It is no exaggeration to say 2020 has been a year unlike any other in our lifetimes. We came into it knowing that we were about to experience our quadrennial political insanity known as the presidential election, but we knew what to expect from that. Then we got hit with that plague out of China. We didn’t know what to expect from that. And to be honest, we still don’t.

With COVID-19 always a factor, things have gone from bad to worse this year. I know I’m going to miss naming a disaster in this list because there have been so many, but here goes:

* The lockdown over COVID-19, which pretty much wrecked what had been a booming economy.

* The in-custody death of George Floyd and the waves of rioting that followed have pretty much wrecked what was left of the lockdown-ravaged retail and restaurants in some of our largest cities.

* The gulf hurricanes that have pretty much gone unnoticed by anyone who didn’t have their roofs torn off and their houses flooded.

* The massive West Coast wildfires that have killed dozens, destroyed homes, burned millions of acres, and made the daylight skies over San Francisco orange.

Throughout all of these disasters, the men and women of law enforcement have been on the front lines. And they have suffered because of it. More than 100 officers have died this year from exposure to COVID-19 on duty. Thousands more have been sickened by the disease. Hundreds have been injured in attacks by rioters. And we don’t know but it’s a certainty that officers have suffered in the hurricanes and wildfires.

The public generally doesn’t think of law enforcement as disaster response but through all these events officers and deputies have been on scene. Even for fires, police are often in action before the firefighters arrive. It’s not unusual for officers to even rush into burning homes—without oxygen—to rescue the residents. Many of these brave officers have to be treated for smoke inhalation.

Because so many officers are involved in disaster response, we decided to dedicate much of this issue of POLICE to the subject. In two separate features we look at some of the technology used by police during 2020’s many crises and at how law enforcement officers are involved in wildfire response.

On page 36, you can read about how dedicated public safety broadband networks from AT&T/FirstNet, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon are helping officers maintain communications when cell systems are overtaxed by users during large public gatherings or calamitous events and when equipment is destroyed by wind or fire. 

And on page 40 our cover story “Preparing to Face Hell” is about the role of law enforcement in wildfire response. Contributing web editor Doug Wyllie interviewed Lt. Stephen Collins from the Butte County (CA) Sheriff’s Office about the Camp Fire. That’s the 2018 conflagration that nearly destroyed the small town of Paradise, CA, and killed dozens of its residents. It’s our hope that the advice of the Butte County SO will help you prepare for the possibility of future disasters in your area.

But whatever crises may await us down the road, let us all hope and pray they don’t happen this year. We’ve all been through enough in 2020. And everyone could use some peace and quiet.


You’re Invited to the Free
POLICE Technology Experience

One of the many differences between 2020 and previous years is that the big law enforcement technology conferences have been canceled. As you can read on page 20 in our story “The Lost Police Product Exhibition,” the International Association of Chiefs of Police has held its annual conference without interruption since 1893… until this year. This year there is no in-person IACP conference and trade show.

The cancellation of IACP and so many other law enforcement conferences is the reason why POLICE has organized the POLICE Technology Experience, a series of free online educational and networking events that will be held once per week in October, November, and December.

POLICE Technology Experience is designed to provide critical information on the use and acquisition of the latest police tools for chiefs, sheriffs, commanders, supervisors, administrators, IT directors, and other decision-makers.

It all kicks off on Oct. 28 with: “Mobile Technologies (LPR, In-Car Video, Body Worn): Best Practices for Using Evidence-Gathering Cameras at Your Agency.” Other topics to be addressed in the weekly sessions include: officer efficiency tools, database software, crime-fighting technology, agency management software, and video evidence management.

For more information go to