Law Enforcement Roundtable: Police Advise on How Security Professionals Can Step Up

Active and former law enforcement officials discuss challenges, crime trends and private sector solutions.

Law Enforcement Roundtable: Police Advise on How Security Professionals Can Step Up

Elite Interactive Solutions Law Enforcement Advisory Board members (left to right) Mitch Tavera, Tom Stone, Rich Nevin, Keith Bushey and Justin Feffer. (Photo courtesy of Elite Interactive Solutions.)

The past few years have seen, if not the most taxing strain on American law enforcement, then certainly a match for any traumatic and turbulent times previously encountered.

Being a police officer has always come with challenges like high stress, danger and public scrutiny. However, today’s issues extend to trust and community relations; use of force and accountability; bias and discrimination; technology and data privacy; community policing; mental health intervention; resource allocation; transparency and communication; recruitment and retention; emerging crimes; and political pressures.

Given those developments, we might be nearing a tipping point for how policing is organized, implemented and executed. There are signs of hope that this process will end up being evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

“American law enforcement was never set up to have a massive, national police force. Countries like Germany, France and England have far more police officers for the population,” says Justin Feffer, an attorney who spent more than 30 years in law enforcement.

“America is more like a cowboy situation where we rely on the cooperation of the public,” he says. “When that collapses, like it did with the defund the police movement, it becomes untenable. Hopefully, in a few years, we’ll reverse these terrible trends and move forward.”

Moving forward will no doubt involve winning more universal support of the public, as well as leveraging fast-changing technology that helps police be safer, more accountable as well as more effective and efficient.

Accomplishing that likely necessitates deeper and more widespread partnerships with private businesses that supply and maintain those technology-based devices, systems and services.

With daily arrests and detainments, enhanced officer safety and zero false alarms, these private-public partnership results speak volumes of the power of such alliances.

Feffer and his law enforcement colleagues — Keith Bushey, Rich Niven, Mitch Tavera and Tom Stone —convened earlier this year to discuss the promise and value of technology in today’s policing landscape, as well as several other key trends. For information about each interviewee, scroll to the bottom of this page.

They also offer advice on how private security providers like dealers, integrators, central stations and consultants can best serve as an ally to police.

What do you see as the top two or three challenges faced by law enforcement today, and how are they impacting agencies around the country?

Tom Stone: Number one is recruitment and retention of personnel. Traditional law enforcement agencies are not having the ability now to recruit and retain personnel, which is causing major issues in the way enforcement is done around the country. That’s certainly a top issue facing the quality of life in this great country.

Keith Bushey: Another very big problem is the inability of law enforcement agencies to provide the level of service they want to provide to their communities. As a result, the private sector is having to step up more and more to perform tasks that were previously performed traditionally by law enforcement agencies.

Mitch Tavera: A big one is law enforcement being told what to do and how to do it by outside political influencers. For instance, in California, the state legislature is giving mandates on how law enforcement does its job.

It’s interesting to try to work for people who really don’t understand what you do. Law enforcement has lost its cachet with our legislators in order to influence them in what we think we need to do. We need to do a better job working with our state legislatures.

That’s a big issue because law enforcement is getting pulled in many different directions they never had to, having laws made that actually make no sense.

Bushey: That’s affecting the number of people who want to become police officers, which in itself creates a whole array of problems and issues.

Rich Niven: Along with the short staffing, there’s been a very steep rise in crime. There’s many different causes for that, but one of them being some prosecutors who don’t believe in prosecution or incarceration. Also on the judicial side, there’s judges who don’t. They’re not on the same page as the police right now.

Tavera: The interesting thing is you’ll hear the governor spout that we have a reduction in violent crime. He doesn’t talk about property crime. Property crime affects you in almost the same way.

When you have your home broken into or your car broken into, you feel a sense of violation. We have an increase in property crimes that people don’t talk about.

Justin Feffer: Since 2020, there’s been a perceived collapse of support for law enforcement. This has translated into a paralysis of law enforcement agencies where police officers do not feel confident in doing their jobs because they feel like they’re going to be second-guessed or not supported, or that perhaps the community doesn’t want them to do their job.

This claimed drop in violent crimes is false. It’s a function of peculiarities in the reporting of crime. Most, even violent crimes, go unreported. If the perception of the public is the police won’t do anything anyway, then the willingness to report the crime drops even further.

Traditionally, you’ve only been able to look at two things to determine the true crime rate. One is murders because they are almost always reported. The second one is auto theft. Those are really good, reliable indicators of the true crime rate.

If you look at those, you’ll see that murders are up an incredible amount since 2020 and car thefts as well.

The truth is that you find commercial retailers are shutting their businesses down due to crime. The crime rates don’t capture that kind of problem because these retailers don’t even bother calling the police any longer. You find big brand names like Target, CVS and others completely closing down retail outlets in major American cities due to crime problems.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out when you walk into a retailer and all the merchandise is locked behind cabinets what’s going on. I’d say that there is an absolute crisis in America right now, vis-a-vis crime and vis-à-vis law enforcement’s ability to respond to crime.

Bushey: On top of that, as an example, you may have a smash-and-grab situation with 300 or 400 suspects. That still legally counts as one crime.

Niven: In California, with Prop 47, a lot of tools that law enforcement used have been taken away. For example, for grand theft, it’s been raised to $950. People can raid Walgreens and mom-and-pop stores all day long and only commit misdemeanors because they’re only grabbing $100 worth of items, and they’re just cited and released.

Narcotics, simple possession of narcotics, is a misdemeanor now. That used to be a valuable tool to gain informants by the police agencies. Now, those people are just cited out and released.

If you committed petty theft with two priors, it used to be that was a felony. Now, that’s no longer the case. It still falls under the $950 rule.

Feffer: In Los Angeles County, if you are arrested for almost all crimes, it is the position of the L.A. Superior Court that cash bails should not be allowed. It’s basically catch-and-release for what previously had been significant felonies, such as car theft, grand theft, residential burglaries, and other substantial crimes.

People are simply, in many cases, cited in the field or at most booked and then released.

Stone: It’s a systemic problem all over the country. No matter what state you attach to it, it’s the same. It’s the degree of it that might be a little bit different. It’s the lack of trust in police. As Mitch said, the political aspect of it has gotten untenable. The leadership and law enforcement agencies now are not doing what they’re supposed to.

Tavera: You’re only having chiefs for an average stay of two years. There’s a true brain drain in leadership.

Stone: Even in the medium-sized departments where chiefs would stay, for lack of a better term die in their chair, they’re getting out because of the political atmosphere and the drain. It’s a different aspect. It’s a different world we live in. It’s got to change because the inmates are running the asylum. 

Law Enforcement

Photo courtesy of Elite Interactive Solutions

Can you speak about ways private security companies can help law enforcement as a force multiplier or in dealing with some of the challenges related to fighting crime and being more effective?

Bushey: A big issue is that there’s only so many police resources out there. To the extent that private industry can more quickly identify the greatest targets, that enables law enforcement to send the resources where they’re needed the most.

One of the really nice things about security technology like remote guarding, for example, is it allows us to see a crime in progress and so it can receive priority response from the limited resources that do exist.

Private security is denuded in California, especially if they carry a firearm. So, guards have no powers of arrest other than what a standard citizen has. They don’t affect law enforcement as far as making arrests. They are merely a deterrent.

Stone: When you pay a guard or watchman $15 an hour, that’s what you’re going to get. They’re not going to take the chance that they did 25 years ago. They don’t have any skin in the game as far as the property or looking to protect anybody.

The corporations are telling their employees that we’ll fire you if you take any action to stop a theft. The employee becomes a victim. Police are put in the middle. There’s nowhere to go.

Bushey: Another issue of significance is that private security captures things relatively well with respect to audio and video. This enables police agencies to ultimately get complaints from the district attorney and handle things that way.

In many instances, we’re able to capture images of a crime in progress for later follow-up investigation. Organized retail theft, which has become a major problem, is a good example.

Although security guards nor surveillance may be able to stop it as it’s occurring, they’re still very valuable in long-term investigations. Oftentimes, intelligence comes from the security company itself and good surveillance.

Niven: There’s a very robust effort to identify people who have been involved in crimes. Private security companies play a big role in that.

Stone: People are taking it amongst themselves as far as security goes. You take housing developments, HOAs and things like that, where five or six years ago nobody really cared because they felt relatively secure.

Now, it looks like a movie studio when you walk around the neighborhood with Ring doorbells and cameras and all of that because they have to protect themselves. While private security can capture an event, probably 90% of the time they don’t capture the event live. It’s more about going back and looking through film to aid the police. But having eyes on crime in real-time through remote guarding is making a difference.

Niven: Another aspect in which remote guarding helps law enforcement is the real-time information supplied to responding officers lessens their endangerment to things like suspects resisting arrest or violently confronting police. It tells law enforcement what they’re going to encounter when they respond to the crime in progress.

The private security remote guarding provider can identify whether the suspects have weapons and vector the police response to where the suspects may be lying in wait because they are able to see them in real-time on video and communicate that to police as they’re responding.

Tavera: When you look at it with security guards, there have been several in our state that have been killed. When you said $15 an hour, they’re not going endanger themselves. Why would they?

Stone: You want to see a scary thing? Look at some of these security guards who are being hired and then some of them are carrying guns. That’s terrifying.

Tavera: The best thing security companies can do for law enforcement is provide support when officers are responding to a situation, removing ambiguity from the situation so officers know what they’re encountering. It’s not a false alarm; it’s an actual crime in progress.

Be able to describe accurately what the suspects look like so officers can distinguish among uninvolved parties and actual suspects.

Stone: Even with that, law enforcement is being restricted when crimes in progress are reported because they don’t reach a certain degree where politicians or police chiefs believe they should respond.

Nuisance crimes, property vandalism and things like that, police are not responding to you. They’re telling you to call and do a report online. We’ve lost our way in that there’s no neighborhood or community policing where people knew the police. It’s a thing of the past.

How do you recommend private security companies become more involved to build relationships and partner with law enforcement to battle crime?

Stone: Get to know them. Have a relationship with them. You just have to get to know them. Agencies appreciate that personal and knowledgeable cop-to-cop approach. That makes a big difference.

Bushey: One of the best ways for a company to develop credibility with the law enforcement agency is to have substance when you call. Have your act together. Don’t call unless it’s something you feel you’ve got a handle on.

One or two false calls do tremendous damage to your credibility. Be somebody that when their phone rings, they know it’s from somebody who’s got something of substance to say.

Niven: Also remember that a private security company and its clients are members of that community. The police are always willing to come out and meet with you, even at the command level. Let them know your clients’ concerns, and then let the police know your capabilities and what a valuable tool you can be to their crime-fighting efforts.

Law Enforcement

Photo courtesy of Elite Interactive Solutions

Let’s go deeper into the technology discussion. What recent advances do you see as most impactful in helping police fight crime?

Feffer: Without question, the No. 1 advance has been the ability to have more coverage with surveillance cameras. In London, England, for example, they call it the Ring of Steel. They have surveillance cameras, which are an amazing tool for the Metropolitan Police to combat crime. We’re seeing an emergence of that here.

Typically, the cameras are not government-installed. They’re operated by the private property owners to protect their properties. Those cameras can provide amazing advantages to law enforcement. However, there are some challenges with the technology.

You want to make sure the surveillance cameras are properly secured and cannot be hijacked by wrongdoers, which has happened. There was a famous instance where Washington D.C. surveillance cameras were taken over by a group of cyber criminals from overseas. A smart way to do it is with really advanced cybersecurity protocols built into the cameras so they’re properly secured and cannot be hijacked.

The other advance is coupling surveillance cameras with artificial intelligence such that you can filter out all the noise. If you have thousands of cameras, it becomes an undue burden to monitor them in real-time by a human being.

With the advent of advanced AI and behavioral analytics, all of that information can be distilled down to what is really important for humans to address. One aspect of that would be the license plate readers, which can be used effectively to find stolen cars or to figure out the identity of suspects after a crime occurs.

Stone: Remote guarding can reduce false alarms to zero, which avoids wasting police resources. With remote guarding the private security industry has provided a great asset and tool to law enforcement, and there should be more of it.

Tavera: The biggest advance to me has been our body-worn and in-car cameras. They have changed how officers do their job from accountability to review standpoints to other people coming in and telling them, “Do your job.”

Niven: I agree it’s surveillance as well. It’s just changed the course of investigations because there’s a good chance you’re always going to be on camera. It added to the success.

Feffer: In any case, the first thing an investigator is going to do after taking the initial witness statements is canvasing the area to look for cameras and getting the camera feeds.

Tavera: They say an officer is 95% on video from the minute they leave the station. It is absolutely the one profession constantly.

Stone: AI is going to take us to a new realm of how crime is handled and the information that we get, the biometrics, drone technology. Everything that we never thought of when we went on the job is changing so fast, and hopefully that will enhance some quality-of-life issues.

Feffer: Technology has also provided new challenges to law enforcement. For example, there’s a whole category of crime that didn’t exist when I started my career, cybercrime. Now, the No. 1 feared crime is identity theft, cybercrime. I would say the No. 1 technological change is surveillance cameras being so ubiquitous and being able to harness that to assist law enforcement’s mission.

Remote guarding has been specifically mentioned. What are the significant elements of that service or solution?

Stone: Real-time reporting and officer safety. It’s a different set of eyes on the officer. I’m a strong proponent of the officer safety angle, when that officer gets to the call and somebody’s watching his back, basically, until the proper situation is handled. That’s of paramount importance so that although you’re sending them into harm’s way at least they’ve got a better advantage of having somebody watching and knowing exactly what they’re going into. That’s absolutely crucial.

Feffer: The other critical aspect of remote guarding is the ability of actually preventing crime. For example, using audio speakers in conjunction with surveillance cameras so monitoring center agents can execute voice-downs to interact before police are called, maybe even before a crime has been committed. If someone approaches an area that they’re not supposed to, and it’s clear to the command center this person is up to no good, they can immediately initiate a warning to the suspect, saying, “Hey, the dealership is closed,” “The park is closed” or “You’re on private property. We’re going to call the police if you do not leave immediately,” or whatever. That ability to prevent crime is huge and didn’t exist before.

Niven: False alarms are a big problem with police agencies. Remote guarding eliminates that. If someone’s watching in real-time, they know what’s going on at a property. They’re not going to call the police if there’s not a crime being committed, at the very least trespassing. That eliminates the false alarm calls, which can plague an agency and actually cause them to not respond to alarms anymore.

Bushey: Note he used the word, “eliminate,” not reduce. Remote guarding is a leap that eliminates false alarms.

Law Enforcement

Photo courtesy of Elite Interactive Solutions

People thought that, once cameras proliferated as much as they have, crime would just nosedive.

Stone: Hardened criminals are more aware of it; [others] don’t pay attention. People go in to loot stores. They know they’re on camera. They don’t pay attention to that part of it.

Bushey: That can be the difference between remote guarding and traditional surveillance. Criminals have adjusted to cameras. They’ll cinch the hoods around their face and they’ll wear a facemask. The surveillance footage is almost useless afterwards, whereas remote guarding can direct the police as the crime is occurring.

Stone: COVID provided and still provides masks for criminals to this day.

Feffer: Yes, talk about challenges to law enforcement. The fact there are a lot more people wearing masks, it’s a huge issue. That would never have been tolerated before.

What do as the most significant policing changes that we might see in the next three to five years?

Feffer: One negative change I see, and it’s starting to happen already, is certain police departments in a crisis situation are no longer responding to nonviolent crimes. This is a shocking development. For example, a residential burglary or commercial burglary, they might not respond. To a car theft in progress, they might not respond. That’s something that is unfortunate already here, but only to a very limited degree to certain police departments. My hope is that it doesn’t spread. It’s a possibility that it could.

Tavera: One of the big issues that has happened in law enforcement is the homeless or transient population that results in a number of calls and deters them from their job. This influx of transients is an issue law enforcement didn’t have to deal with 10 years ago. Not that they didn’t have it, but how much has the homeless population spread?

Stone: Law enforcement just can’t deal with it.

Bushey: On a more positive note, after 2020 and the whole defund the police movement, people are realizing, regardless of politics, that they just can’t tolerate the amount of crime that’s occurring right now. Sentiments are backing down a little bit. People are starting to meet in the middle. Certain agencies whose academy of recruitments had gone down are starting to see them rise again. My hope is that in the next couple of years police departments can improve, and relationships with communities can improve.

Stone: I’m glad your side of the country [West Coast] are seeing an increase in police academies. We’re seeing an increase in the cancellation of police academies.

Feffer: Also, just to talk positive, there are some new technologies in use in other countries that are really exciting. For example, police cars are being equipped with drones that can, during traffic stops, scout out to see if there’s any danger in the car before the officer has to approach the car. My hope is that technical solutions will come to the rescue in this crisis and provide law enforcement advantages we didn’t have in the past. Things like enhanced communications, enhanced surveillance and officer better safety capabilities, with things like drones from police cars providing better situational awareness.

I remember when I was in the academy, our drill instructor, this was in the 1980s, said the biggest new thing in police technology during his career was a powerful flashlight. In the 1960s and 1970s, flashlights were typical 2D-cell battery models that gave a pitifully small amount of light. More powerful flashlights gave officers the ability to see a lot better in the dark. We’ve come a long way!

Bushey: There’s a lot of uncertainty whether things get a little bit better or a lot better, and how long it takes, but one thing unequivocally clear is the role of private security is going to increase dramatically.

Tavera: A positive note for law enforcement is officers today being provided better equipment for firearms training. The training today is better than it ever has been. You’re having encrypted digital communications that don’t allow for interference from outside sources. Technologies originating from the military will improve the safety of not just officers but the community because advanced optics allow officers to shoot and hit the target, as opposed to spray and pray.

Editor’s Note: Feffer and four other former policing executives comprise Elite Interactive Solutions Law Enforcement Advisory Board, whose members review all interactions between the company’s monitoring center and police and foster strong relationships with jurisdictions nationwide.

 

About the interviewees:

Keith Bushey’s extensive law enforcement career includes LAPD Commander; Deputy Chief, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department; and he also served as a United States Marine Corps Reserve Colonel. He can be reached at [email protected].

Justin Feffer retired in 2020 as commanding officer of the Los Angeles County D.A.’s Cyber Crime Section. As a sworn law enforcement officer in Southern California since 1988, he has instructed thousands of officers, prosecutors, and public officials in cybersecurity, cybercrime, and high-technology threats. He can be reached at [email protected].

Rich Niven’s law enforcement experience includes 13 years with the Oakland Police Department. He has also worked for other agencies as a liaison, inspector and investigator for the San Francisco D.A.’s office. He can be reached at [email protected].

Tom Stone has more than four decades of law enforcement and public safety experience, including 22 years as chief of police and/or public safety director. From 2001-2013, he served as executive director of FBI-LEEDA, and has spent 35 years involved in management-level education for law enforcement agencies. He can be reached at [email protected].

Mitch Tavera retired in 2017 after spending 39 years with the El Segundo (Calif.) Police Department, the last seven as chief of police. His other involvement included serving as a police officer, narcotics investigator, team leader in a countywide narcotics task force and captain, and commander of the South Bay Mobile Field Force Platoon. He can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Author

Contact:

Scott Goldfine is the marketing director for Elite Interactive Solutions. He is the former editor-in-chief and associate publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He can be reached at [email protected].

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