There are many types of criminal justice managers ranging from police chiefs and sheriffs to prison superintendents, and heads of government, state or local task forces. They confront numerous challenges, which include budget and staffing shortfalls and changing public and political perspectives on the roles of law enforcement personnel in society. The changing nature of crime and difficulties associated with keeping up with these trends are another major concern.
Like other agencies, law enforcement agencies are reliant on state and local funding for their operations. Often, criminal justice managers must face budget cuts, which trigger staffing reductions. Cutting personnel makes it hard for managers to train officers and to respond to highly volatile public safety threats such as gang violence.
These shortfalls also influence decisions on how to deal with offenders, as Scott Henson pointed out in a January 18, 2010, issue of the Texas Tribune. The prospect of cutting more than $200 million from the state’s criminal justice over time may force the state to spend less money on probation and parole supervision, which helps lower jail populations, reducing costs. But the same budget woes are causing prisons to close or reduce inmate populations, Henson points out.
To respond to rising crime rates and the increasing varying types of crime, officers have to work longer hours and do more to uphold public safety. The widespread availability of illegal firearms also makes their jobs more dangerous, departing Syracuse, New York, Police Chief Gary Miguel said in the December 27, 2009, issue of the Syracuse Post-Standard. The strain of having to do more with less under dangerous conditions and potential community resentment if all but the most serious safety issues must go unaddressed adds to officers’ stress and lowers morale.
Internet-based or cyber crime is a major challenge for law enforcement organizations at every level from local police departments, to the FBI, according to the Digital Communities website. Two major hurdles to fighting cyber crime are jurisdictional issues, particularly when the activity involves several remote locations and identification of the perpetrators. The ability to keep up with and acquire the latest information technology tools to improve response is a major issue as well.
Changing Views of Law Enforcement
There is a growing trend among both liberal and conservative politicians at the national level to limit the amount of leeway law enforcement personnel have to investigate potential illegal activity, according to a November 23, 2009, New York Times article. Ed Meese, who served as attorney general during the Reagan administration, says that many laws are vaguely worded and/or are frivolous and give crime-investigating personnel too much latitude to investigate. He and many others are calling for laws to be interpreted very narrowly. Such attitudes could politicize law enforcement policies and procedures and make it more difficult for criminal justice professionals to investigate or prosecute crimes.