For many officers, 2018 was a tough year. Controversial court cases and officer-involved shootings dominated headlines, and agencies continued to struggle with complex issues like recruitment and retention.
Still, there were many highlights: The viral Lip Sync Challenge promoted departmental solidarity. Heroes rose to the occasion. More departments adjusted to the times, removing unpopular policies like bans on beards and tattoos. Several departments authorized pay raises and took advantage of grants to fund much-needed training and equipment.
1. NEW YEAR, NEW GEAR: DITCH DUTY BELTS
Duty belts weighed heavily on cops’ minds – and backs – for 2019.
The science is on their side. A research team from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire determined that load-bearing vests are ergonomically superior to duty belts and can help limit hip and back problems for LEOs.
“The findings are clear and they are significant,” said Dr. Jeff Janot, a professor of kinesiology and the faculty lead on a six-month study that involved UW-Eau Claire, ECPD and Mayo Clinic Health System. “While the vests weigh more, the weight is more evenly distributed so there is less strain on the hips and lower back.”
2. MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT AND DESTIGMATIZATION
High-profile tragedies such as the Parkland massacre and Thousand Oaks bar shooting dominated headlines this year, but what often goes unreported – not only by the media, but officers themselves – are the emotional struggles cops face after responding to traumatic events.
A lack of mental health resources and industry-wide stigma against seeking emotional support force many officers to keep line-of-duty trauma close to the vest, often with damaging results. Hopefully, 2019 is the year that changes.
3. CHANGES IN PUBLIC PERCEPTION
Policing is already a tough calling, but many officers feel negative public perception made it even harder to protect and serve in 2018. In the New Year, hopefully the public will better understand the challenges cops are up against every day and do more to support them.
4. EQUIPMENT UPGRADES
Whether it’s a squad car that won’t start or a radio with reception spottier than a Dalmatian, equipment trouble on the job isn’t just inconvenient – it can be downright dangerous. For many, upgraded equipment and better technology top the list of agency improvements for 2019.
5. AN END TO THE RECRUITMENT CRISIS
Fueled by a healthy economy and low unemployment, a recruitment crisis strained personnel and departments across the nation in 2018, leaving the thin blue line even thinner. Many officers listed staffing trouble as a top-priority agency improvement for the New Year.
With diminished ranks, officers were left to pick up slack and work harder than ever.