In the future, the law enforcement community will have more equipment requirement synergies with the military than ever before. In addition to looking for adjacent markets in healthcare or energy sectors (as they are doing now), defense firms should consider law enforcement.
Traditionally, law enforcement professionals were issued equipment that was relatively inexpensive and lasted an entire career. Think of a pair of handcuffs and a firearm. But times have changed and officers and agents are thirsty for new technology.
Crime has evolved. It still occurs in dark alleys. But it happens in virtual worlds far more frequently. For today’s police officer, the tablet may be more useful than the taser. On the other hand, crime has also become transnational and increasingly violent. The situation in Mexico is but one example that highlights this.
As a “systemic rise in anger, protests, and political volatility that could last years or even decades” increases globally, government will face a myriad of complex law enforcement challenges. The skills required in the law enforcement community of the future are somewhat bifurcated. Law enforcement professionals will need to learn how to wield advanced virtual and social technologies, as well as military-grade equipment and tactics.
Federal paramilitary organizations such as Customs and Border Protection are already using unmanned aerial and ground systems. And police departments all over are beginning to adopt drones. The city of New York, for example, has anti-aircraft capabilities.
Government authorities will seek a wide variety of materiel to meet tomorrow’s threats. Instead of filing cabinets, police departments will soon ask for facial recognition software, live feed building schematic applications, and heat recognition devices. To name a few.
A natural ally
The defense industry can play an integral part in helping realize this future technological need.
A major obstacle exists, however. Highly advanced defense industry products are decidedly expensive for law enforcement and often too complex. Law enforcement (that is always budget-starved) will procure ever-simpler commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies. And make due.
By being inventive, defense firms could use the law enforcement market as a growth opportunity and an incubator for creating military-like equipment at a lower cost. The law enforcement community has always considered defense a natural ally, time for the industry to recognize its needs.
Image source: W.J. Hennigan, “Idea of civilians using drone aircraft may soon fly with FAA.” Los Angeles Times, November 27, 2011