Friday, January 20, 2012
Not a day goes by that I don’t have a conversation with someone about the many challenges of our country’s struggling economy. More than ever, agencies have been forced to cut and then cut some more. Even jurisdictions that have “adequate” funding have been swept up in the general sentiment of increased scrutiny and criticism. In some cases, departments have literally gone out of business.
“Do more with less,” is often heard. But this dramatically understates the expectations thrust upon public safety, and there isn’t the slightest indication that this will change any time soon. If you’ve been holding on to the hope that things will get back to “normal,” you’re deluding yourself.
I first addressed this issue three years ago
in an editorial entitled “Times are Tough."
In that editorial, I made the following statement: “Many of you will be making some very tough decisions over the next few months, and you should be very, very careful not to simply focus on the short term. Doing so could prove incredibly costly in the long run.” When I wrote that, I had no idea how long we’d be challenged. But it’s now safe to say that our landscape has forever
changed. The “new normal” is no longer new. For most, it’s been anything but normal
Adapt, improvise and overcome—I think it’s hardwired into the DNA of most cops. We see examples of this every day because the script changes in almost every field situation that officers face. Despite this, many police leaders seem to have taken the opposite approach to the economic challenge. They’re simply hunkering down, hoping to weather the storm.
Look around and you’ll see examples everywhere. “Back to basics” has become a rallying call. In my opinion, this is short-sighted and a demonstrative lack of leadership. Unfortunately, some of this analysis-paralysis is a result of leaders who are coasting into retirement. Remember: Those who coast often find themselves headed downhill. In my opinion, they should be headed out the door. Now’s the time to look for ways to better use every possible resource and to actively seek out new ones.
With challenge comes opportunity. Whether that opportunity is seized like a golden ring or tossed aside is up to the leaders, formal and informal, within our profession. Over the course of the last year, I’ve become aware of several departments around the country who are now working smarter because of the economic challenges they’ve faced. They’re not only getting the job done well, they’re establishing bonds with the communities they serve. Not surprisingly, many of those community members voice their support of public safety when cost-cutting discussions take place.
At Law Officer, we’ve always believed that the content of our publication should meet a simple criterion: “Read it, use it.” Because of this, we’re beginning a series called “America’s Finest: Profiles in Progressive Policing.” These articles will feature a close look at departments that are finding ways to engage rather than retreat.
America’s Finest will focus on departments around the country, both large and small, providing the specifics of what they’re doing, what they’re using and how they’re benefitting. I’m a believer in the old adage that “what gets recognized, gets repeated.” This is the reason that we’ll be committing a good deal of our print space and resources to this new coverage.
Leading up to this effort, we spent a lot of time identifying agencies worthy of being profiled. Time and again, some common factors emerged that are worth mentioning. Recognition of the reality: The situation is what it is and it won’t change on its own. Leadership: A long-term perspective instead of near-sighted crisis management. Strategic use of force-multiplying technology: Implementing tools that provide a high return on investment. Creativity: A willingness to look for solutions outside the traditional boundaries of policing paradigms. Engagement: With peers, subordinates and community to find solutions.
We’ll provide you with practical real-world information that you can use to both improve and increase your policing capabilities. My hope is that you’ll be both challenged and inspired!
—Dale Stockton, Editor in chief