Effective Police Operations: panacea to security threats

effective policing

The nature of crime witnessed in society varies considerably. As a result, police operations are expected to be diverse and flexible. Police operations are tailored to react effectively to situations ranging from fleeing suspects to threats of explosives. Officers need the requisite training and tools to assure effectiveness, safety and success during operations. The effectiveness of police operations in contemporary and prior periods thrives on novel technologies and training regimens.

This underscores the need and provides justification for police institutions’ partnerships with other organisations to ensure constant research and development on state-of-the-art technologies to facilitate police operations – be it improvements in the safety of officers, expeditious sharing of data and enhanced surveillance, among others. The partnerships ensure access to funds to facilitate evaluation of implementable and implementing programmes; and to facilitate evaluation of implementing technologies to ascertain their status and relevance to modern police operations.

Decisions to assess the performance of police operations on a regular basis help in adding value to overall institutional performance and credibility; in that, the assessment ensures all phases of operations are examined to decipher their efficiency and effectiveness. Given that resource allocation and total resources available to police institutions globally remain inadequate comparative to the populations to be served, regular performance assessments tend to assure cost-effectiveness by minimising the extent of resource allocation to unproductive areas in police operations.

Key Areas of Institutional Development

Schultz (2017) identified eight key areas that require constant assessment and improvements in law enforcement. These include crime prevention, crime analysis, police operations, police training, community policing, strategic planning, professional standards function and feedback systems. An obvious inclusion in the above listed key areas is police operations. Performance of each of the identified areas is measured through the provision of checklist of questions; and proffering of suggestions on how improvements could be managed. Further, success of overall institutional performance is assured when the needed attention is paid to the following key areas: community service improvements, areas of leadership focus; and succession planning for retiring senior officers, among others.

The term practice remains significant in crime prevention. It relates to general category of procedures, programmes or strategies with similar characteristics in relation to issues they seek to address; and how they address those issues. Profiles on practice provide useful information on average results derived from varied evaluations of related programmes, procedures or strategies. We observe similarity in the procedures, programmes or strategies inherent in each practice due to the commonality of certain defining characteristics shared and described for each practice profile.

A practice profile might provide an answer for a hypothetical question such as “does training usually lead to the achievement of departmental and institutional objectives?” How well the foregoing question is answered is predicated to a large extent on demonstrable efficiency and effectiveness of duties and responsibilities involved in typical police operations. The term, programme, may be conceptually described aptly in the world of law enforcement as specific set of activities that are routinely carried out in tandem with set guidelines with the underlying aim of achieving defined objectives.

Programme profiles may be strategically designed and prepared to contain reliable information on specific programmes found to have achieved their set objectives after careful evaluations. The outcomes of one programme are usually applicable to the definite set of activities and procedures adapted for implementation during the evaluation period. The foregoing implies programme profile sheds important light on the observed results likely to be churned out by a programme if it is implemented exactly the same way as originally planned. Similar to the concept of law enforcement practice, a hypothetical question likely to be answered by programme profile is “did the surveillance programme in Mogadishu, Somalia, achieve its objectives?” An example of successful programme profile is the ability school engagement programme that was practically carried out in Australia and reported by the National Institute of Justice during 2017.

The intervention, couched in the form of police-school partnership, sought to cause tremendous reduction in truant and antisocial behaviours among the youth; and to increase their enthusiasm and preparedness to attend school. The programme at issue was rated promising. Results from the intervention revealed the programme’s effect on truancy for participants was statistically significant and positive. The outcomes suggested participating students in the programme were less likely to be absent from school; and more likely to report their preparedness to attend school, compared with non-participating students. As noted earlier, the programme was rated promising. This invariably may be attributed to the empirical fact that the intervention included at least one randomised controlled trial (RCT) with high quality.

The terms, randomised controlled trial and randomised field experiment (RFE) are often used interchangeably to describe an experimental research design in which assignment of participants to control group or treatment is random; and not purposeful. A belief commonly held among social scientists is, the decision to assign participants randomly tends to result in the highest level of confidence that the observed and reported effects are true reflection of the programme or research variable; and not a reflection of other variables.

Most often, it is easier for a programme to be tagged as randomised controlled trial by security-related research institutions and portals such as CrimeSolutions if the evidence-based research emphasised on valid random assignment procedure in the allocation of groups. CrimeSolutions study reviewers provide higher rating for overall quality of the research design. Further, higher rating is awarded if evidence of the research outcome remains consistent with overall rating of the programme. It remains the responsibility of law enforcement agents to ensure crime prevention; and to work assiduously towards peace maintenance.

Blanco (2021) defined police operations to include activities, duties and responsibilities that are completed by law enforcement officers in the field. Police operations may be couched in the forms of driving through neighbourhoods; pulling cars over and arresting suspects. Aspects of police operations could include patrolling, specialised police operations, diversity challenges and communication. Security experts describe communication as the cornerstone of police operations. More often than not, law enforcement agents communicate with the general public; they communicate with each other; and with other law enforcement agencies.

Police officers deployed or assigned to operations are expected to be knowledgeable in report writing; and effective in the explanation of laws and charges that offenders could possibly face. In a country characterised by diverse cultures and several languages, law enforcement agents and citizens are sometimes confronted with challenges in the area of communication during police operations. Due to the improvements in medical services delivery, most advanced; and some emerging and developing countries boast of more elderly citizens today than in prior years. An aspect of police operations makes it imperative for officers to have listening ears for the ever-increasing older population who are sometimes victims of scams, extortions, swindles and fraudulent manipulations.

In addition to listening to and writing reports on scammed elderly population, police officers are expected to learn and adapt strategies that would ensure effective communication with individuals who are disabled; those with challenges in communicating clearly; and those with challenges hearing (hearing impairment), among others. In some cases, the challenges may not relate to hearing impairments or advancement in age, but related to changing household demographics such as persons with varied economic, academic and ethnic backgrounds; and the need for law enforcement officers to learn to communicate meaningfully and effectively with them.

Cultural sensitivity and effective understanding of how to address different encountered situations in a proper and courteous manner remain some of the important requirements of police officers during operations. Some analysts noted improvements in police communications and conducts during some operations; and attributed these improvements to the clarion call for a modern police service characterised by diversity to match a more diverse population. Blanco (2021) recounted, during 1968, the first female officers were hired by the Indiana Police Department in the United States and assigned them to patrol. This police department is believed to have stronger and more diversed police force, following the hiring of female officers and officers of colour.

In countries such as the United States, police operations are believed to have been fortified by changes to the education requirements for aspiring officers over the years. August Vollmer is referred to as the father of professional policing. During the early 1900s, he strongly advocated for the inclusion of better educated individuals in police institutions. This assertion has steadily gained currency among law enforcement agencies across the globe; as minimum education requirements are set for persons willing to be enlisted in police institutions. The respective minimum education requirements for enlistments in police institutions in Ghana and the United States include Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) Certificate; High School Diploma or GED; and police academy training.

The foregoing notwithstanding, the minimum education requirements in some police units or departments are post-secondary or bachelor’s degree. The minimum academic requirements for such units and departments reflect their sensitivity and the minimum level of formal academic ingenuity required to succeed on the job. Thus, the education requirements for these units and departments are raised to ensure officers recruited are knowledgeable in the field; and to ensure basic professional standards and effective service delivery to the people are not undermined.

Some of the most visible law enforcement agents are patrolling officers. Patrolling is often described as the backbone of police operations. The Koper Curve Theory remains one of the theories related to patrolling. This theory holds that the incidence of crime is not likely to occur in certain hot spots if police presence is noticed. Outcomes of study conducted by the Sacramento Police Department in California, United States during February 2011 through May 2011 supported the Koper Curve Theory. During the ninety (90)-day period, that is, from February through May 2011, police patrol in specific hot spots in Sacramento were carried out by the police department. Total crime reduction in Sacramento during the police patrol period was estimated at 25%.

When the idea of police patrol was first mooted, it was executed on foot. Thus, the most common police operation was walking the beat. However, over the years, police operations evolved from walking the beat to patrolling on horseback; and further to vehicular patrolling, including use of automobiles and motorcycles. Other modes of transportation are applied as they become more readily available and useful to the cause of intended police operations. Broadly defined, police operations are extended to include all responsibilities, duties and activities carried out by law enforcement officers.

Qualities of Effective and Strategic Leaders

Intended police operations may require deployment of less-lethal weapons and firearms. To assure the resounding success of strategic firearms command, senior law enforcement officers are required to be knowledgeable and versatile in strategic leadership of incidents and operations. In-depth knowledge in strategic leadership enables police officers to respond proactively and reactively to incidents and operations by being supportive, intrusive and objective. Senior law enforcement officers possessing the qualities of effective and strategic leadership often demonstrate the ability to command armed operations with finesse; and high level of precision, vice versa.

Further, effective and strategic leaders in law enforcement create awareness of the needs of key stakeholders; affirm the responsibilities and roles to be performed within an appropriate command structure; and shed light on leadership challenges they encounter. These category of leaders are able to apply their national security decision model in line with universally-identified Conventions that may be applicable to their jurisdictions such as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Effective and strategic leaders in law enforcement precede appropriate assessment of risk and threat within dynamic situations with thorough evaluation of available information.

It remains imperative for strategic and effective leaders to maintain appropriate records, prioritise and review on continuous basis, the tactical parameters and strategic aims of firearms operations; engage with and communicate salient decisions to multiple stakeholders. Moreover, assessment and approval of tactical plans form part of the responsibilities of strategic leaders of operations and incidents. Further, strategic leaders are expected to ensure the incorporation of appropriate professional advice and deployment of requisite resources within parameters of the legal framework, strategic aim and specific context within which the resources would be deployed.

Given the limited availability of resources, it is incumbent on strategic leaders to provide practical justification for deployed resources by law enforcement officers within firearms operations. For instance, it would be relevant to state whether the resources deployed were in tandem with the European Convention on Human Rights; or other applicable Conventions. Strategic leaders of operations are able to identify and create awareness of probable circumstances that could result in post-incident activation as well as the essential roles and challenges to be discussed and addressed.

Police Operations in Modern Democratic Systems

Role of the police in modern democratic systems is often described as complex and evolving. Competing demands of various areas require prompt response from law enforcement agents; while the latter are further expected to resolve complex individual and societal issues. Police operations sometimes require officers to invoke the formal criminal justice system; and to apply force towards the achievement of lawful objectives. Thorough examination of the historical antecedents of organised law enforcement facilitates our understanding of how and why police officers operate as they do.

Patrol and criminal investigations constitute two important aspects of police functions and operations. The interrelatedness of these activities makes it appropriate for police culture, behaviour and operations to be constantly examined to identify possible inherent issues; and to take the necessary initiatives to address them. The pervasive issues of discretion and ethics underlie the daily functions of law enforcement officers. More worrying is the tendency for discretion to lead to deviant situations, abuse of power and corruption (Thompson & Hudson, 2017).

Policing in the modern era is presumed to be transparent and accountable; implying the police remain open to the public in their policies, practices, actions, training methods, discipline; and when and how often they apply force without compromising ongoing investigations. Specialised operations of the police may include investigations, gang interactions, domestic violence, drug arrests; and investigative responses involving persons who are mentally ill. Transparency is often emphasised with high expectation of police officers being accountable to the people in their practices, activities and actions; while conducting collaborative policing practices that remain close to the people served; and providing listening ear to the people they serve.

Further, policing in the 21st century is described as constitutional. That is, it remains fundamental duty of the police to protect the civil rights guaranteed by the constitution of each country. Policing in contemporary periods is expected to be just and respectful. That is, they are envisaged to demonstrate these critical qualities to people they come into contact with in the line of duty. In other jurisdictions such as the United States, emphasis is placed on the Bill of Rights, with particular attention to the 1st and 4th Amendments, when constitutional responsibilities of the police to the people are outlined.

Generally, police operations are considered successful when individuals perceive their side of the story has been heard; treatment meted out to them is characterised by dignity and respect; decision-making process was not only unbiased, but also trustworthy; and when people have good understanding of how decisions concerning them are made. Further, police-general public’s relations are enhanced when the general public understand the police are interested in their personal situation without malice. Modern police operations are connected, suggesting law enforcement institutions are expected to be committed to working closely with the people and in accordance with policies guiding functions of various departments including operations; and the police institution in general.

In many global jurisdictions, police operations personnel perceive themselves as partners with the community in responding properly to and preventing crime and disorder. In most modern democratic societies, constitutional provisions stress on judicious use of force by the police during operations. That is, police officers “see themselves carefully, wisely, and proportionally approaching situations in which physical force may be necessary” (Improving Police, 2016).

In order to win public trust and assure improved performance, many police institutions practice the nine principles of policing developed by Peel (as cited in Improving Police, 2016). The second principle asserts, the success of police operations is predicated on approval of the people and respect; while the fourth principle posits, the level of co-operation from the people has an inverse relationship with the amount of force the police decide to apply towards accomplishing their mission. The sixth principle emphasises the need for the police to apply force “only when persuasion, advice, and warnings are insufficient” (Improving Police, 2016).

Few years ago, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) together with two hundred (200) police chiefs across the United States issued what is commonly called the 30 Guidelines for Police Use of Force (Improving Police, 2016). Some analysts described the first four and sixth guidelines as critically important for the controlled application of force; and rebuilding trust of the people in police operations and police institutions in general. The first principle underscores the need for sanctity of human life to be at the heart of all police operations; whereas the second guideline admonishes law enforcement institutions to continually develop best policies, practices and training on use of force challenges that transcend the minimum requirements of Graham vs. Connor (as cited in Improving Police, 2016).

The third and fourth guidelines stress the need for the force applied by the police during operations to meet the test of proportionality; and the need for adoption of de-escalation as formal institutional policy. The sixth guideline dwells on intervention duties. That is, it is imperative for police officers to prevent other officers from excessive use of force. The preventive measures could take the forms of enhanced training for deploying officers, constant education on applicable laws and policies related to use of force; and sanctions for non-compliant officers.

Strategic and effective leadership of operations and incidents often demonstrate commitment to continuous improvements; and to the pursuit and application of research related to effective law enforcement practices. In jurisdictions such as the United States, there is additional commitment to implementation of the recommendations enumerated by the 2015 President’s Commission on 21st Century Policing. Global countries that have embraced modern police operations demonstrate strong commitment to the application of best known methods and practices. In the modern era, police institutions are described as learning institutions committed to teaching others how to improve and reach their goals.

Thus, viable police operations unit in the 21st century could be formed, maintained and developed towards effective realisation of overall institutional goal, if the officers practically demonstrate commitment and the willingness to achieve in their specialised fields of endeavour. The desire to achieve is a necessary and possible tool for modern police operations. Maintaining police officers who are committed to acting in strict compliance of the law helps to win the trust and support of the general public. It is worth-emphasising, the underlying mission of police operations in any given free democratic society is to ensure crime prevention; while serving as viable alternative to military force and repression.

Endearing themselves to gain approval and respect of the people contributes immensely to the accomplishment of missions by law enforcement officers. In essence, it is important for police operations to be designed and executed in ways that assure institutional compliance with applicable laws; and in ways that would facilitate compliance and voluntary observance of the law by members of the general public. As noted earlier, an inverse relationship exists between the level of co-operation enjoyed from members of the general public and the amount of force applied by the police towards fulfillment of their missions; whether well-planned or not. The level of co-operation increases when the police approach individuals with decorum and dignity. Nonetheless, the reverse is true.

The foregoing underscores the need for police officers to be willing and committed to sacrificing to protect, preserve and save life; they must be service-oriented, impartial, friendly and courteous to all persons. These qualities remain essential desiderata, especially when it is sometimes difficult to immediately determine the true identity of certain individual members within the larger population. The foregoing begs the popular maxim which states, “it is ideal to err on the side of caution.” In Ghana, one of the requirements for recruitment into the police service is being a Ghanaian. This suggests the police are recruited from the community and by inference, the community is the police.

The analogy is it remains the responsibility of both the police and the people to ensure welfare of the general public. However, the police-general public’s relation would yield the desired results if each party demonstrates sincerity, unbiasedness and strong commitment towards upholding the truth. Improving Police (2016) posited, it is imperative to measure the effectiveness of police operations based on the reduction in disorder and crime rate in our various localities; and not based on their actions and activities. Muscato (2021) submitted, “understanding what it means to be an officer means understanding the complete set of responsibilities, duties and practices of police work, which we can just call police operations.”

Though it appears simplistic, Muscato (2021) summarised the operational functions of police institutions across the globe. Day-to-day operations of police officers could be summarised into few categories, including patrol operations and investigation operations. Patrol operations refer to the decision to deploy police officers directly into communities to ensure and enforce law and order by working in; and moving around assigned communities. The police patrol concept was first nurtured and implemented during the 19th century; and has witnessed dramatic changes ever since. Police patrol duties could be summarised into distinct parts, including the zeal to fight and prevent crime. Thus, primary duty of police patrol is to foil crimes before they occur.

The foregoing mission could be accomplished through the adaption and implementation of various acts of deterrence. The basic of this strategy is the decision to maintain police presence. It is practically proven that maintaining police patrol in specific neighbourhoods tends to reduce the thirst for criminal activities; and deters potential criminals from indulging in the acts. During the Yuletide and other festive occasions, the rates of crime and public disorder tend to surge in many jurisdictions; thereby calling for more vigilance from law enforcement institutions throughout the world.

The police have the legal authority to arrest and detain people through law enforcement process. However, it is incumbent on the police to ensure their actions and conducts are in strict compliance with the law governing their operations; and from which they derive their authority. The duty to maintain order includes ensuring public safety and security; and assuring community welfare and social services. In prior years, many people perceived community welfare as less important duty of the police. However, the dynamics began to evolve during the 1980s as countries began to appreciate the urgent need for community welfare to be prioritised and identified as one of the major considerations in the scheme of police operations. Again, in prior years, the police were seemed to be detached from the people. Nonetheless, the goal in recent years has been to reach out to the people; and to be perceived as part of the people through the establishment of friendship, assuring comforting presence and providing the needed protection.

Investigations remain another category of police operations strategy used by officers to determine the real actors involved in criminal actions. It involves investigation of criminals and crime scenes. It involves making the necessary efforts to identify crime scenes, recover clues; and to locate the perpetrators. The set of skills required in investigation operations is quite distinct; it ranges from forensic analysis to creation of psychological profiles of potential suspects. It is not out of place to observe police officers involved in investigative duties working in close concert with prosecutors to ensure all the requisite evidence to secure conviction is found and properly handled.

Evolving Landscape of Law Enforcement

It remains the view of some security experts that new challenges that law enforcement agencies are saddled with each year tend to redefine the profession. The challenges could range from active shooter response protocols to screening processes for new recruits. Cappitelli (2018) asserted, the landscape of policing could change in an instant. As a result, the popular cliché, “business as usual,” is not applicable in policing. It is imperative for police operations to evolve with changing dynamics of technology and society.

Cappitelli (2018) further noted, it is imperative for police officers, both senior and junior officers, to read constantly and process information from diverse sources, so they could stay abreast of current trends and happenings within their immediate jurisdictions and jurisdictions across the globe. Effective police operations may be mired by five major factors. These include active shooter response; challenges related to recruitment of officers; transparency of the police and public records; use of force by the police and de-escalation; and immigration and sanctuary laws.

Generally, the response of police officers to active shooter situations is expected to be swift and devoid of hesitation. In many jurisdictions, police officers engaged in active shooter situations are praised for demonstrating bravery and engaging threats immediately with minimal regard to personal safety. Conversely, officers are criticised when their response is not swift enough to ward-off loss of life or injury. Existing policies in jurisdictions such as the United States caution fire fighters about when and how to run into buildings. However, policy changes related to law enforcement compels police officers to run into burning buildings to save lives, in spite of the inherent risks including loss of lives and injuries by officers who rush to engage active shooters in this regard. To this end, it is believed the basic tenets of public officer safety in some situations are undermined by the undue pressure mounted by the general public to influence policies of law enforcement institutions.

However, Cappitelli (2018) believed the response to the foregoing dilemma is located between when the police profession was pre-columbine and its current stage of evolution. Officers’ mortality rate could be mitigated if each active shooter incident is analysed and de-briefed; and the lessons learnt thereof are shared widely among all and sundry. The decision to review existing active shooter protocols could minimise the level of risk saddled with law enforcement agents in such situations, so officer safety could be enhanced. Review of existing active shooter protocols could be carried out through stakeholder dialogue with less response to public scrutiny and castigations.

Public demand for increased transparency in the operations of law enforcement agents is on the ascendency in recent years. In order to maintain public trust, some senior police officers are already having discussions within their ranks about the prospects of public demand for increased transparency; and are formulating policies and protocols that would reflect these developments. This notwithstanding, the average police officer is not oblivious of the fact that his or her department’s electronic mails (emails), text messages, phones and other electronic devices such as body-worn cameras are public records. The public disclosure requirements for these electronic devices vary from one jurisdiction to the other.

Although law enforcement officers may state their private phones are not public record, Cappitelli (2018) submitted, “there is no hard precedent that will protect any of the information a public servant shares in the course and scope of duty.” The foregoing asserts limitations to the extent of privacy of communication devices personally owned by law enforcement agents; as the media in particular and the public in general regularly demand additional details about police activities or operations in the field.

The hiring strategy adapted for implementation by senior police officers in some jurisdictions are believed to contribute more to recruitment crisis than to addressing challenges. Some experts in the field have expressed concerns about adequacy of the number of good candidates that are usually qualified for the requirement parameters set by the police institution. In some jurisdictions, concerns are raised about the effectiveness of the screening process as some vetted, approved and trained police officers are found culpable of breaking the law and committing crimes. It remains a belief among many senior law enforcement officers that some candidates that may be deemed unqualified during the screening process could practically become better officers than those selected.

Some senior officers of law enforcement are equally interested in knowing whether the selection standards criteria are yielding desired dividends through movement of targets in relation to needs of the geopolitical environment in general and communities in particular. Due to personal preference or bias, it is possible for some officers often described as “gate keepers” within police institutions to prevent better candidates from succeeding in their various fields of professional endeavour (Cappitelli, 2018). Making the requisite efforts to avert the anomalies outlined in the preceding discussion could turn the operational fortunes of most police institutions around by ensuring candidates who are hitherto rejected, but could prove enormously invaluable are sought-after; to improve institutional efficiency, effectiveness and competitiveness at the global level; while increasing institutional reputation considerably.

Institutional Reputation and Retention of Seasoned Officers

Increased institutional reputation could contribute immensely to retention of seasoned officers; and to attract new recruits to various entry levels. Issues related to immigration and sanctuary laws appear pervasive in countries such as the United States. Some security analysts described strategies adapted to address such issues in the United States as huge mess as some states pass laws to undermine federal laws; and local municipalities pass laws to undermine state laws. However, these legal feuds are expected to be calmed by threats of the Federal government of the United States to those states and municipalities in violation of federal laws. Moreover, it is believed steps taken to educate the general public on the possible limitations under applicable laws and court orders could serve as good start towards addressing the issue.

During 1993, one of the popular movies the world has ever witnessed was launched. This movie had Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes featuring as principal characters. The import of the movie was about the world being exposed to a futuristic society where the police no longer apply force; and field decisions that are critical are made by command personnel through live video feed to the police headquarters. Wesley Snipes acted the role of hardened criminal who employed extreme lethal force against the police who appeared powerless to respond. During the release of this movie, the fiction appeared far-fetched. However, in contemporary periods, it is not exaggerative for one to state “policing is moving in a direction to where the use of physical force by law enforcement will be severely constricted and live video could soon supplant individual decision-making” (Cappitelli, 2018). The foregoing provides ample justification for how the advent of improved technology could influence the success of operational duties in the modern era.

Implementation of the 21st Century Policing Initiative (21CPI) commenced during 2015 in countries such as the United States. Over the implementing years, many of the police-public relations elements of the 21st century policing initiative were validated and seemed effective in most aspects. This notwithstanding, the elements addressing use of force were found not to be seamless during the transition. Some analysts in the field were interested in determining whether policing is better-off today than it was prior to the launch of the 21st century policing initiative; whether the term, de-escalation, is overly used and confusing; whether everyone appears safer; if yes, who is safer? Is it the police or the people?

Cappitelli (2018) opined, the overt challenges associated with successful implementation of the 21st century policing initiative relate to the inconsistency inherent in the police use of force in the past, present and future. To address these challenges, it is imperative to identify the rules of engagement that remain consistently acceptable; and to identify police personnel who hesitate before taking action; thereby putting themselves or the public (or both) at risk. Contra-argument of the 21st century policing initiative affirms de-escalation formed an integral part of existing police training programmes; and therefore, attempts to carry out modifications could place officers at greater risk.

What remains certain under the circumstance is possible enactment of legislation to redefine justification for use of force if the police institutions do not make the necessary efforts to clear the confusion; as it is already happening in some states across the United States. New and unforeseen challenges appear inevitable in the scheme of police operations. To wit, it is quite difficult to predict with strong precision, the challenges that await the profession in the near and distant future. However, future challenges and crises could be mitigated if steps are taken to nib past mistakes in the bud through the implementation of practical and results-oriented interventions.

During 2020, police institutions in many global jurisdictions including the United States experienced challenges related to recruitment, retention at various levels and excessive use of force. Nonetheless, police institutions that embraced and applied the five pillars of organisational success were not only successful during the year, but also remained ahead of the security curve. These pillars include policy, training, people, discipline and supervision. Graham (as cited in Police1, 2020) noted, organisational success is predicated on the formulation of good policies; and the design and implementation of training programmes in line with institutional policy.  Further, institutional success is contingent on hiring and maintaining good people that could work effectively towards realisation of set institutional goals; taking appropriate disciplinary action against institutional policy deviants; and providing effective supervision to ensure policies are followed.

Available statistics indicated the number of resignations from the police departments in large cities such as New York, Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago during 2020 were above the norm. During the first six months of 2020, the San Francisco Police Department recorded thirty-one (31) retirements and twenty-three (23) resignations. The latter was nearly 11.54% shy of total resignations during 2019 (26 resignations); and 91.67% more than total resignations during 2018 (12 resignations). All things being equal, the total number of resignations at the end of the year (2020) were likely to be higher than the number (23) recorded during the first six months. The resigned officers cited lack of respect and personal safety; and lack of support from local governing bodies as some of the cardinal reasons for leaving; and accepting job offers in other fields; and within the police profession in other states.

Exigencies of the time affirm the need for various police institutions to identify and maintain seasoned senior command staff who may be ready to assume higher institutional leadership role through the dint of illustrious and selfless work. Massive liability may be incurred through day-to-day actions of underqualified and inexperienced personnel who are permitted to enlist in the police service. As stated earlier, one of the major challenges confronted with law enforcement institutions in the United States during 2020 was the recruitment of entry-level personnel.

In spite of the high unemployment occasioned in large part by the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer people applied for vacant positions. Cottier (2020) attributed the unimpressive recruitment drive to heightened negative perceptions of law enforcement institutions in recent years; lower remuneration in rural parts of the country; and the decision to shut down some police academies to prevent further spread of the pandemic during 2020. The latter challenge further delayed deployment of recruits from prior pool of applicants.

Cottier (2020) asserted, in as much as it remains essential to fill vacant positions in police institutions, it is relevant to ensure hiring standards are not lowered, but maintained. Moreover, it is possible for the police institution to be inundated with marginal candidates who may not have otherwise considered applying. This is likely to occur when the pool of applicant is relatively small. Further, it is possible for these marginal applicants to bring along some risk such as marginal decision-making and poor work habits. Further, the motivation of these marginal applicants to serve within the police service may be wrong.

Hard decision and choices may become necessary when particular department or the entire institution is saddled with dwindling vacant positions and applicant pools. Another option may be the decision to reassign officers who are currently assigned to discretionary specialty units or departments on temporary basis, back to say, patrol or investigative duties where their services may be mostly needed. Besides, re-evaluation could be effected to identify potential vacancies that could be filled by sworn and non-sworn personnel.

The non-sworn personnel could function as force multiplier, if the assignment is determined to be feasible; and existing policies allow for some level of discretion to be exercised in the assignment of duties. Perhaps, the limited number of applicants to fill existing gaps in many law enforcement institutions could be attributed to the difficulty in lowering hiring standards; a basic tenet upheld by many police institutions for new recruits enlisting in the profession. Emphasis is placed on good moral standards, quality training, strong physical and mental fitness as well as clean background check as major prerequisites for enlistment in numerous law enforcement institutions across the globe.

Indeed, the expertise of senior officers with invaluable decision-making acumen and decades of experience in the art of policing should not go unnoticed. These would curb frequent shake-ups at top management levels and the attendant disruptive effects on institutional developments and advancements; while encouraging implied law enforcement institutions to prove their mettle in the area of operations. Predictability and unpredictability characterise global events. Each event may be predictable or unpredictable in nature; and this influences how policies are formulated to guide officers in public safety duties. Analysis of previous legal trends, disasters and mistakes in public safety helps officers to identify happenings that could potentially create problems; estimate the likelihood of each happening and its level of severity; and to prioritise these happenings in an order reflecting the effect of each on police institutions and communities.

Risk Management Measures

Policy and training are two important measures mobilised by risk managers to control given set of risks. Effective risk planning for subsequent years is subject to effective analysis of policy-impacting-events in prior years. Effective analysis could be carried out through the application of the recognition, prioritisation and mobilisation method. In jurisdictions such as the United States, the first half of 2020 witnessed changes in legislation and best practice in the application of force, use of medical marijuana, anti-discrimination, transparency and law enforcement operations; implying effectiveness of police operations remains a major concern to law enforcement institutions in many jurisdictions across the globe.

Throughout the world, the outbreak of COVID-19 actually tested existing policies related to emergency management planning and staffing, communicable diseases, issuance and use of personal protective equipment; and working remotely. Police reform movements in countries such as the United States impelled review of existing policy on use of force by law enforcement institutions and assigned officers, especially in the areas of carotid restraints, the duty to intervene in and report suspected use of excessive force; and de-escalation.

Happenings during 2020 obviously impacted on policies related to public safety in many countries across the globe. Some analysts believed the influence is likely to extend to the coming years as the pandemic reflected unpredictable global events in the midst of surging populations; and ever-changing technology with its attendant devastating challenges. Moreover, persistent public scrutiny would call for further accountability from law enforcement institutions as well as best practice; and legal changes to policies related to monitoring and evaluating application of force, firearms discharges, conducts of officers and their performance history, among others. In countries such as the United States, it is envisaged there would be reassignment of duties such as non-violent mental health calls for service from law enforcement institutions to non-law enforcement agencies.

These policy changes would come along with the development of interoperability systems to facilitate the reassignment processes. Remote workplace policies may be reviewed continually to ensure content related to information security meets the test of time while providing the needed protection and work productivity. Increasing law enforcement population in terms of total workforce calls for new or review of existing policy content in relation to suicide prevention, stress management and continuous support for officers embroiled in critical incidents.

 Gallegos (2020) described the speed of influence of the police reform movements that led to the enactment of new laws on police use of force in the United States during 2020 as unprecedented and unpredictable. Unpredictable events are inevitable part of the day-to-day operations of law enforcement agencies; and part of the socio-economic life of every nation. What matters most under the circumstances is crafting strategies that would mitigate the harmful effects of unpredictable events.

Some analysts believed preparations toward controlling unpredictable events would be adequate if government officials and law enforcement officers collaborate to ensure development of an effective advisory team “that is up to speed on [institutional] policies and operations, making them pre-positioned to act when faced with unpredictable events” (Gallegos, 2020). In order for the team to be formidable, it must include relevant subject matter experts, law enforcement legal counsel, administrative decision-makers and police-public liaisons. This team would advise top level management of law enforcement institutions on proposed policy actions occasioned by both unpredictable and predictable risks.

Further, the advisory team may be in a position to educate the general public and law makers on prevailing police policies and practices; and to address concerns of these parties during periods of strong public emotions. Since predictable risks are preventable, it is imperative to prevent risks that could be predicted with relative ease, depending on their magnitude; while sophisticated systems are acquired to enhance rapid response to unpredictable events. Although training regimen has its challenges, the challenges faced during 2020 were peculiar; they reflected general impact of COVID-19 on social, organisational and national systems during the year. For instance, many training conferences and sessions originally scheduled to be organised in-person were either postponed or cancelled entirely.

In the United States, many advanced leadership schools and programmes for senior officers; and scheduled sessions for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Academy could not be held because the institutions were closed to prevent further spread of the pandemic; and to improve on containment measures and efforts. This notwithstanding, pressing social issues and police reform called for extra training activities by law enforcement institutions. Media coverage of police application of force incidents during 2020 was very high. The litigation that ensued these incidents impelled local governments and state legislators to take a critical look at what police officers were being trained on; and how the adapted training was being conducted.

Education on crowd control, airborne pathogens, de-escalation, mental illness and peer intervention are essential topics that become part of many requirements; in addition to the required traditional training classes. Some training programmes that continued uninterrupted during 2020, but essentially as in-house training included legal updates; ethics and field training; and firearms training programmes. The consequential effects were strained staffing demand and budget constraints.

However, staff training shortfalls occasioned by COVID-19 were mitigated to some extent through the organisation of remote training programmes facilitated through technology. In some jurisdictions, the remote training programmes were effective and timely. Virtual conferences and seminars were organised. These enabled participants to engage in constant interaction with their instructors and subject-matter experts; and to view recorded seminars based on their personal time table.

Technology systems such as Microsoft Team and Zoom facilitated remote training sessions and strict adherence to social distancing rules which were implemented during the pandemic outbreak. What remains certain in the law enforcement world is persistent demand for more training in current and future years. In many cases, training demands are at variance with available financial, logistics and other resources critically required to assure successful training of considerable number of competent and qualified officers to improve on the police-population ratio.

One of the imminent lessons learnt from the outbreak of COVID-19 is the indispensable role of technology in institutional and national advancements in the current and foreseeable future; and the urgent need for technology to dominate training sessions in academic and other institutions of learning. Effectively managed technology tends to reduce the overall cost of training to implied law enforcement institutions. Strong technological adaption implies a leap closer to legislative requirements and police reforms. During periods of budget constraints, creative scheduling may be required to ensure full service provision; and to adequately meet staff training mandates.

Scism (2020) posited, if 2020 was a learning curve for law enforcement officers, then it taught officers relevance of the following qualities: “patience and perseverance, coupled with the power of attitude.” Intense focus on emerging social issues, unique training approaches, changes in police protocols and operations were some of the factors believed to create myriad challenges for many law enforcement institutions across the globe. Each of the identified issues could involve significant paradigm shifts; while 2020 proved to be transitional period for numerous police institutions.

Consistent with Cappitelli (2018) and Cottier (2020), Scism (2020) bemoaned the rate at which experienced law enforcement officers were resigning while others were retiring; thereby draining the police profession of invaluable knowledge and wisdom. The effectiveness of leadership and personnel “working a beat” collectively defines the success of any police institution across the globe. Vacancies left behind by departed personnel through retirements and resignations are filled by newly-hired and newly-promoted officers. Staff challenges in some jurisdictions call for leveraging of succession planning capabilities. Emphasis on internal mentorship and training programmes could inch law enforcement institutions closer to addressing challenges related to staff shortages in some units and departments, occasioned integrally by resignations and retirements.

Determinants of Operational Success

Attitude of law enforcement officers has been determined to play a pivotal role in the success of operations. Charles Swindoll (as cited in Scism, 2020) self-illustrated the concept of attitude when he asserted, he is convinced life only constitutes 10% of all the happenings in life; whereas how he reacts to those happenings constitutes 90%. This underscores the need for officers to constantly keep their attitudes and those of other officers in check to minimise the pervasive level of negativity believed by a section of the general public to characterise activities of some police officers; ensure staff morale is maintained; and institutional standards are raised, among others. Law enforcement officers are expected to keep positive attitude for each defining situation; serve the general public with discipline and respect; and to show compassion. Continuous demonstration of the foregoing qualities among colleagues in the office and in homes could have direct self-impact; and impact on people in close contact.

Members from Generations Y and Z are believed to dominate the workforce in contemporary periods. Members from Generation Y or Millennials relate to persons born during 1981 through 1996 while Generation Z refers to individuals born during 1997 and thereafter. The increasing levels of scepticism and anxiety among these generations’ cohorts are believed to be impacting adversely on their ability to maintain positive attitudes. In order to set sterling examples, it is imperative for both senior and junior officers enlisted in law enforcement institutions across the globe to maintain positive attitudes even in the midst of perceived challenges. It is the responsibility of senior officers to be engaged; and to urge newly-promoted or newly-hired staff to build the necessary confidence to succeed on the job.

Attitudes could be contagious. The inference is demonstration of good attitude is often reciprocated with good attitude, vice versa. Indeed, everyone is responsible for his or her attitudes. However, Scism (2020) believed institutional “leadership shoulders the biggest burden when it comes to setting the proper example.” Prevailing attitudes among the workforce tend to affect morale of the entire institution since the total sum of personnel constitutes the institution. It remains the responsibility of senior officers to continually serve as positive role models through their utterances, actions, inactions and professional conducts; to inspire confidence in other officers and the general public.

Public Perceptions of Accountability and Discipline

Persevering and rising above any occasion to provide critical services to the people are the hallmark of officers during challenging moments. On the issue of accountability, the public believed the police have not instituted adequate measures to effectively hold themselves accountable to ensure they do the right things in the right manner. This criticism contributed strongly to enactment of new laws related to police use of force in jurisdictions such as the United States during 2020. The criticism notwithstanding, there are many senior and junior officers who have discharged their duties creditably and in some cases, with distinction to the admiration of cross-section of the general public.

There are committed law enforcement officers who are committed to serving the people with humility; and committed to ensuring they discharge their duties and responsibilities in line with institutional policies; and within the national legal framework. The versatility of these officers is expected to be carried along and demonstrated in future years; while they serve as exceptional role models to other officers.

Unfortunately, the exceptional qualities of noble officers of the police profession sometimes go unnoticed due to the unprintable attitudes and conducts of some officers. Fortunately, the new wind of professionalism has brought in its wake increased level of transparency and accountability. It is hoped these ideals would contribute significantly towards improving on individual performance; and towards enhancing the image of police institutions in a positive limelight.

On the issue of discipline among officers, Gallegos (2020b) noted, “one thing 2020 has shown us in the area of discipline is that if we do not police ourselves, someone from the outside will come in and do it for us.” To wit, if the disciplinary measures to officers in violation of the law and institutional policies are perceived not to be punitive enough, legislators may enact laws to determine the level of discipline to be meted out to officers whose actions and conducts are found to be at variance with or violate existing protocols and policies.

In Ghana, annual statistics on various offences and punitive measures are released by the police administration to the general public through the media to demonstrate the institution’s commitment to transparency and accountability to the people. Discipline has been described by some security experts as a function of policy and not a function of outcomes; and that, its application helps officers to identify and understand their shortcomings; and to take proactive measures to address them to assure success in their chosen careers.  Discipline, it is argued, tends to be effective when it is timely; and not delayed unduly. Discipline could be applied in varied forms; and its timely application protects institutions from liability and negative public perceptions.

Responses to Crime and Disorder

Effective utilisation of the foregoing qualities could define the success of intended strategies and operations. The response used by police operations to address issues related to public disorder and criminal activities is commonly called crackdowns. Scott (2004) provided succinct definition of crackdown as it pertains in the world of police operations: “[crackdown refers to] sudden and dramatic increases in police officer presence, sanctions and threats of apprehension either for specific offenses or for all offenses in specific places.” Though not necessary, police crackdowns or operations usually involve high visibility and many arrests. The operations may be conducted using plain clothes or undercover officers working in close concert with uniformed officers. The crackdowns may involve other official actions in addition to the arrests.

Other related terminologies of crackdowns include zero tolerance and sweeps. Zero tolerance is often associated with the broken window thesis, which states, the level of discretion that would ordinarily be applied during police operations is suspended in favour of strict enforcement of the law for all selected offences. Sweeps relate to co-ordinated police operations in which the underlying objective is to effect the arrest of large number of offenders. Many reports on police crackdowns emphasise on aggressive methods; aggressive patrol; and aggressive law enforcement, among others. Although reports on aggressiveness may increase pervasive negativity of police operations, most police operations are calculated to be executed in a manner that is neither rude nor hostile to people the officers come into contact with.

Crackdowns are often used during police operations in combination with other responses. Some of these responses include educating and warning the populace or general public, improving place management, conducting sting operations and targeting repeat offenders, among others. Crackdowns may be conducted under the instructions of single beat-level officer, which could have some consequential effects. However, discussions in this publication were extended to include large scale special operations that are often authorised at policy-making levels.

Crackdowns could be executed in diverse ways. They may be conducted through initiatives or operations that are planned loosely. That is, officers deployed are given only vague details and guidance about the objectives and tasks. Sometimes, the deployed officers are told little more than to get out there and make their presence felt. Crackdowns could also include deployment of officers in which the intended operations are well-co-ordinated, highly planned, intensely focused; and officers have sufficient details about the operational objectives to facilitate precision in the discharge of their duties.

The foregoing explanations assert, crackdowns by law enforcement institutions could take different forms. Most empirical research on police crackdowns border on those that were well-focused, planned and co-ordinated. Perhaps, this category of crackdowns was chosen by the researchers to provide scientific justification for the conduct of their respective studies. The preceding statement notwithstanding, in the practical world of policing, many operations conducted by law enforcement institutions may be described as not well-co-ordinated, focused and planned. Since systematic learning from operations conducted under the foregoing initiatives may be quite challenging, many researchers develop less interest in them.

As a result, little is known about the implications of crackdowns that are not well-planned, co-ordinated and focused for targets and society in general. Some important dimensions to police crackdowns include targeted geographical area, types of offences targeted, police visibility and law enforcement action; and type of action expected. The emphasis of some crackdowns is placed on visibility or presence of the police while others stress on enforcement action. Both dimensions make potential offenders aware of the strong probability of being apprehended. Crackdowns with enforcement action undertone infer the application of actual sanctions to offenders to enhance the deterrent effect. Conversely, additional enforcement and sanctions may or may not occur when crackdowns are conducted strictly on the wings of police visibility.

It is believed the enhanced visibility suffices to serve as deterrent to offenders and potential ones. These crackdowns are often described as tactical patrol, directed patrol, saturation patrol or high-visibility patrol. An example of well-known crackdown with special emphasis on police visibility alone is the Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment (Kelling et al. as cited in Scott, 2004). The outcomes of many security-related studies revealed, significant reduction in public disorder and criminal activities becomes elusive if police presence in an area is intensified without necessarily increasing levels of official action. Contrarily, disorder and crime are demonstrably reduced when police patrol is increased in identified hot spots of public disorder and criminal activities; and offenders are apprehended.

High visibility dominates most police crackdowns whereas considerable number of crackdowns is characterised by less visibility, especially when police in plain clothes or police under cover are involved. In the Kansas City preventive patrol experiment, the researchers varied the levels of uniformed patrols to facilitate testing of their impact on reported crime and perceptions of citizens. Special enforcement action did not form part of the instructions issued to patrol officers during the experiment. The nature of certain crackdowns calls for the application of certain prescribed enforcement actions to the neglect of usual discretion by officers. To illustrate, police officers engaged in operations may issue citations where once they might have released the offenders with warning; and may issue citations and release offenders. Further, they may actively search for offenders with outstanding warrants where once they might have served warrants only when encountering offenders in the routine course of their duties.

Other crackdowns necessitate application of broader range of tactics in an attempt to address targeted issues. Officers are able to exercise full discretion and initiative as required by law in some situations. Situational crime prevention or problem-oriented policing principles may become the obvious applicable tool when taking more law enforcement actions. The applied principle is contingent on the circumstances. As part of crackdowns, operation officers may arrest offenders, issue citations, conduct field interviews, issue written or verbal warnings, take juveniles into custody for status offences such as curfew violations or truancy. Further, officers may conduct highly visible patrols; conduct traffic stops; serve search warrants; inspect licences; and establish mobile police command posts or booking stations or neighbourhood offices.

In addition to the foregoing, officers may conduct knock and search operations to elicit information from members of the public who may be hesitant to contact the police directly; or to inform the people about what the police seek to achieve from the exercise or operation. Moreover, the knock and search may be intended to locate offenders or suspects, conduct voluntary searches of private premises; and to search for evidence in plain view. The expected action from police operations may also include search into vehicles and interviewing drivers at road blocks and check points; and the search for enhanced penalties through prosecution. Organised crackdowns may be concentrated in small geographic areas including housing complex, few houses; or may be extended to larger areas such as neighbourhoods, towns, cities or an entire jurisdiction.

Crackdowns may be conducted with special emphasis on burglary, drunken driving, illegal conduct robbery, over speeding, gun-related crimes and dealings in drugs. Other crackdowns may be intended to deter a range of illegal and problematic behavioural crimes; respond to all calls for police service; and respond to all crimes categorised as serious. Three basic elements underlie crackdowns. These include publicity, heightened police presence and increased severity certainty of sanctions. Though basic, not all the elements tend to be fully operational during any particular crackdown. Besides, it is possible for these elements to functionally contradict each other. As an illustration, suppose police operations result in full-blown custodial arrests of all offenders. The risk of reducing police presence in the target area would increase when all the officers leave after the operations to book prisoners. This affirms the need for continuous police surveillance in target areas.

Crime focused by criminals may be redirected and concentrated elsewhere when publicity about the crackdown in a target area is carried out. Extant research affirmed the ideal way to maximise benefits derived from police operations is to “conduct them briefly and intensely, rotate them among several target areas, and resume them either at unpredictable times in the future or when target offenses return to certain predetermined levels” (Scott, 2004). Crackdowns tend to be effective when they are sufficiently strong and long; when the doses of police intervention are strong enough and last for longer periods. Marginal increases in routine police operations are not likely to generate significant impacts. However, it is worth-stressing, the magnitude of police action required during each operation is dependent on the intensity of the identified issue.

Nonetheless, the intensity and extensiveness of the police action should be sufficiently higher than normal to positively affect the perceptions of offenders about the risks of their actions and its inherent punitive measures or rewards. It is possible for a crackdown to be spread very thinly over wider area. Under the circumstance, the overall intensity becomes insufficient to have much effect. In some cases, follow-up crackdowns may be required to reinforce an initial crackdown. However, these intended follow-up crackdowns generally tend not to require the same level of intensity as the initial one. It remains imperative for officers to take the initiative to inform potential offenders about the higher risks of apprehension; it is not appropriate for officers to presume offenders access or process information in relation to police operations exactly the same way as the general public might.

Crime Deterrence in Practice

Kennedy et al. (as cited in Scott, 2004) presented useful account on the Boston Gun Violence Project. Officers’ resolve to personally and persuasively inform high risk offenders about the consequential effects of their violent conducts served as one of the keys to effective deterrence.  Further, police operations in San Diego within the state of California in the United States in prior years serves as perfect illustration of effective crackdown by law enforcement institutions on illegal drug trade and abuse. Illegal drug trade on University Avenue in San Diego was described by security experts as “full-blown crack epidemic” (Scott, 2004), which remained entrenched and relied on word-of-mouth marketing to stabilise the trade; and to consistently attract and maintain seasoned and hard core drug users in the street, the market centre.

University Avenue which remained heavily populated served as a perfect market for both legitimate retail merchandise and illegal drug trade. Police officers adapted and applied basic marketing principles to convince drug users that University Avenue was the last place they would wish to be; and assisted businesses in convincing residents about the safety and convenience in shopping in the market. Police response to these operational strategies was categorised into three stages. These stages were christened operation hot pipe, operation smoky haze and operation rehab.

The goal of operation hot pipe was to debunk the long-held notion that University Avenue was suitable and safe environment for illegal drug trade and drug users. As part of the strategic measures, University Avenue was established as high-intensity zone; and drug users were warned about their potential arrests for all crimes committed in the area. Individuals who facilitated drug trade and drug users who loitered about on University Avenue were systematically arrested by squads of police officers. The operations led to the identification of three types of drug users, namely partyers who normally come to purchase drugs and go home; habitual users-facilitators; and binge buyers.

The habitual users served as conduits for the partyers and bingers to access drugs in the market. On the basis of the above, the police concluded the partyers and bingers may be compelled to look elsewhere, should the habitual drug users disappear. To discourage loitering and their continuous presence in the street, police officers informed arrestees about the decision to continually focus law enforcement on them as long as long as they remained in the target area. Police officers circulated fliers designating University Avenue as off-limit zone to drug users. Initial acceptance of the drug-related information and education from the police among the drug users was low.

However, sooner than later, the habitual drug users began to co-operate and did not hesitate to disclose vital information to the police to avoid arrest, but this did not deter the police from effecting their arrest; to reduce the high incidence of repeat drug-related offenders within the target area. Fliers were posted on electrical boxes, store fronts, windows, planters; at bus stops; and in other places identified as drug dealing sites. Each person officers came into contact with was told to inform his or her friends that University Avenue was not the best place to hang out; and that, one risked being arrested for hanging out there.

The purpose of operation smoky haze was to destroy the safety and convenience of the drug market by confusing sellers and buyers. Strategies such as reverse-sting operation and under cover were used by officers to arrest buyers for solicitation. Drug buyers became leery of new faces selling drugs in the street; while the police relied on informants to spread the word that the operation was still in process. Drug users were casually informed about impending drug sweeps; some of which occurred; and some of which were called off.

As part of the deterrence strategy, officers spread the information that drug buyers were being ripped-off by sellers. Information on phantom suspects, robberies and drug rip-offs were asked of drug users by officers during field interviews. The confusion that emanated from the field interviews rendered drug purchasing inconvenient and very risky. Some people were referred to the newly-formed drug Court by officers. Individuals who applied and were eligible were put on drug Court probation during the period.

Operation rehab was intended to change perception of University Avenue from that of a drug corridor to an area that could aptly be described as strong business community. This initiative was implemented through the application of intense positive marketing drive. The positives from the intense marketing campaign included merchants’ report on increased business; feeling safer in the street; and witnessing more families and shoppers on University Avenue. Habitual drug users became aware of heightened law enforcement through circulated and posted fliers; and through the arrests of acquaintances and themselves. Some users reported scarcity of drug supply; others fled the area altogether; street robberies witnessed a decline; while complaints about drug dealings were either significantly reduced or eliminated entirely (San Diego Police Department as cited in Scott, 2004).

Public Disorder and Crime Prevention Strategies

Increasing rate of public disorder and crime could be reduced through the application of crackdowns in two major ways. These include attempts to raise offenders’ perceptions of increased probability of being caught and punished; and efforts intended to increase the certainty of offenders being caught and punished more severely than usual. Reactions of people to the effects of crackdowns could be separated into two categories. For some people, just hearing about imminent crackdown suffices to deter them from perpetuating criminal acts or engaging in public disorder; whereas others remain adamant until they are apprehended and punished before they consider not to repeat the offence.

To assure deterrence, perception of risk tends to be more valuable than actual risk; the former positions potential offenders in a preventive mood; while the latter resonates with reactive measures. As affirmed earlier, crackdowns are usually organised to effect large number of arrests; some of the offenders may be in the serious or high-rate category. The overall expected effect is reduction in reported crime cases and rates. In essence, crackdowns could be described as effective when offenders in the high category are taken out of circulation; and in most cases, incarcerated to increase the deterrence effect of surging crime numbers.

However, the idea of focusing more on offenders in high-crime rate category is incidental than purposeful; as law enforcement operations or crackdowns are often targeted at all categories of offenders; both high-rate and low-rate offenders. The combined focus notwithstanding, it is imperative for extra attention and resources to be focused on high-risk areas; or on high-risk offenders. Feasibility of the foregoing is often assured when law enforcement officers take the initiatives to identify high-risk areas and high-risk offenders before the crackdown. After the crackdown, efforts are made to concentrate resources on the identified targets. That is, special attention is given to the high-risk areas and offenders that were encountered during the operations.

It is not uncommon for police operations on certain kinds of drug markets to have snowball effects; implying officers have the opportunity to concentrate available resources on remaining offenders in circulation as the total number is reduced after the initial crackdown. The remaining offenders in this case, are at greater risk of apprehension as police attention intensifies comparative to the initial large number. Nefarious activities of offenders are likely to be nipped in the bud through such police operations. In the case of drug markets, interactions between buyers and sellers may be strained strongly enough to have significant negative effect. The implication is, policy decision to constantly deploy resources towards police operations has the potential to increase the effectiveness of crackdowns.

Though effective, it is instructive to state the snowball effect may not be applicable to every police operation. The number of potential victims is reduced by effective police operations. Moreover, police operations become effective when they are conducted to reduce the number of potential offenders likely to come into contact with one another. As an example, the collapse of hitherto busy drug markets through successful police operations could create fewer opportunities for crimes including crime-related assaults and robberies. Successful police operations on illegal drug trade could lead to tremendous decrease in overall drug-use in the focused area; and cause reduction in the need for money to purchase hard drugs. The eventual socio-economic benefit would be reduction in the penchant need to commit crime to obtain money to purchase hard drugs.

Benefits of Effective Police Operations

Effective, lawful and successful police operations hold special appeal for the general public, police institutions and officials in governments across the globe. Such operations offer the promise of immediate and strong action as well as quick and decisive results. Demand for crackdowns becomes inevitable when the rates of crime and public disorder are heightened; and out of control. Results from research and practice have demonstrably illustrated the effectiveness of police operations in reducing public disorder and crime rates in targeted areas.

The term, residual deterrence effects, is sometimes used to describe the ongoing effects of police operations. Diffusion of benefits could be the end product of effective and lawful police operations. That is, such operations have the potential to reduce disorder and crime outside the target area; and to reduce offences not targeted in the original operations.

Crime prevention efforts could lead to changes in initial crime patterns, meaning the intended places, times and methods of crimes could be varied to reflect actual changes to crime prevention efforts. Changes in crime patterns could result in displacement. Research has proven displacement remains an inevitable result of crime prevention; and that, even when it occurs, it is less than 100%.

When other responses that address the underlying conditions contributing to a particular phenomenon are identified, examined and factored into well-planned and well-executed police operations, the outcomes tend to be very effective. Sequential implementation of the various responses could sometimes prove useful and important.

The short-term positive outcomes of police operations include reduction in crime and disorder to more manageable levels; and creation of the enabling environment for good long-term crisis and responses. The effectiveness of multiple responses outweighs that of sole responses; albeit it remains a challenge to determine after the fact, with strong precision, the particular tactics or responses that proved most effective.

Some security analysts emphasise more strongly on the issue of effectiveness than the issue of measurement owing to the primary objectives of police operations, which include reduction in crime and disorder; and deterring potential offenders. Undoubtedly, modern police operations place onus responsibility on both senior and junior officers across the globe to strive towards the establishment of enviable and credible police institutions.

Challenges to Effective Police Operations

In spite of the numerous benefits, police operations are fraught with some potential criticisms and negative consequences. For instance, some police operations may not necessarily be the best approach even when they are considered effective in terms of implementation because they may be deficient when measured in line with institutional policies; and measured within the legal framework. It is possible for ill-intentioned efforts to worsen the outcomes of police operations. That is, the situation is exacerbated when police operations are executed on the throes of ill-intentions and self-seeking motives other than strong and effective investigation; and evidence-based.

Most studies on police operations have demonstrated that the potential impact of crime reduction tends to decay or disappear rather quickly, and in some cases even before the crackdowns end. This affirms the short-term impact and long-term challenges, if crackdowns are not followed-up constantly to ensure zero tolerance in targeted areas.

The effect of police crackdowns may decay over time due to a number of reasons, including the tendency for the intensity of implementation to be reduced over time; while offenders adapt to operations strategies. In spite of the potential reduction in crime and disorder in the short-term, Scott (2004) bemoaned the ability of police crackdowns to effectively address any of the social and physical conditions that often contribute to disorder and crime in particular locations; or within an entire jurisdiction.

Underlying conditions of crime and disorder are addressed with relative ease when broader situational crime prevention and problem-solving approaches are adapted for implementation. The short-term positive impacts notwithstanding, well-planned police operations are often recommended to curb social vices such as incessant crimes and public disorder.

The short-term relief that police operations create in some areas serves as an ample justification for the efforts, especially when the relief creates opportunities for long-term responses to be planned and executed. However, the “ingenuity” of some criminals tends to undermine the effectiveness of police operations in some situations. For instance, Scott (2004) asserted, “the same rationality that police count on to deter some offenders causes others to adapt to police tactics and continue offending at the same rate.”

The foregoing underscores the need for tact and care in officers’ dealings with some individuals who may be impersonating; and the need for constant availability of sophisticated technology and other resources to strategically be ahead of the security learning curve. Police-suspect relations are severely jeopardised when operations are improperly organised and conducted to satisfy some personal interests other than those that are lawful. The relations may be strained further if an operation targeted at a person is carried out hastily when the charge remains an allegation; and the status of a suspect has not been duly established through proper and effective investigations.

Police operations that are not properly conducted tend to undermine legitimacy of the police; and invariably intensifies public calls for scrutiny. The use of highly aggressive tactics in relatively routine enforcement and patrol operations may create fear in casual observers and violate the rights of arrestees. For instance, widespread police crackdowns in minority areas contributed to many of the urban riots witnessed in the United States during the 1960s; and in recent years.

Public support for crackdowns is strained when the police do not explain the purpose and scope of their intended operations to the public ahead of time; and fail to explain their intended action to the people they apprehend during their operations. Potential abuse of authority becomes inevitable when police operations are conducted bereft of proper planning and effective supervision. Due process is often compromised when police officers are pressured, and in some cases, excessively pressured to effect arrests. Rights of individuals are violated when police operations are characterised by poor management and overzealousness.

Distinguishing the truly suspicious from the ordinary becomes difficult when police operations are characterised by entrenched emotions; and not preceded by proper and objective investigations. Analysis of cost-effectiveness is often required to assess the eventual cost of a particular operation to parties such as arresting officers, supervisor and law enforcement institutions in general (Scott, 2004).

Criticisms such as disparate effect of police operations on the poor, vulnerable; affluent and innocent targets could be avoided or reduced drastically if police operations are preceded by thorough investigations. Police operations preceded by thorough investigations have the potential to improve efficiency, effectiveness and reputation of implied institutions among the comity of law enforcement institutions.


21st century police operations in given jurisdictions are likely to be left behind the global security curve if duties, responsibilities and actions do not evolve to reflect the ever-changing dynamics of law, technology and society. Strategic and effective leadership remains essential management tool not only for senior police officers leading and supervising field operations, but also for all senior officers at top management levels.

The evolving management dynamics in the global business environment have replicable effects on police institutions. That is, management and leadership qualities of senior police officers must be abreast of happenings in the contemporary global business world; since the administrative duties of law enforcement institutions are not distinct from what pertain in the mainstream business environment.

Strategic and effective leaders who endear themselves are neither subjected to public ridicule nor to public uproar. Rather, leaders with these sterling qualities constantly search for key pointers such as ambushments, and avoid them. Ambushments in this context relate to the tendency for police officers under the supervision of a senior officer to “lure” the senior officer to commit himself or herself to duties, actions and conducts that are not lawful.

To wit, senior officers that tend to remain red-alert are able to nib potential personal, management, administrative and institutional challenges in the bud. Further, the actions of agile, strategic and effective senior officers have the tendency to compel supervised officers to be circumspect; and to ensure reported charges that require deployment of armed officers are evidence-based; and not based on mere and unsubstantiated allegations.


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The writer is the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Regional Commander, Ghana Police Service, Bolgatanga



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