The Need for HIGHER EDUCATION

Article excerpt

Law enforcement has undergone a series of evolutionary steps in the last 50 years. Police officers have gone from minimally trained and poorly equipped to highly trained and equipped with advanced technologies. The professional model of policing continues to exert influence over this evolutionary process. The public has come to expect better-educated, more professional officers.

Reactionary police service is no longer deemed acceptable. Communities are looking to their law enforcement agencies to be community problem solvers and community partners. Community government is beginning to view law enforcement leaders as an integral part of the local government management team, not just enforcers of the law.

This progression has prompted a rethinking of the need for higher education in law enforcement leaders. What once might have been considered preferable is now rapidly being captioned, implicitly or by inference, as a requirement.

Until recently being a good cop and of sufficient tenure was all that was required to advance through the ranks. The police leaders of today face issues that exceed the intellectual bounds of simply being a tenured member of the agency and being capable of competently doing police work.

Society has begun to look at problem solving as a responsibility of law enforcement. We now have to engage strategies that exceed those competencies required for reactive service. Many agencies are looking to Compstat-like programs as a platform to attack effectively crime problems.

Compstat requires police leaders to understand crime analysis information, identify social strains in the community that contribute to crime problems and mount innovative strategies to address problems while bringing all stakeholders to the table. It is clear that communities are increasingly looking to their law enforcement agencies for a much different type of service than they have in the past.

Complexities of the incident command system place exceptional demands on police leaders. Law enforcement is facing more dynamic incident scenes and scenes that pose greater complexity of those in the past. We now look to local law enforcement as one of the first lines of defense in homeland securities issues. September 11, 2001 forever changed the previously captioned ideas about law enforcement as first-responders.

Law enforcement leaders must be able to take command of complex incident scenes, see the big picture complexities of the presenting issues and respond effectively using incident complex command protocols. Police leaders did not face this on a similar scale even 20 years ago.

The acceleration of technology in law enforcement places increased demands on law enforcement leaders. Within the career of most of our current senior managers, high technology might have been considered the advent of a portable police radio. Twenty years ago, the prospect of having mobile computers in police cars was unimaginable.

Law enforcement leaders today must make complex decisions about what technology to acquire, how to finance it and how to best utilize it. These are not simple issues. They involve substantial financial investment and mistakes can adversely operational effectiveness. Having the wrong technology in place, or using the right technology ineffectively, can be worse than not having the technology at all.

Law enforcement leaders today are required to confront meaningfully complex social issues. An example is the contemporary issues of bias-based policing and racial profiling. These are not issues that can be adequately understood or effectively addressed without some grasp of social science. Responding to these issues from the construct of what is good for the law enforcement agency, or what the agency leadership comfortably understands, will lack sufficient depth to address the underlying issues.

It is important to realize that these are issues which segments of our communities have long-standing sensitivities. …