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Forty-five years ago, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police swore in the first female Mounties rocking conventional understanding of the qualities required to be an officer
Jul 17, 2019
By Jane Hall
This year the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing. The first steps on the moon were indeed a giant leap forward for humanity. The bounds of earth’s gravity that had confined past generations were broken, and the sky was no longer the limit. Perhaps the only limits mankind had were self-imposed ways of thinking that accepted existing wisdoms as absolute truths.
One might argue that the first step was largely symbolic, eclipsing the rapid expansion of science that preceded the Apollo 11 mission, and later overshadowing the many space programs it spawned globally. Perhaps, but symbols are important, and no one should ever diminish the vision and courage of those early astronauts and aerospace engineers to set a seemingly impossible goal and reach it. Nor should anyone ever understate the power of symbolism as a catalyst for change.
FEMALE MOUNTIES ROCKED POLICING CONVENTIONS
2019 also marks the 45th anniversary of the swearing in of the first females Mounties of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). At the time, this was a controversial, high-profile move that rocked conventional understanding of the qualities required to be a police officer and fundamentally changed the policing profession.
The RCMP, one of the most recognized police forces in the world, is held in such high esteem that it is considered a symbol of Canada. When the RCMP opened its ranks to women, the world was watching. Time magazine featured a graduating female troop on its famous cover. This generated positive press for an organization that was simply acting on a government mandate to open its ranks to women. Canadian feminist activists in the 1960s deserve the credit for building on a 50-year-old foundation started by a previous generation.
INEQUALITY FOR THE FIRST WOMEN IN POLICING
In 1912, Vancouver became the first city in Canada to bend to pressure from women’s activist groups and hire three female police officers to deal with juveniles in conflict with the law, women as victims of violence and members of the sex trade. These female officers had no uniforms or guns and their authority was limited to children and women.
By the early 1970s, police departments in Toronto, Vancouver, Chicago and Michigan, to name a few, were experimenting with limited numbers of females on patrol. However, rarely, if ever, were these early pioneers afforded the same powers, status, training, uniform and equipment as men. These pioneering police officers were contained by glass ceilings and organizational barriers that denied them the ability to move both laterally and vertically through the organization.
RECRUITING CHALLENGES FOR THE RCMP
There was no policing model apparent for the RCMP to emulate when it was directed to recruit, train and employ women with no career restrictions based on gender.
The RCMP had a problem. Unlike Canadian men, women were not waiting in a large applicant pool hoping to be recruited into the RCMP ranks. The RCMP needed women with the right stuff to join, but most women of the Baby Boom generation had never consider policing as an option.
The task of recruiting women caused the RCMP to alter its recruiting standards of the day in anticipation that female recruits would be older, shorter and possibly married. The height and marriage restrictions were the first to change.
This was a paradigm cultural shift in the RCMP’s approach to recruitment. Historically the RCMP expected recruits to adapt to the RCMP, not the other way around. The acceptance of women became a catalyst for modernization. The introduction of women as Mounties allowed the RCMP to draw upon a more diverse field of male and female applicants that was more reflective of Canadian society.
MORE FEMALE OFFICERS, LESS FIGHTING
Historically, fighting was part of the job for male police officers. It seemed to be a no-lose scenario for offenders. It was macho to fight a Mountie, win or lose. Crown Councils (district attorneys in the US) did not like to clog up the court system with officer assault or resisting arrest charges, preferring to leave that to “street justice.” The introduction of female police officers turned that situation on its head. It was not considered macho to fight with a woman, especially if a man lost a fight to a woman. Assaulting a police officer was no longer acceptable.
The success of women in policing led to a reassessment of what qualities were best suited to the policing profession. Height requirements were replaced by fitness tests grounded in the physical demands of police work. Emotional intelligence, communication skills and critical thinking began to be avalued as desirable policing skills.
Over the past 45 years, the strength and success of the lighter, kinder tone brought by women to policing has been incorporated into the traditional male-dominated culture of policing. Rarely have minority groups had so substantial an impact on dominate cultures. The credit for these achievements belongs to the female activists of the 1960s and those on whose work they built on, who cracked open doors younger women like me could step through.
Back in the U.S. Space Program’s infancy, men and women rushed to be the first astronauts. Dr. Randolph Lovelace was tasked with evaluating female pilots for suitability as astronauts. Many like Geraldyn Cobb met or exceeded the physical and psychological thresholds set by NASA, but suddenly, part way through the training, the rules changed. Astronaut qualifications were expanded to require candidates to have experience as fighter pilots. At the time, women were not eligible in the US or other countries, to be combat pilots.
Geraldyn Cobb, who had passed all the same pre-flight tests as her seven male peers for the Mercury 13, NASA’s inaugural human spaceflight program, could not overcome that barrier. In 1962, Ms. Cobb crossed over from being a potential astronaut pioneer to activist when she testified before Congress and denounced the new requirement.
I have no doubt women will leave footprints on the moon. Sadly Ms. Cobb did not live long enough to see it. I hope the first women pause to pay tribute to Geraldyn Cobb when they do.
About the author
Jane Hall is president of Society of Police Futurists International. She is the author of The Red Wall: a Woman in the RCMP, and chair of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Veteran Women’s Council and of the Women in Leadership Team for the Public Safety Leadership Development Consortium, and is a member of the Advisory Committee for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Operation Honour. She lectures on police culture and organizational change for the Law Enforcement Institute of Texas (LEMIT) program and is considered a subject matter expert on police culture. After graduating from Queens University with a B.A. and B.Ed. in 1977 she joined the RCMP and served 21 years.
By Joseph Schafer
USA Today recently ran a piece on the emergence of “deepfakes” https://www.usatoday.com/videos/news/2019/04/26/deepfakes-detection-have-you-been-tricked-fake-obama/3588955002/
Deepfakes is a term applied to the ability to manipulate video to modify words and possible actions. In other words, to take something that is ostensibly real and modify it in such a way that the video conveys something entirely different. The implications for policing, while they might seem distant and rare, are profound, particularly when coupled with social media and a 280-character news cycle based on short attention spans and limited critical evaluation of sources.
The technology is being advanced, in part, by entertainment media. Video of an actor might be modified in post-production to correct an error or insert a better joke. An actor who has died can still complete their appearance in a film or TV show (although there might be legal, contractual, and financial implications).
Consider this technology in the hands of a foreign nation, however. Just days before an election, video might be released that seems to show a candidate making a particular statement. The capacity to interfere with free elections is profound and the risk in upcoming election cycles is astonishingly real. What was a pipe-dream in 2016 increasingly appears to be a reality for 2020.
In time, the risks here will not be limited to entertainment media or nations leveraging influence campaigns against each other. Imagine controversial police use of force event captured by a bystander’s mobile phone. In the near future, it might be possible to manipulate that video to make it appear the officer made biased, vulgar, or profane statements. In time, it might be possible to manipulate the video even more, to edit out citizen resistance or elevate the apparent force used by an officer.
In all of these examples, is anyone calling for the development of forensic expertise to analyze video and determine manipulation has taken place? Do crime labs and investigative agencies employ personnel with the requisite skill set for such analysis? How long will it take to develop credentialing standards for such forensic examiners? Will society care, or label reports that video has been altered “fake news”, continuing to believe that what they saw in a video with their own eyes represents reality?
Questions abound, but answers and solutions (for now) appear elusive. As future thinking police leaders, are we doing enough to call for attention and action on this issue before matters escalate beyond mitigation?
we have long known that there is little relationship between crime rate and people’s fear of crime. facts don’t matter very much. (e.g., http://abs.sagepub.com/content/39/4/379.short)
a recent RAND publication reminds us that terrorism has declined.
“…an overall decline of terrorism in the West since the 1970s.
These findings suggest that the threat of terrorism should not affect individuals’ behavior in the United States and Western Europe-not even in the wake of a significant terrorist event.”(http://www.rand.org/pubs/perspectives/PE173.html )
faint hope, that. fear of terrorism remains high (http://www.gallup.com/poll/4909/terrorism-united-states.aspx)
implication: if we focus merely on terrorism- and crime-fighting we will be missing the reassurance that many in our population seek. they seek a perception of “safety” rather than absence of terrorism and crime.
on the up side, if people were rational, we wouldn’t need many cops.
the author makes a good argument — that in a cashless society, we (public and private sectors) will have information on nearly every detail of people’s lives. cash inevitably will be, as the author says, supplanted by information — and to a considerable extent already is.
the arguments will make the current fbi vs apple sort of argument seem rather penny ante. police — or private sector surrogates — will have comprehensive information about everyone’s lives, including those of other police.
what is clear is that the potential for “enemy of the state” on steroids is real. what is not clear is what police will do with that information.
how could — or should — law enforcement (and police) prepare for this probable future?
nick gives an example of how one might properly analyse data. department-wide data usually are not very helpful. the devil — and the opportunity for improvement — are in the details, in crosstabs, in demographics, in ……
gross averages hide more than they reveal.
imagine police departments that had crime analysts, or analysts of any sort, who had the statistical and scientific chops to collect and crunch the numbers in a meaningful way instead of in a way intended to garner (or combat) headlines.
of course, that would require a lot of imagination. few chiefs can afford to hire such folks. but wouldn’t it be interesting if analysis were to supplant politicized and uninformed argument?
The task, preventing violent extremism, reminds one of “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” While Lamont Cranston might have known, for the rest of us the task remains foreboding.
Any of us should be grateful when simple, understandable and credible hope is put forth. Schanzer et al. have done us that favor. Still, the limits — mostly as laid out by the authors — should be understood.
These are “promising.” We’ve seen promises evaporate in other contexts. These are not easy to pull off. And the barriers to success are non-trivial.
Michela Del Vicario and colleagues wrote an interesting research paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2016/01/02/1517441113.full.pdf). They studied how scientific information and “unsubstantiated rumors and conspiracy theories” are spread via Facebook.
It turns out that both types of information tend to spread via homogeneous “echo chambers.” Scientific information tends to get out faster. The rumors and conspiracy theories have a much longer distribution cycle. And neither group of people talks much to the other.
Most likely, this will surprise few of us. These sorts of processes have been going on since there has been something recognizable as science. The challenge for policing remains how to cope with the spread of rumors and conspiracy theories as their consumers tend to be isolated from sources of scientific evidence.
The challenge goes even beyond that. Police, too, are people, subject to many of the same social processes that affect private citizens. Police, too, may be isolated from scientific evidence. That makes police leadership somewhat of a challenge.
So, as chiefs and sheriffs lead their organizations toward various futures, how can they best enhance the distribution of objective evidence, cope with rumors and conspiracy theories, and encourage the sharing of information across narratives? Surely, transparency can help — rumors and conspiracy theories emerge more often when the supply of objective information is limited. But what else can or should be done?
When U.S. President Reagan was shot, the U.S. went through some soul-searching — and some sense of vengeance — regarding responsibility of those who were mentally ill and also committed a criminal act. States took two diverse approaches, approximately:
- Guilty but mentally ill: The person would be imprisoned but some treatment might be made available in prison versus
- Not guilty by reason of insanity: The person would not be held responsible criminally but could be committed to a mental facility.
There is still disagreement about which approach is preferable and how well each of them works. But we’ve also got a second and even more complicated problem. Where is the boundary between religious zealotry and mental illness — and terrorism. An instructive case is that of the Philadelphia police officer who was attacked Thursday night (http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/08/us/philadelphia-police-officer-shot/) by someone with a history of mental illness and who claimed to be acting on behalf of Islam and in the name of ISIS.
In the Philadelphia case, how does one separate out the terrorism dimension from the mental illness and from religious zealotry? What rules should police and prosecutors follow? Also keep in mind that the first two clauses of the first amendment to the U.S. constitution guarantee religious freedom.
Labels are convenient and attractive because they are simple. Because they are simple, they can be used to achieve political ends and to unite mobs (virtual or physical). But real cases rarely are so simple.
Police are faced daily with real people who are multidimensional. As transparency burgeons, information on these individuals and their interactions with police will be even more rapidly and widely shared. The potential for firing up mobs and intemperate individuals is significant.
The choices that police have are limited somewhat by law and by service availability. To give a concrete example of the latter, my department wants to be able to refer first-time drug offenders to treatment instead of arresting them. Unfortunately, treatment resources are very limited, so they become enmeshed in the criminal justice system — which rarely makes things better and always is expensive to all parties.
Both strategically and tactically, what should police do while enmeshed in such mine fields? Whatever your answer, now play out the processes and the political winds/whimsy to test the viability of the answer.
Privacy is a rapidly changing concept. In many respects, it has faded markedly over recent decades. Transparency seems an almost overwhelming zeitgeist. Secrets have become very hard to keep, despite vigorous attempts. See, e.g., http://www.homelandsecuritynewswire.com/dr20151208-untraceable-communication-guaranteed . This new work, in itself, is not a paradigm shift as much as it is a modernizing of a model long in use — e.g., two users sharing a username and password who leave messages in “draft” form on an email server which, itself, was a technologized update of the “dead drop” methodology spies have used as long as there have been spies.
Hope springs eternal, e.g., https://gcn.com/articles/2015/12/08/private-data-as-a-service.aspx . However, for the nonce, privacy and transparency remain locked in a continuing battle, much like bazookas (and their successors) versus armor. When the power of attackers increases the defenders develop stronger protections. Thus it has been, both in physical and digital worlds, for a long time.
What changes that dynamic usually is a paradigm shift, often from outside the attacker/defender box. The paradigm shift may reflect changes in technology and/or changes in mindset but, either way, the old attacker/defender paradigm becomes either less useful or irrelevant.
What possible paradigm shifts do we see? For example,
1. could the general public become more comfortable with increasing transparency, including to police and other intelligence agencies?
2. could invasive technologies stably overcome any probable defenses?
3. could an electromagnetic pulse (or a conceptual equivalent) stably make this game irrelevant?
Most people seem to agree that the primary purpose of terrorism is to create terror. At least we agree in theory. When it gets down to brass tacks, agreement is a little harder to come by.
We label events as “terrorism” (or not) depending in part on:
a. association with others we label terrorists
b. damage done, injuries and deaths caused, especially if at a socially valued target (gang fights in the slums rarely are labeled terrorism).
c. whether we are surprised at the event, e.g., we don’t label as terrorism the “usual” friday night bar fight, anything that’s “normal” for the neighborhood (even if people are made afraid).
d. political proclivities and the sociological other
What seems odd is that, other than the folks who are “hysterical for a living,” few seem interested in measuring fearfulness. Media denizens don’t generally use objective measures, so they’re not helpful for our purpose.
We’re left with a definition way out of sync with how we actually apply the label. So, where are we likely to be going, e.g.,
a. abandon the concept of terrorism, merging it instead with “violent crime” or something similar? This would implicitly recognize that victims of violent — and even nonviolent — crimes often become fearful.
b. consistently restrict it to events where the avowed purpose was to create fear. If this choice is adopted, the label would have to be an outcome of subsequent investigation. That delay probably would not sit well with the political classes.
c. abandon the term as rife with surplus meaning, misleading, and, errrr, fear-mongering.
What is your conceptualization of terrorism? is it
b. the destruction of the world trade centers in New York?
c. Coordinated team-based attacks such as at Mumbai or, more recently, Paris?
d. Lone wolves (e.g., http://www.lonewolfthreat.com) such as Timothy McVey?
e. the various Al Qaeda affiliates and copycats?
f. ad hoc street gangs?
g. organized (or disorganized) crime by another name?
Have we created too broad a rubric for it to be useful? To what extent should police and/or military be engaged in conflict with these folks, and how? How can terrorism best be impeded or prevented?
What does our future look like in a world where terrorism seems to make frequent headlines?
Consider http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2015/1123/New-Orleans-park-shooting-rattles-city-enjoying-record-low-homicides-video among many others. Some cities, e.g., New Orleans, while not as peaceful as one might wish, seem to be stabilizing in terms of homicide while others, e.g., Baltimore and Chicago and Milwaukee, seem to be experiencing increased violence.
Be the details as they may, and conclusions depending upon which measures one chooses, it’s clear that violence is up in some places and down in others. The core question remains, “Why?”
Criminologists and others have been debating the uneven distribution of crime for a very long time. Police futurists, wonder, naturally enough, what role police might have if we were more effectively to “protect and serve.” At present, police are often recognized as part of the problem. Looking ahead,
- can police become a more effective part of the solution? if so, how?
- what parts of the solution are best addressed by other components of the community instead?
Community policing, by a variety of names, has been around for a very long time. Some would argue that it precedes Sir Robert Peel’s principles (e.g., http://lacp.org/2009-Articles-Main/062609-Peels9Principals-SandyNazemi.htm).
In a more modern context, it has been contrasted with both combat policing and neighborhood-driven policing (http://futuresworkinggroup.cos.ucf.edu/docs/Volume%201/Vol1-NDP-FWG.pdf , p. 9). Many police believe that there are times where each of those models might be appropriate.
In the wake of recent U.S. uproars , in Sanford FL, Ferguson MO, Baltimore MD and a variety of other places and including on or near various college campuses, there has been a re-examination of what is right and proper for police to do. That re-examination is still under way.
The relationship between police and community has never been a stable one, nor should it be. For example, when gang members are shooting at me, I want combat policing to come to my rescue. However, when my neighbors and I disagree about the proper care of our front lawns and the disagreement gets out of hand, it is not combat policing that is likely to produce an improved situation.
All of us at heart want policing customized to the needs we perceive at the time. However, what happens when what I perceive is not the same as what my neighbor perceives? What if my neighbor is of a demographic different than mine? Suddenly the police role becomes a bit more of a challenge.
None of the above is new. What is new is that in the U.S. many police departments and policing associations are engaged in discussion regarding how we might better “protect and serve.” A goal of that discussion is to build futures better than our past. The Society of Police Futurists International has that discussion front and center on its agenda.
This one was developed by the folks at Argonne National Laboratory. It’s at https://vimeo.com/36975812 . It is 15 minutes long. As you proceed through it, consider
- how the police of today could have helped
- how the police of the future will have to be different from today if they are to contribute more to the resolution of the scenario.
- then consider how police might get from where we are to where we would need to be.
One lazy day this summer, having read about socio/psychopaths being highly successful as CEOs, my teenager asked me it was really true that there are many of them out there. I acknowledged it happens and tried explaining as far as I understood. My didactic thoughts on toxic and good leadership fell short of the teen imagination because weeks later, having scanned the internet and poured through our old university texts, he broached the subject again. What he shared was an insightful glimpse at pop thinking. Ironically, there appears to be both blatant and tacit appreciation for disordered personalities in the workplace. More to the point, it seems our inchoate workforce are being exposed to the ideas that personality traits of socio and/or psychopaths are something to admire and even aspire to as a model or means to success.
I cannot offer scientific proof that a trend is occurring, but instead offer the supposition that is worth taking a good look at how the concept of wannabe socio/psychopath CEO intersects with current and future pools of job applicants. If personality disorders, mimicked or innate, are being seen as a way to get ahead, despite the widely known hallmarks of narcissism and egocentrism, then it’s worth looking at the implications this may have for the future of the very public service of policing.
Not long after that illuminating conversation, I was reading an author’s note at the end of The Malice of Fortune. A particular paragraph jumped at me off the page. I won’t divulge the novel’s storyline, but must first explain the book entertains intriguing elements of Machiavelli’s admiration (as well as distaste and later condemnation in Discourses) for the Duke Valentino’s persona (aka Cesare Borgia). The Duke was later immortalized as Machiavelli’s “Prince”. Ennis, who is a historian, comments on the plethora of documentation showing Valentino was what we would call a psychopath in today’s world. Yet, he was stylized as the epitome of a necessary evil … for the times (i.e., 16thC Italy when chaos reigned supreme between city-states). Context is critically important because he lived in a world where free republics were still dreams, pre-dating the rebirth of democracy through the French and American revolutions.
Connecting this to my thoughts about wannabe disordered CEOs, Ennis notes that with all of the Duke’s antisocial tendencies:
“Valentino was the first modern leader, his conscience-free, lethal expedience providing a remarkably effective and enduring template for sociopaths seeking power in any time, place, or organization; the same amoral realpolitik that has guided mass-murdering dictators is now studied by corporate CEOs and marketed as career advice for middle-management schemers.” (p.393)
Ennis suggests a trend is in progress, linking the socio/psychopathic leader to the 21st Century. This may or may not be conjecture, but it is terrifying all the same; especially given that the Prince was extolled as a necessary evil in ruthless, pre-democratic times. Yet, what remains shockingly lost is that the Prince was not actually the preferred ideal. Rather, he was imperfect in the context of a free world model (refer to Machiavelli’s discourses on radical egalitarianism in The Prince and The Discourses, as well as Machiavellis True Views, The Discourses vs. The Prince).
Personally, I think Machiavelli had an ingenious talent for reading people. If I were on the path to CEO-hood, I would re-read The Prince; to understand socio/psychopaths as leaders, not to become one.
Has a fad emerged, creating a trend? Last year, a psychologist I know included me on a blast-out article about executive sociopaths, claiming “Hey! For all you sociopaths, it’s now okay to be one!” (Really?) Popular links between socio and/or psychopaths and CEOs has become mainstream. Not surprisingly, it’s so common that it appears as regular repertoire in the Dilbert comic strip series; the ultimate dysfunctional workplace. When satire happens, it’s a good indication we ought to pay attention to the reality.
Consider the eager young professional developing a career strategy. Surfing the internet, with no dearth of information extolling “attributes” of the sociopathic CEO (e.g., Forbes: Why some psychopaths make great execs). Granted, there are equally many articles and interviews on the need to guard against socio and psychopathic traits and types in the workplace (e.g., Faculty Research in Progress ), but what’s startling are the undertones of the “sexier”, more youthfully appealing sites that appear to tacitly endorse acceptance of the sociopathic persona, simply because they hold out promises of success. For some, they strike the deeper chords, pitching to and/or portraying people who are already successful (e.g., Popular business courses for execs, Forbes: Machiavellian business lessons from a billionaire, Machiavelli on modern leadership , as well as myriad Youtube videos). Cool?
While a long-term foothold in executive boardrooms by these wannabes may not be pervasive, there is still potential for havoc and caterwauling anywhere it is left to proliferate. What ought to be clarified are the differences between “monsters” and leaders. This, it seems to me, overlaps the toxic leadership conversation.
We know toxic leadership exists and prevails. Many of us have witnessed its effects. We may be taking steps to get past the horror stories, injustices, and weeding out the caustic individuals, but if a movement is afoot where disordered personality traits are being revered, then it’s plausible others are grooming themselves in the wings to fill those vacancies. These wannabes, however, may be better armed with articulated purpose, and not so easy to weed out.
Are the possibilities of this happening in policing any different than in executive boardrooms? Current police/rank structures both allow and deter the promotion of personality disordered candidates. The difficulty is recognizing them when there is a blurring of lines; when they are particularly adept at manipulation. And then what do you do once they’ve achieved their aims and are confirmed in ranks?
What is particularly relevant to the policing culture is whether we are succeeding at pointing out the differences between acceptable and egregious traits or behaviours among personnel, and whether more needs to be done. Wannabe or actual socio/psychopath CEOs in private business may or may not wane, depending on the power of economic times, but, as with all things, we need to be mindful of what will shape the future of public service, law enforcement, and policing in entirety.
The bologna? You’d have to ask Machiavelli.
“Divide and rule, a sound motto. Unite and lead, a better one.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
(Retired Strategic LE Planner)
By Tony Hallett, CEO, Unmanned Response
American law enforcement is front and center in the heated national debate on privacy and drone warfare. There are formidable stakeholders with deep-rooted motivations on all sides of these emotional issues. Most police officers follow the headlines with casual interest, unaware that the outcome of these deliberations will have a dramatic impact on their profession in both the near- and long-term.
Technology improves quality of life, increases productivity, and sustains a safe homeland. The Industrial Revolution (1760 – 1840) introduced machines. The Digital Revolution (1960s – early 21st century) introduced software. Today, the nascent Robotics Revolution has introduced sophisticated unmanned systems, commonly referred to as drones. These remarkable machines are deployed on land (unmanned ground vehicles, or UGV), in the air (unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAV), and on/under water (unmanned maritime vehicles, or UMV).
Drones come in all shapes and sizes. Costs range from $100 to $100,000,000+. The robotics industry experienced astonishing growth through the U.S. military investment in combat drones during the War on Terror. As a result, the market matured rapidly between 2002 and 2012. Drones will continue to evolve through nanotechnology and advanced materials science, leading to even greater specialization and lower prices.
As military drone inventories reached optimal levels, manufacturers began looking for new markets. Domestically, the Federal Aviation Administration prohibits unmanned commercial flights until UAVs are safely integrated into the National Airspace System. That won’t happen until at least late 2015. Exceptions were granted to public safety agencies on the basis that some military applications could be useful to first responders.
Before law enforcement could fully explore potential uses, two camps of opposition surfaced – those opposed to the use of armed drones in warfare and those concerned drones will compromise privacy. Overnight, the 800,000 police officers in the U.S., most of whom have never seen or even contemplated drones, were being castigated in the media for wanting to use UAVs to spy on and shoot Americans.
A frenzied response in several jurisdictions led to far-reaching restrictions or prohibitions on drone use by law enforcement. While some drone legislation is reasonable, such as updates of existing privacy laws, most focuses on restricting police use. Little or no attention is given to vandals, criminals, and terrorists. Interestingly, most of this legislation does not mention unmanned ground or maritime vehicles.
Is this a privacy issue, or is this just a privacy-from-police issue? Law enforcement officers indeed conduct surveillance of people and groups suspected of criminal activity. However, low-cost drones will appeal to people who secretly peruse their spouse’s cell phone, voyeurs who peep through bedroom windows, and paparazzi that crash celebrity weddings, all a far greater privacy threat than police.
Is this a weapons-control issue, or is this just a police-weapons-control issue? Police officers occasionally must use lethal force. However, weaponized drones will appeal to psychotics, violent criminals, and international terrorists, all a far greater physical threat than police.
The long-term implications are unnerving. Technology is broadly adopted long before security or misuse is contemplated. Computer technology was adopted by business and academia long before most police departments even owned a PC. The emergence of computer crime caught police agencies off guard. Digital forensics wasn’t a widely recognized criminal investigation discipline until after 2002.
Cybercrime would not be the top security threat facing America today if computer technology had been adopted as an essential law enforcement tool and recognized as a dangerous instrument of crime early in the Digital Revolution. By recognizing drones can be a valued friend and a formidable opponent, law enforcement can avoid underestimating the long-term consequences. But does it want to? Will it be able to?
Extensive integration of drones into police operations is not on the horizon. Can a police chief commit money and manpower to a drone program when politicians, at any time, impose new restrictions or even ban them completely? Conversely, police agencies are not prepared for the inevitable onslaught of drone crime. The bad guys are already equipping and deploying drones. Imagine a street cop’s reaction when a citizen reports being robbed by an “armed, talking UFO.”
Law enforcement must get out in front of drone technology or it will be used against society with unimaginable consequences.
The International Associations of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the Airborne Law Enforcement Association (ALEA) have provided early leadership in creating public awareness and the integration of robotic technology into public safety agencies. They could use some help. Some good starting points include: “IACP Seeks to Sway Public on Unmanned Aircraft” (Officer.com, 09apr13); “A Vision of Crimes in the Future” (Marc Goodman, TEDGlobal, June, 2012); “Armed Drones Could Be Protected By the Second Amendment” (Jason Koebler, US News & World Report, 21may13); and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) website.