police officers, you have a front row seat to the opioid epidemic. You are problem solvers and you got into this job to help people. Your community and your agency need a champion to take action. I encourage you to be that champion. Get started and PAARI will be here to help.

— Allie Hunter McDade is the executive director of the Police Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative (PAARI), a movement of law enforcement agencies that believe in treatment over arrest.

PTSD

In 2018, agencies continued to make significant progress in establishing programs and policies to assist personnel recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder. However, the reality is that not all officers will be able to recover. Individuals seeking PTSD-related workers’ compensation and/or a disability pension continue to face many obstacles to obtaining such benefits. While some individual states have attempted to reduce obstacles, the pace of change is far too slow. Law enforcement agencies and administrators need to work with state legislators to improve access to workers’ compensation and enact pension laws to help officers who are unable to recover from non-visible, career-ending injuries.

Top Tip: It is important that agencies address the cognitive, emotional, physical and behavioral symptoms associated with traumatic stress by implementing CISM interventions and peer-support programs.

— Dr. Chuck Russo is the program director of criminal justice at American Military University. He began his career in law enforcement in 1987 in central Florida and was involved all areas of patrol, training, special operations and investigations before retiring in 2013.

Recruitment & Retention

Hiring the right people is critical. Recruiters will focus more on looking for candidates who display integrity, effective communication skills, empathy for others and a spirit for public service. Creating a culture where these traits are valued and rewarded will keep those employees professionally fulfilled.

Top Tip: Every encounter with the public is an opportunity to build trust, or harm trust. When the public believes that they are being listened to, and that their police department is well intended in their actions, trust is built.

— J. Thomas Manger has been a cop for 42 years, and served as the police chief in both Fairfax County, Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland. For the past four years, he has been the president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association.

School Safety

School safety will continue to be a major challenge for law enforcement and educators in 2019. When we put police in schools, we must use a community-based policing approach. If we put police in schools only to stop school shootings, we will fail. If we put police in schools only to solve a gang problem, we will fail. The number one goal of any police officer working in a school must be to bridge the gap between law enforcement and youth. Achieving that goal produces valuable intelligence that helps prevent active shooter situations.

Top Tip: Have at least one carefully selected, specially trained law enforcement officer in every school.

— Mo Canady is the executive director for the National Association of School Resource Officers, which provides training for school resource officers.

Social Media

A 2018 Pew Research survey concluded that 91 percent of U.S. adults use a smartphone and 97 percent use the internet. As more people prefer to do their business online through smartphones, police departments must begin to understand the benefits of deploying a “mobile-first” strategy as it relates to their ongoing use of social media platforms to communicate and should begin to shift their social media and outreach efforts to provide a better customer service mobile experience for their residents.

Top Tip: Think about everything residents can do or ask for when they walk into your police department lobby. Would they be able to ask the same questions or request the same services through their smartphone? If it's less, you disappoint. If more, they'll thank and praise you for it and you'll earn a loyal follower.

Captain Chris Hsiung from the Mountain View Police Department in California is an internationally recognized speaker, trainer and blogger on law enforcement's use of social media to engage communities and change the narrative about policing.

SWAT

SWAT teams need to increase their focus on protecting communities from terrorist and homegrown extremist attacks. As more cowards attack our citizens as they enjoy themselves socially, SWAT teams need to step up and provide protection details. This level of regional, preventive cooperation may be problematic at first. Teams will have to work with emergency management and fire rescue agencies to develop a matrix to determine when these protection details are needed and what resources are to be deployed. The impact on staffing, costs and equipment will necessitate teams work together to share responsibilities. This may mean a neighboring team is on standby to assist if a call occurs while the home team is providing security, or it could be a mutual response at the venue.

Top Tip: While many SWAT teams conduct great training, they often fail to seek training on terrorism awareness and response. SWAT members need to understand current terrorist threats and train team members on IED response.

Lt. Matt Hardesty is a 26-year veteran of law enforcement who served 22 years on the SWAT team as an operator, grenadier, rappel master and team leader and executive officer.

Use of Force

Use of force in response to mass gatherings of individuals at protests, political gatherings and concentrated population areas such as dealing with the border caravan and homeless encampments with a focus on de-escalation will continue to be a high-profile issue.

Top Tip: The ability of officers to recall, articulate and implement the training, procedures and policies that they have learned will be more significant in the defense of officers' choices and actions. Remember: You only get one chance to tell your side of the story for the first time. LEOs need to be better prepared to explain their understanding of laws, policy and training in support of their choices, whether that is in a report, interview, deposition or courtroom.

Attorney Mildred O'Linn is a trial lawyer with over 30 years of experience defending law enforcement. She is a former peace officer, FTO, defensive tactics instructor trainer, academy manager and accreditation manager

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