The Challenges of Public Safety in the 21st Century
As public officials begin to formulate longer-term strategies to
serve and protect at a higher level—in the face of mounting budget
pressures, public safety and security demands, and public concern—they
need to consider several issues. The table below lists each issue in a
bottom-up approach. We also expand on each in the sections that follow:
Enhancing effective emergency response
The coordination and assignment of field resources to the range
of emergency and on-emergency events occurring in our communities is the
primary mission of local dispatch centers. Equipped with E/9-1-1 system
and other command and control applications, these centers are (usually)
an amalgamation of multiple keyboards and computer monitors and poorly
planned work environments.
One study reports that, though equipped with advancements in
technology, the planning and implementation of many E/9-1-1 centers are
properly not strategically planned.
Enhancing effective emergency preparedness
In case of an emergency, dispatch centers coordinating
activities between multiple agencies need to be able to quickly and
effectively determine what resources are available, to dynamically make
decisions appropriate to the severity of the unfolding event, and to
ensure the safety of first responders.
A January 1999 survey report from the National Institute of
Justice (NIJ) stated that one of the top three priorities identified by
local and state law enforcement agencies was the need for multi-agency,
multi-jurisdictional compatibility of command, control, and
communications (C3) equipment to enable agencies to remain in contact at
an incident scene.
Improving interagency collaboration
Today’s criminals are highly mobile. The territorial aspects of
law enforcement often impede effective intelligence collection and
A March 2002 report issued by the Police Executive Research Forum
(PERF) assessed the needs for local law enforcement in relation to
homeland defense. This report documented the critical need to establish
guidelines and policies for sharing sensitive information to replace the
inadequate, informal communications channels that too often depend on
individual relationships (i.e., the good old boy network) and (even) a
willingness to share.
Increasing operational efficiency and reducing officer downtime
Automating paperwork and other administrative
tasks, and reducing or eliminating the need for trips back to
headquarters to locate information, submit reports, or answer e-mail,
gives first responders more time to devote to their primary
Streamlining information processing and retrieval cuts overtime
costs and improves morale.
Adopting “proactive” policing methods
Local police departments are being asked to prevent incidents by
monitoring “trouble spots” and planning for potentially volatile events.
In addition, homeland security alerts now trigger a series of required
actions by local law enforcement agencies, such as increased security
patrols of critical infrastructures and landmarks.
Building community partnerships
A U.S. Department of Justice Law Enforcement Management Agency (LEMA)
January 2003 report noted a fundamental shift from traditional reactive
policing to community policing programs that emphasize crime prevention,
empowering front-line officers, and innovative problem solving.