By Dennis Kelly, Pegasus Program
As the Obama-Biden Administration takes the reins of power, the author has tried to predict the future that Sheriffs and Deputies will see over the next four years. Sheriffs and Deputies may want to consider these predictions, and make their own, as they try to plan for their Offices and their own professional and personal careers over the next four years.
In predicting the future, several factors must be considered:
President Obama: With President Obama, a community organizer with intellectual leanings, there certainly is a new Sheriff in town. President Obama is committed to pragmatic solutions which work at the neighborhood level, and, as such, Sheriffs will find many areas of interest in common with President Obama. At the same time, President Obama and his advisers will need to guard against the “Academic Sin” of assuming that rational and logical responses to every problem will work. To check these sins, the Obama Administration would be well-advised to break out of the Washington DC “bubble” and seek strong input from Sheriffs, their Deputies and others on the front-line of law enforcement, public safety, emergency preparedness and response, and hometown security.
Vice President Biden: Vice President Biden’s long and unparalleled track record of championing local law enforcement, including Sheriffs, and the fire service, and other emergency responders, certainly bodes well for Sheriffs’ Offices and their communities. Vice President Biden personally handled the Stimulus Package provisions for law enforcement—look for Vice President Biden’s continued active leadership on behalf of local law enforcement and emergency responders.
A Democratic Congress and Executive Branch/Congressional Relations: It seems likely that the Congress will be controlled for the next 4 years by Democrats friendly to President Obama, and with views on law enforcement and public safety which are compatible with Obama-Biden Administration policies. And, with their own backgrounds in the Senate, it is hard to imagine that President Obama and Vice President Biden will choose to ignore Congress. Because Members of Congress generally prize strong relationships with local law enforcement, look for significantly strengthened Congressional/law enforcement relationships over the next four years.
Lessons Learned about Homeland Security: A number of influential Homeland Security observers, including the influential Heritage Foundation, believe that whatever value that can be realized from building Washington-centric Homeland Security programs has been achieved, and that
Congress and the Administration should shift their focus to strengthening the effectiveness of the national homeland security enterprise as a whole.
…Both the next Congress and Administration need to engage private businesses and the American people—two great, but seemingly forgotten strengths of American society—more effectively to persuade them to contribute to and participate in homeland security.
Protecting America at home is a national mission that requires the concerted effort of the nation, including state and local governments, the private sector and nongovernmental organizations, local communities, families, and individuals. Many of the most vital tasks are conducted most effectively in a decentralized manner. The national enterprise must facilitate cooperation, innovation, resiliency, flexibility, and adaptability, not promote rigid Washington-centric solutions.
Homeland Security 3.0: Building a National Enterprise to Keep America Safe, Free, and Prosperous, David Heyman, CSIS, and James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., Heritage Foundation.
These lessons, as well as President Obama’s street level world view, Vice President Biden’s commitment to front-line emergency responders, Secretary Napolitano’s first-hand observation of homeland security problems, and budgetary pressures, all mean that Sheriffs and front-line hometown security forces, including private critical infrastructure sector owners and operators, will be encouraged—and perhaps incentivized—to work together more closely for enhanced public safety, preparedness and hometown security. Expect lots of encouragement in the form of low-cost voluntary collaborative relationships with one another and the private sector.
Budgetary Pressures: It seems likely that balanced budget pressures will be secondary to economic stimulus considerations for the next two years—but likely to return in three years, once the stimulus effort has had a chance to have an impact. If this is the case, Sheriffs should anticipate the emergence of conflicts between support for local law enforcement and budgetary and program performance pressures, starting in the third year of the Obama-Biden Administration, and plan accordingly.
With these factors in mind, let’s look at the crystal ball and see what might be coming down the road for Sheriffs and Deputies, and their communities and partners on the front-line of law enforcement, corrections and public safety.
Byrne, COPS and COPS Technology Grants
In difficult economic times, crime—including domestic violence as well as violent crime—can be expected to spike. This bit of history, as well as the jobs created, can be expected to support robust funding for Byrne, COPS and the COPS Technology programs at least through the next two fiscal years.
Immigration: Focus on Border Control and Deportation of Criminal Aliens
Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano is a strong border control advocate. Under her leadership, Sheriffs can expect to see progress made on border control and deporting criminal aliens. Moderates on illegal immigration will be given voice on methods of adjusting the status of aliens already in the U.S., which means that the temperature in the frying pan in which Sheriffs and their Deputies work is likely to come down a few degrees—at least with respect to dealing with illegal aliens. As a frequently mentioned Supreme Court Justice nominee, Secretary Napolitano’s tenure may be short—but her views seem to fit the Obama-Biden Administration well, and seem likely to continue even if she departs.
Broadband Deployment and Cybercrime
Deeper deployment of broadband Internet infrastructure into rural America, and enhancing the speed of Internet facilities deployed throughout America, are important goals for the Obama-Biden Administration. Because so many Sheriffs’ Offices are rural, deeper deployment of broadband infrastructure could have a significant impact on Sheriffs’ Offices, rural jail facilities and rural 911 call centers. As this happens, Sheriffs should look for more functional telephone services at lower costs, and new information services for video arraignment, video visitation and telemedicine to reduce costs and increase public safety.
Second Chance, Juvenile Justice Reform and Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
There is strong bi-partisan buy-in, at all levels of government, to support Second Chance programs which increase the likelihood of safe and successful offender re-entry, and reduce recidivism and the cost of incarceration. Similar support seems to be building for diversion of non-violent adult and juvenile offenders away from the criminal justice system into substance abuse, mentoring, anger-management, counseling and educational programs. Expect the Obama-Biden Administration and the next two Congresses to support these kinds of programs—as well as a broad range of juvenile justice reforms.
President Obama has reached out to embrace Faith-Based programs and expand those programs to include other community organizations with street level knowledge and community interests. For the next four years, Sheriffs will likely be encouraged to work in collaboration with faith-based and other community organizations to reduce street crime, recidivism, and youthful interaction with hardened offenders.
Budgetary Pressures, Earmark Reform and the Chief Performance Officer
While Stimulus pressures seem to signal a return to strong Federal support for local law enforcement for the next two fiscal years, prospects beyond that time frame are cloudier due to building budgetary pressures.
Perhaps as important, earmark reform and the effectiveness of Federal spending are likely to be given real priority over the next four years. These pressures are reflected in the Obama Administration’s creation of a Chief Performance Officer charged with promoting effective programs, rooting out waste and inefficiency, identifying and cutting-back ineffective programs, and holding Federal employees and contractors to high performance standards. Look for Federal grant managers to require Sheriffs and other Federal grant applicants to state more meaningful performance objectives and subject grant recipients to more meaningful evaluation. Look also for the Administration to push for more transparency and Congressional accountability in the earmark process, which will make it easier for quality projects to surface, and expect Congressional resistance to these Administrative intrusions into Congressional earmark prerogatives.
Indian Country Public Safety
President Obama has evidenced a strong commitment to Indian Country by naming an advisor on Native American issues to his Transition Team and to the White House staff. Entirely consistent with an activist approach, the powerful Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Chaired by Sen. Byron Dorgan and with Sen. John Barrasso as Vice Chairman, has launched a number of initiatives to enhance basic conditions in Indian Country, through Federal investments in public safety, healthcare and water and wastewater infrastructure. Sheriffs should expect significant Federal efforts to improve tribal law enforcement, corrections and courts, and look for resulting opportunities for better local/tribal law enforcement collaboration and partnering.
Health Information Technology, Emergency Responders and Correctional Healthcare
President Obama is advancing health information technology as a key means of controlling healthcare costs and improving healthcare outcomes. Providing an electronic health record for every American is a key goal, and, as this goal is achieved, Sheriffs, Deputies and other emergency responders will need to be trained in and able to access electronic health records in the field, using new “break the glass” HIPAA exemptions. Given their hazardous jobs, some emergency responders will choose to enable portions of their electronic health records for access in emergency settings. And Sheriffs’ Correctional Health Units will be called upon, with Federal support, to implement electronic health records and health information exchange, to enhance offenders’ Second Chance reentry prospects, increase healthcare operational efficiencies and outcomes in jails and prisons, and serve as a key sentinel against pandemic and bioterror threats.
Terrorism, Emergency Response and Homeland Security Powered at the Local Level First
Based on continuing chatter intimating new terrorist attacks, informed sources predict that the terrorist threat will resurface, perhaps through a dirty bomb or biological event, and perhaps in concert with a significant cyber-attack. Such an event could impact all other predictions. Sheriffs should anticipate encouragement and incentives for more visible and effective voluntary public/private sector emergency responder partnerships at the local level as a front-line counter to the terrorist threat.
Dennis Kelly is Project Executive of the Pegasus Program. He is an attorney and member of the NSA Ethics, Standards and Accreditation Committee and Legal Advisor’s Committee. President of the New Orleans Chapter of Infragard, an FBI/private sector alliance, he is a graduate of the Harvard Business School and the University of Virginia Law School and lives in New Orleans.
Originally Written for Sheriff Magazine, Apr 2009, National Sheriff's Association