Times are Changing for Policing. Now What?

By:  Chief Mark Yokoyama, Alhambra Police Department


Over the course of the last few years, the policing profession has seen a change in its approach to policing philosophies. This is a trend that reflects the continued tide of change that will occur. These changes can be described in many different ways, with many different adjectives, with various temperaments, and various reactions and emotions. As we approach this change, it is important for us to maintain perspective and look at our history to plan for the future.

If we look at the history of policing, we will all see a period of time that looked drastically different than today. If we look at the models of policing changing over the last two centuries from the “Peelian Model” to the “Traditional Model” to the “Professional Model” to the “Community Policing Model” as we know it today, we also know that our brothers and sisters in policing decades and centuries ago were dealing with the effects of change as we all are today. The reactions and emotions are similar to the ones experienced by a friend during the policing challenges of the 1960’s — having had to work through poor police-community relations, racially charged riots, hatred of the police, attacks upon the police and landmark court decisions like Miranda v. Arizona.

Move ahead 50-plus years later and what are some of the changes we are seeing today? The effects of Assembly Bill 109 (Realignment); Proposition 47; a wholesale change in sentencing laws; decriminalization and/or de-emphasis of drug laws; attacks on the use of asset seizure funds by police; changes in the Three Strikes law; many more “lifers” being paroled in California than in recent decades; civil unrest; anti-social behavior toward police; efforts to re-define reasonable force; an increased expectation at de-escalation of force; increasing demands on policing interventions; more civilian oversight; increased civil settlements from allegations of police misconduct; increased criminal prosecutions of police officers; jury pools second guessing the credibility of the police; cuts to law enforcement funding; court decisions not favorable to police; and over all changes to the entire criminal justice system.

These changes certainly describe a challenging future. Some may question why the change is demanded. This is certainly a valid question, as the answer may drive the answer for our future. However, we should all remember that standards of behavior and practices are based on law and society’s present expectations. We witness society’s tolerance and acceptability of various social issues change over the decades. Tolerance and acceptability of police and criminal justice practices are changing today, just as they have done for our past models of policing and practices.

Although these challenges are in the present, we must know that the future is still before us and it is incumbent on us to be a part of a solution. These challenging times are just that, “challenges,” not an end to policing. An unknown author once stated, “The future is not the result of choices among alternative paths offered. It is a place that is created. Created in mind and will; created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths to it are not found, but made; and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.”

Rest assured that CPOA is playing an active role in the change process through such things as legislative advocacy, panel and media discussions, state and national dialogue, community outreach, educational and training opportunities, leadership development, and so on. I encourage you to play a part in the change. Find where you can have a direct impact on the future of policing, whether in your community or seeking leadership opportunities through CPOA.

We have worked through the challenges of decades and centuries ago. We will weather the challenges today and tomorrow. I am confident that the great policing professionals we have throughout California will rise up to the challenge, provide positive change and serve as a model of policing.


Author:  Chief Mark Yokoyama, Alhambra Police Department


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