6. Meet the New Boss
The inauguration of Barack Obama as president of the United States in January was historic for many reasons. For law enforcement, it meant a changing of the guard from a conservative administration to a very liberal one. President Obama will have an opportunity to nominate numerous judges, including Supreme Court justices. That means the law enforcement impact of this liberal president may be felt long after he has left office.
Experts say if Obama wins a second term, he could reshape the court from its 5-4 conservative-liberal ratio to a liberal majority. That could mean a period of judicial activism in civil rights rulings that affect search and seizure and other police operations.
5. Where Did All the Crime Go?
If the stats are to be believed, America is becoming a much safer place to live. Crime in many major cities is reportedly dropping by double-digit percentages. New York City and Los Angeles are reporting their lowest murder rates in ages. Sociologists are scratching their heads over this one. They expected a crime wave because of the recession. Maybe criminal operations are outsourcing work to China like everybody else.
4. They're Back
Any idiot who thought that al-Qaeda's major beef with our Western democratic, freedom-loving, non-Muslim way of life was the presence of George Bush in the White House just had a cold shower of reality. On Christmas night, a Nigerian AQ operative gave himself a PETN vasectomy when he tried to trigger an underwear bomb on a Delta flight landing in Detroit. So the Obama administration is wondering what went wrong. Hint: Maybe putting a man with no intelligence experience in charge of the CIA and turning terrorists into criminal defendants was not the way to go if you really wanted to keep America safe.
Right now every politician and pundit in America is in a lather about trying to keep the homeland safe. As Lt. Col. Dave Grossman says, "The sheep (the American public) only have two speeds: graze and stampede." The stampede is on. But if you sheepdogs (police and other protectors of public safety) keep your eyes open and your powder dry, we'll be alright. Thank you for your service.
3. A Billion Here a Billion There...Soon It's Real Money
The $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the stimulus) that was supposed to create new jobs was pretty much a big fizzle. But one place it did help was in law enforcement. About $4 billion was set aside in the stimulus to hire new officers and buy new equipment. This money likely prevented many police layoffs.
2. Police Layoffs
The Great Recession, as some people call our current economic mess, resulted in a variety of major cost-cutting measures at police agencies. Some like the NYPD canceled their academy classes. Others let their academy classes graduate and then immediately laid them off. Sadly, the worst ramifications of this disaster may be with us for some time, as county and city coffers will decline with the reduced taxes paid by the millions of American workers who are now unemployed. County and city tax bases will also be dented by the death of so many businesses in the economic downturn. It will take a while to recover from this mess.
1. Mass Murders of Police Officers
Sometime during this year the nation's dirtbag population declared war on you. I know, some of you are saying, "What's new?"
OK. Fair question. What's new is that these dirtbags are willing to open fire on multiple officers not necessarily because they are trying to escape apprehension but just because they can.
The result has been a sort of strange paradox. It was actually a pretty peaceful year in terms of police officer deaths. The National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) recently reported that fewer officers were killed in the line of duty in 2009 than any other year in the last five decades. That's really good news, except the number of officers killed by hostile gunfire rose from 39 in 2008 to 48 in 2009.
Mass murders of officers became shockingly commonplace in 2009. First, four Oakland cops were shot down by a parolee in March, then three Pittsburgh officers were slain in April by a reputed white supremacist, and finally four Lakewood, Wash., officers were murdered by another parolee in November.
No other story hit law enforcement with more impact in 2009. Let's pray the carnage doesn't continue in 2009.
That's my list of the most important law enforcement stories in 2009. If you have comments on these or other stories, please post them below.