Emerging Issues in Policing and Strategies to Support Law Enforcement Officers

Section from Rank and File (Robinson, 2018)

Reflections on some emerging issues in Law Enforcement
Mary-Jo Robinson and Christopher Smith

Determining emerging issues

The final topic of the day focused on the future of law enforcement and emerging issues in the field, both locally and nationwide. Overall, officers stated that the identification of and subsequent response to emerging issues is left almost entirely to supervisors and administrators. However, for Officer David Loar and the rank and file of the Kansas City (Missouri) Police Department, individual units have worked together to determine priority issues and establish an information flow to the patrol officers on the street. “Biweekly information sharing/intelligence meetings [are held] where some of these issues are funneled out through the ranks. [Certain topics] do tend to stay at the forefront. The unit in charge of whatever the issue is (e.g., human trafficking) determines that it’s an emergent issue,” he said.

Through the deployment of more data-driven tactics, many departments use crime analysis applications to help map out patterns of criminal activity and determine what might be an emerging issue. Regardless of the effectiveness of this predictive, technology-based method, patrolling officers are still the department’s eyes and ears in the neighborhoods, and ultimately see themselves having responsibility for recognizing emerging issues on the street. Their duties in establishing a flow of information from streets to administration were reflected upon by Officer Kelly Kasser: “As officers, we fall short in terms of passing on information that we are gathering on the streets up the chain [of command]. This is what we need to do to actually identify emerging issues.” This ear-to-the-ground approach, combined with data analytics, has prompted the police department in Columbus, Ohio, to construct the position of Community Liaison Officer (CLO). These CLO units “provid[e] support and assistance to the patrol officers” assigned to the five zones that make up Columbus’s police network (Columbus Division of Police 2018). Along with their interdepartmental assignments, CLOs conduct presentations, attend neighborhood and block watch meetings, and “offer law enforcement services to the assigned precincts by collaborating with the public to reduce incidents affecting quality-of-life issues” (2018). However, Sergeant Ken Schollenberger of York, Pennsylvania, expressed an opinion shared by many in attendance: “Emerging issues are cyclical; we beat them down enough to go back to regular business, [and] then they rear their heads again.”

To better get in front of these trends and cycles, the participants’ suggestions included the following:

  • Law enforcement agencies should develop intentional formal and informal strategies that are about creating opportunities for communication and collaboration between command staff and the rank and file.
  • Law enforcement agencies should enhance crime analysis units to build their capacity to decipher anecdotal and unsubstantiated trends in crime.

Social media and community expectations of the department

Officer Matthew Segal of Richmond, Virginia, aptly stated a hard truth faced by police departments: “Social media has changed what becomes an emerging issue.” By pairing Facebook Live, Snapchat, Periscope, and other video streaming and sharing applications with the most advanced phones and cameras, officers perceive that the community has turned to social media as their preferred method of policing the police. Some within the law enforcement community see the posting of videos to social media accounts as an effort to disparage officers, prevent them from effectively performing their duties, and hold officers accountable instead of encouraging them to perform their duties more effectively. Despite the potential issues surrounding the integration of social media into policing, Officer Jason Cullum of Evansville, Indiana, has seen its advantages and uses it to engage the community: “In years past, you needed police resources to engage the community. With social media and the resources communities have now, we also use those platforms as public servants, we deal with addiction issues and broken homes . . . we touch kids’ lives.” Social media has allowed officers to integrate themselves into people’s daily lives and show them the human side of policing.

When there is an increasing number of interactions and a higher level of familiarity between the community and police, it stands to reason that the relationship would shift to reflect a higher degree of mutual trust and respect. Lieutenant Tyrone Currie of Memphis, Tennessee, believes it is his responsibility to meet community expectations. “[The] community expects a friendlier and more engaged police department. [They’re] yearning for unity. Law enforcement should take the first step.” Taking the first step is not an approach that all police departments are accustomed to, however, and the flow of information is not always as smooth from police departments to communities as it might be in reverse. Officer David Loar of Kansas City, Missouri, raised this point during small table discussions: “[The] community not only expects us to serve and protect but [also] now [to] be extremely transparent—tell everyone what we’re doing, when, where, and how.” Officer Blake Massaro of Eureka, California, went on: “[The community is] expecting more services on increased taxes, such as providing transportation, mental health services, etc.”

Some of the ideas participants had for managing social media realities included the following:

  • Departments should create a social media liaison position to establish and maintain a community-oriented social media presence.
  • Departments should provide training in the use of technology and the appropriate etiquette to assist officers on social media so that they can participate in community outreach with the necessary tools for successful communication.
  • Departments should integrate police blotters into police-sponsored social media feeds to strengthen the foundation of a culture of transparency and open two-way lines of communication between departments and the community as a whole.

This project was supported, in whole or in part, by cooperative agreement number 2016-CK-WX-K028 awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. The opinions contained herein are those of the author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. References to specific individuals, agencies, companies, products, or services should not be considered an endorsement by the author(s) or the U.S. Department of Justice. Instead, the references are illustrations to supplement the discussion of the issues.

The internet references cited in this publication were valid as of the date of issuance and given that URLs and websites are in constant flux, neither the author(s) nor the COPS Office can vouch for their current validity.

The U.S. Department of Justice reserves a royalty-free, nonexclusive, and irrevocable license to reproduce, publish, or otherwise use and to authorize others to use this resource for Federal Government purposes. This resource is open for free distribution as well as used for noncommercial and educational purposes only.

Recommended citation: Robinson, Mary-Jo, and Christopher Smith. 2018. Rank and File: Reflections on Emerging Issues in Law Enforcement. Washington, DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.


It is with great appreciation that we recognize the work of the Office of the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) staff members Deborah Spence, Helene Bushwick, and Brenda Auterman, who oversaw the development of the Rank & File Forum.

We also extend our thanks to James Copple, Principal and Founder of Strategic Applications International (SAI), for his expert facilitation design and leadership throughout the event. Additional members of the SAI team included Colleen Copple and Jessica Drake, as well as facilitators Jason Drake, Stephen Manik, Dr. Bernard Murphy, and Darnell Blackburn.

Furthermore, we would like to spotlight the participants and the depth of experience they brought to the table. Each of them was selected to represent their department at the table and be a voice on behalf of their fellow rank-and-file officers. For that, we commend and salute them.

Throughout this document are numerous quotations. Where and when the sources gave permission, we cited the name of the officer and the agency that sent him or her to the forum.

Appendix. Participant Roster

Officer Kenneth Allen Atlanta, Georgia, Union President

Detective Jeremy Arnold Scott County (Indiana) Sheriff’s Office

Sergeant Gaston Balli McAllen (Texas) Police Department

Trooper Candice Bershears Kansas Highway Patrol

Sergeant Wallace Billie Navajo Nation Police Department, Arizona

Officer George Carranza Reno (Nevada) Police Department

Corporal Michael Coleman Wilmington (Delaware) Police Department

Officer Ken Crane Phoenix (Arizona) Law Enforcement Association

Officer Timothy Crawford Chicago (Illinois) Police Department

Sergeant Jason Cullum Evansville (Indiana) Police Department

Lieutenant Tyrone Currie Memphis (Tennessee) Police Department

Officer Lindsey Fuquay Owyhee County (Idaho) Sheriff’s Office

Officer Bryen Glass Baltimore County (Maryland) Police Department

Sergeant Andrew Grove Kent (Washington) Police Department

Sergeant Timothy Guaerke Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Police Department

Corporal Nathaniel Harris Gulf Shores (Alabama) Police Department

Officer Richard Kayes Colorado Springs (Colorado) Police Department

Officer Kelly Kasser Columbus (Ohio) Police Department

Deputy Jason Krizan Morton County (North Dakota) Sheriff’s Department

Officer David Loar Kansas City (Missouri) Police Department

Corporal Errol Lobin Prince George’s County (Maryland) Police Department

Sergeant Matthew Mahl Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department & President, FOP Lodge 1

Sergeant Blake Massaro Humboldt County (California) Sheriff’s Department

Officer Francisco Montes Sycuan Tribal Police Department, California

Officer Michael Netherton Meridian (Idaho) Police Department

Sergeant David Orr Norwalk (Connecticut) Police Department

Officer Sean Payne Tucson (Arizona) Police Department

Sergeant Harold Richardson Bozeman (Montana) Police Department

Timothy Richardson Senior Legislative Liaison, Fraternal Order of Police

Sergeant Ken Schollenberger York (Pennsylvania) Police Department

Officer Matthew Segal Richmond (Virginia) Police Department

Officer Phillip Smith Evansville (Indiana) Police Department

Officer Bervin Smith Dallas (Texas) Police Department

Officer Mark Sorenson Rockford (Illinois) Police Department

Officer Chris Tracy Tacoma (Washington) Police Department

Sergeant Rick Van Houten Fort Worth (Texas) Police Department

Sergeant Edward Vazquez Miami-Dade County (Florida) Police Department

Lieutenant Paul Williams Bloomington, Illinois, Union President

Detective Shaun Willoughby Albuquerque, New Mexico, Police Union President


Robinson, M.-J. a. (2018). Rank and File: Reflections on Emerging Issues in Law Enforcement.. Washington, DC:: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/                                          http://www.sai-dc.com/




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