Effective Police Organizations: Key in Combating Transnational Crime

Effective Police Organizations: Key in Combating Transnational Crime
Posted on August 31, 2016 | Valarie Findlay | Written on August 31, 2016
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Author's Note:

Author's Note:

Valarie Findlay writes frequently for various industry publications on policing, terrorism and cybersecurity; this article stems from several other recent publications on issues in policing. She is a research fellow for the Police Foundation (USA) and has two decades of senior expertise in cyber-security for policing, military and government departments. She holds a Masters in Terrorism Studies from the University of St. Andrew's and her dissertation, "The Impact of Terrorism on the Transformation of Law Enforcement", examined the transformation of law enforcement in Western Nations. Currently, she is preparing her doctoral thesis on terrorism as a social phenomenon. She can be contacted at: vfindlay@humanled.com

Website: http://www.humanled.com

Effective Police Organizations: Key in Combating Transnational Crime

Transnational and organized crime remains an active threat to national and public safety and remains one of the most difficult to confront due to its vast territory and distribution networks, sophisticated structure in illegal activities and use of technology. An increasingly prominent domestic and international issue, it has a significant impact on social and cultural foundations in Canada, as well as domestic and foreign policy.

In 2014, the Havoscope Black Market Information reported that Canada's black-market was valued at approximately $77.83 billion with drug trafficking accounting for approximately $44.5 billion; cybercrime and financial crime (credit card fraud, etc.) were reported to be around $3-5 billion each. The reach of these distribution networks are more than lateral supply channels for drugs, and some cases human trafficking; they deliver illicit goods and services to our own backyards - our communities, schools and streets - and embed themselves into legitimate businesses through criminal investment and 'fronts', disrupting communities and neighbourhoods.

One of the key capabilities of dismantling these organizations and their networks is being able to connect isolated criminal incidents in communities to organized crime groups through verifiable information from offenders and victims gathered by municipal and provincial police. This, as well as targeted infiltrations, is of great value to federal efforts and task forces that focus on the highest level of transnational targets, but require players at all levels to contribute to a puzzle that has many scattered pieces.

Along with daily operational activities, municipal police, who are well aware of street-level activities, regularly run small and large operations in conjunction with federal bodies that include teams of investigators, researchers and analysts in an effort to combat local and regional supply and distribution of illicit goods tied to organized crime. While these partnerships require complex operational, vertical and horizontal collaboration to be effective, a closer look reveals the importance of the organizational health and positive relationships with the public and communities they serve.

Too often in the aftermath of a negative incident involving the police, we see public confidence drop and accusations fly in the wake of unanswered questions. The public is left exasperated, demanding answers to square the circle, while policing organizations are temporarily silenced, but not deaf to the public's mounting frustration. In the field, the rank and file show up for their shift and go about their job in a climate of increased tension and added weight to their duties. This has been the case repeatedly in the US and as we are seeing now, increasingly so in Canada.

While it is clear these incidents affect the jurisdictional operations of municipal, community-level and provincial policing, their impact on federal policing and national security efforts that rely on these partners, rarely gets a second thought. In light of the substantial contributions by provincial and municipal police in the prevention, detection, response to and interdiction of transnational and organized crime, as well as domestic terrorism, more proactive responses to these organizational problems and failing public communication should be facilitated.

Aside from strong leadership that has the support of the organization's members, employee satisfaction and workplace wellness and respect, positive relationships with the community have a profound impact on an organization's resources and capabilities in supporting important federal crime initiatives, such as transnational and organized crime. When any of the above factors fall below acceptable levels and expectations of employees, not only does the organization as a whole suffer, but so does the quality of service and ultimately, the ability to effectively maintain law and order and combat crime.

Establishing and maintaining relationships between the public and police through comprehensive communications strategies and incident-triggered outreach must become a focal point, along with organizational health - the health of the relationships with the people who are the organization, inside and outside. Recently, we have seen tremendous divisions and tensions at municipal levels that pose a serious threat to information gathering capabilities in the community and has called into question the integrity of organizational leadership. Truly progressive police leadership recognizes the importance of meeting organizational needs and instilling, maintaining and continuously improving its confidence in the public, due to the intrinsic dependencies in cooperative efforts.

While most Canadians will have few interactions with police in their lifetime, it is confounding that while the majority of these interactions are positive, the growing sentiment towards police is negative. The power of news headlines, images and social media are formidable and they can feed the public perception of police from thousands of miles away. Because of this, 'abuse of authority' and 'excessive use of force' by police has come to exist both objectively and subjectively with the public and must be dealt with as valid realities.

Easier said than done? Likely, but with proper planning, prioritizing and leadership prime topics can be targeted to counter public perception with effective communications, such as incident response, or crisis management, police training and investigative processes - repeated public concerns raised in the media. Likewise, communication plans that designed to inform the public on specific types of police incidents are crucial in managing and controlling the messages. By engaging and educating the public through open dialogue, police organizations are able establish a rapport before a serious incident occurs, rather than struggling with the fall-out afterwards; this helps counter the hyperbole and 'arm-chair judgement' that occurs when social media takes over.

An example of countering these perceptions is tackling the notion that police training addresses every and all scenarios and that there are specific, prescriptive methods for each type of incident call. In fact, its the complete opposite: there are no prescriptive methods to prepare for and respond to every action, every time with guaranteed outcomes. Crisis intervention incidents are dynamic, elastic, subjective and subject to change often without notice. Officers are well aware that incident response varies in formulation - strategic (diffusion and de-escalation) and defensive counter-force responses chosen to suppress capability, intent and means/opportunity - and that fixed (mental state, physical capability, weapon type/possible concealment, etc.) and fluid factors (passive/active resistance, willingness to sustain injury, etc.) require repeated assessment. The average person will have no appreciation for these subtleties, but these can be communicated and understood - and they have the ability to shift the public perception and criticism through knowledge.

With the obvious struggles and challenges experienced by municipal police in particular, it is essential that police leadership refocus and address the compounding, intertwined issues related to communication with the public and internal organizational health. Maintaining our national security and public safety requires, without exception, that police organizations adapt to change and that officers are fully empowered, with their capabilities adequately sharpened, to meet the needs of the communities they serve and to support federal level crime initiatives. The net result, if designed and executed properly, only strengthens the capabilities of police organizations, enhances the effectiveness of targeted efforts and prepares the organization for emerging societal needs and crime trends.


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