Police Evolution: Responding to Societal Challenges

Valencia Local Police, August 2017

While both social structures and municipal services move forward, they do so in different ways and at different paces. The state and local provision relating to citizen security are social cornerstones which require special sensitivity and dedication. There are a number of factors which influence the need for both society and police services to evolve in parallel:

  • New techno-social profle: New technologies are used daily by society to resolve many issues. It is critical for public services like the police forces to be at the same level of technological immersion. Software applications, such as the INSPEC2T solution, has proven its validity in cities including Valencia, Engomi and Belfast, enhancing the relationship and engagement between citizens and Community Police Officers.
  • New migrations flows – Redistribution of police forces: Cities evolve through different stages, including both economic downturn and recovery. As a result, the demographic flows of positive and negative migration affect the social fabric of certain areas within a city. The requirements of new repopulated or depopulated areas need municipal services with the increase (or decrease) of police forces. Solutions like INSPEC2T aim to highlight crime areas and assign the police resources in an effective way.
For instance, in Valencia a new District Unit (8ªUD) has been created in order to address the needs of the new population.

  • Rehabilitation and inclusion policies: The political renewal by a city government involves new measures/actions, rehabilitation solutions and policies (e.g., municipal subsidies, street improvement works, greater presence of police in marginal areas, etc.) that focus on poor neighborhoods. Citizens can use the INSPEC2T solution to report issues (e.g., broken street lights) in their neighborhood.
  • New citizenship needs: Problem solving is not enough – prevention is the paradigm of a new police. There has been a shift towards a dynamic police that is more preventive than reactive; that is both trainee and trainer, with professionals capable of transmitting knowledge and, at the same time that possess knowledge; and a police that unites and maintains citizenship links through a variety of activities. This new police force requires adequate tools in order to respond to modern needs – tools like INSPEC2T, a solution which is being tested in European cities with a high rate of success and satisfaction not only within the Police Forces, but also within the citizenship.

The police have to be an adaptable and changing organization to new circumstances. The main goal of the police is to solve problems that concern citizenship, such as citizen coexistence, transit traffic safety and citizenship safety. Policing models in different countries adapt their own social reality within the framework of endemic situations. For example, Tokyo police policies use methods very different from the New York ones (although these cities are democratic and where human development indices are very high) due to the fact that cultural, social and statistical factors condition the cities. In Europe, where there are different cultures and societies, the tendency is to harmonize the common goals in which police work needs to be undertaken:

  • Migration and borders: Armed conflicts or mass migration reformulate the police goals that have to face new changes in the citizenship perspective which coincide with the massive influx of people who are fleeing armed conflicts. This human tragedy forces European Member States to put into place a socializing effort.
  • Functions standardization: To establish a common police force of the EU, although it is still unrealistic, it would be the logical conclusion of an entity such as the European Union. Failing this, the shared information, accessible and global for the police forces of all member countries must be encouraged because it is still not effective due to various reasons.
  • Terrorism:
Europe map of the terrorists attacks in Europe since 2004.

After the recent terrorist attack in Barcelona, and attacks across Europe, it is clear that the threat of terrorism is increasing. Terrorism has become the greatest concern of governments and citizens and the threat of terrorism should shape the development of Security Forces and Security Bodies.

In Spain, in addition to the Guardia Civil (Spanish military police) and National Police, that operate on a national level, we find the local police (that take action in municipalities) and the regional police (from an autonomous level). Although the concept of regional police is widespread, there are only three Autonomous Communities where police bodies exist that are totally independent of the Government The Autonomous Communities, among others, have plenty of skills related to citizen safety. Consequently, some Autonomous Communities have decided to create regional police: Ertzaintza (Basque country), Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalonia) and Foral Police (Navarre). The success of the Mossos d’Esquadra in the post-attack operation of Barcelona and Cambrils has reopened the discussion about the creation of these bodies in the rest of the Autonomous Communities. For instance, in the Valencian Community there is a preliminary project investigating the potential for the local police of this Community to turn into a comprehensive police force akin to the Mossos. However, there is a long way to go to achieve this.

What is undeniable is the imperative NEED for the police to increase the level of commitment from citizens. Indisputably, the success of preventive policing goes through a superior level of information, and this level can be attained by means of police intelligence, but —in a higher percentage— by means of information from all population groups.

The creation of new communication tools, like the INSPEC2T solution, EMPOWERS citizens in order to make them involved in a new commitment focusing on collective security. This commitment has the aim of locating criminal acts even much earlier than the perpetration of criminal acts.

Among many others, we can find several obstacles related to the police presence that may affect citizen’s opinions of the police:

  • Police overreaction: The excess of police presence in a particular area may be counterproductive. The controversy regarding bad police performances involves the appearance of neighbourhoods reluctant to police presence. An example of citizen response to an oppressive police presence would be the copwatchers citizen groups that observe the police. INSPEC2T enables the police to engage with communities without an excessive presence.
Copwatchers: Due to bad police performances, citizen groups emerge in order to record every single police performance with the purpose of reporting unlawful acts committed by the police.

  • Police presence deficit: The opposite of police overreaction, but it is very widespread as well. Certain areas cannot be duly attended due to a lack of human resources. Failing that, the installation of CCTV, fixed surveillance posts, etc., attempts to fill the already mentioned gaps in order to provide some security guarantees. However, these efforts do not satisfy the neighbours, since they see this static surveillance as a means of government control that intrudes on their privacy.
NYPD Surveillance tower: a tool to watch specific danger areas of NYC

We have to find a solution, a balance of power regarding police performance, the tendency towards the preventive police integrated into every social class, the collaborative commitment from the citizens, and the inclusion of a new means which facilitates such collaboration, whether technological or strategic. If we reach a balance between all these factors and we succeed in involving our citizens through a sincere and unconditional commitment (i.e. through new technologies and media resources such as the INSPEC2T solution), we will have a successful and evolved police model, ready for the new arising challenges.