This article explores three important and interrelated topics related to public safety, in and around the Cannabis Industry:
- Public-private partnerships (PPPs
- The current state of law enforcement
- The benefits and advantages of deploying certain technologies to enhance public safety
PPPs represent a significant opportunity to improve public safety given law enforcement’s continued depleted resources, lack of qualified personnel and struggles to hire and retain officers. There are also a broad range of benefits and advantages offered by certain private sector companies utilizing drones, Mobile Security Units (MSUs), and proactive video monitoring (PVM) to achieve security and safety objectives that can be incorporated into a PPP.
Public-Private Partnerships & Public Safety
PPPs focused on public safety are a powerful mechanism to address multiple challenges. These relationships between government entities and private companies bring together personnel, resources, and expertise to create a framework for ensuring public safety. The benefits of such partnerships extend across various domains, including emergency response, crime prevention initiatives and the ability to share resources across multiple municipality departments, not only Law Enforcement.
One significant advantage of PPPs focused on public safety is combining resources. Local Governments often struggle with new and cutting-edge technology. Having worked in Law Enforcement for many years, I witnessed firsthand how Law Enforcement agencies consistently struggle to implement and take advantage of new technology. I have multiple and detailed examples of these challenges from my time serving in the Oakland and San Francisco Police Departments. Even basic technology like computer workstations meant for report writing were often “down” and inoperable for weeks at a time. It was common for officers to stay late after their shift (on overtime) waiting for one “working” computer to be available. We also were often forced to utilize our Sergeant’s and Lieutenant’s office computers for basic report-writing tasks, regularly resulting in administrative work being significantly delayed. For example, a PPP could result in deploying state-of-the-art surveillance systems, advanced communication networks, and/or the establishment of well-equipped emergency response centers.
The current state of law enforcement is another challenge where PPPs can present significant and sustainable advantages (more on this below).
Efficiency and speed are other important advantages. Private companies are often more efficient and innovative than bureaucratic government agencies. In the context of public safety, this means quicker adoption of emerging technologies, streamlined decision-making processes, and more adaptive responses to threats. Whether it's leveraging artificial intelligence for predictive policing or deploying drones for rapid emergency assessments, the private sector's efficiency can complement the government's duties.
Collaborations between the public and private sectors also foster innovation. Private companies, motivated by competition and profit, have a vested interest in developing and implementing cutting-edge solutions and making them work. Regarding public safety, innovation can lead to the creation of novel crime prevention strategies, improved communication tools for first responders and other city departments, and other benefits and advantages. By tapping into the entrepreneurial spirit of the private sector, public safety initiatives become more forward-thinking.
PPPs also promote accountability and transparency. When private entities collaborate with government agencies, they are often subject to stringent contractual agreements and oversight mechanisms to benefit the communities they serve. This ensures that resources are used efficiently, goals are met, and ethical standards are maintained (e.g., the right to privacy). The transparency inherent in these partnerships helps to build public trust by providing clear lines of accountability and fostering a sense of responsibility among all stakeholders.
The scalability of PPPs is another notable benefit. By combining the strengths of government and private organizations, collaborations can be scaled up or down based on the changing needs of the community. Whether it's responding to a sudden increase in crime rates or enhancing disaster preparedness, the flexibility of PPPs allows for a responsive and adaptive approach to public safety challenges.
The Current State of Law Enforcement
The current state of law enforcement is marked by a concerning trend of low staffing levels, which has far-reaching implications for public safety and community trust. As police departments grapple with insufficient workforce, slower response times become a critical issue, exacerbating tensions and fostering a sense of distrust within the communities they serve. Staffing levels are so poor that many police departments are offering sizable sign-on bonuses (i.e. Alameda PD, $75,000 sign-on bonus).
One of the most immediate and tangible consequences of low staffing levels in law enforcement is the delay in response times, especially for licensed Cannabis businesses. When there aren't enough officers available to manage emergencies and routine calls, the ability to promptly address incidents is compromised. Longer response times can have severe implications in situations where timely intervention is crucial, such as medical emergencies or active crimes in progress. The delay in assistance not only jeopardizes public safety but erodes the community's confidence in law enforcement's ability to protect and serve.
Slower response times can also contribute to a heightened sense of vulnerability among community members. In neighborhoods where police presence is already scarce, the perception that help may not arrive promptly can lead to increased anxiety, fear and distrust. This atmosphere of insecurity can negatively impact the overall well-being of residents, hindering their quality of life and hindering the sense of safety vital for any community.
The issue of low staffing levels also intersects with broader concerns about community-police relations. Trust is a foundational element of effective law enforcement, and when staffing shortages result in delayed responses, it further strains relationships between police and the communities they serve. Residents may perceive the police force as ineffective or unresponsive, leading to a diminished sense of trust and cooperation. This lack of trust can create barriers to effective communication, hindering the exchange of information between law enforcement and the community, which is essential for crime prevention and solving cases.
The impact of low staffing levels also affects the ability of law enforcement to engage in community policing initiatives, meet local business owners and conduct thorough investigations. Community policing relies on building positive relationships between officers and residents through regular interactions and collaboration. However, when police departments are stretched thin, the capacity to engage in proactive community outreach diminishes. This can lead to a cycle of increased crime, strained relationships, and a lack of cooperation, further eroding the foundation of community-oriented policing.
Addressing the issue of low staffing levels requires a multi-faceted approach. Adequate funding, recruitment efforts, and retention strategies are essential to bolster law enforcement capabilities. Additionally, exploring innovative solutions, such as the integration of technology and PPPs can help optimize resources and enhance the effectiveness of police departments.
The Advantages and Benefits of Drones, Mobile Security Units and Proactive Video Monitoring
The integration of drone operations, mobile security units (MSUs) and proactive video monitoring (PVM) into public safety initiatives and PPPs has ushered in a new era of increased situational awareness, especially in communities with limited police response capabilities. These technologies offer a range of advantages and benefits, from enhanced surveillance to rapid response, ultimately contributing to a safer and more secure environment for residents. They help support the (typically required) guards on the ground working at Cannabis facilities (cultivation sites, distribution, retail, etc.).
One of the primary advantages of drone operations, MSUs and PVM lies in their ability to provide real-time, aerial surveillance of areas that may be challenging for traditional policing to cover adequately. Drones equipped with high-resolution cameras and other sensors can rapidly navigate through various terrains, offering a bird's-eye view of potential trouble spots or areas in need of attention. This aerial perspective allows law enforcement to monitor large areas efficiently, identify emerging threats, and respond proactively to incidents before they escalate.
Another significant benefit is the ability to accurately classify calls for service based on priority. Police officers cannot be everywhere at all times. PPPs leveraging advanced technologies can instantly provide situational awareness of incidents and allow for the accurate prioritization of calls for service. For example, alarm calls into dispatch are typically low-priority calls, meaning they “hang on the board” or are put on the back burner to some degree. However, we recently saw (although we’ve known this for quite some time) in Oakland, California that burglars are often armed with firearms and not afraid to use them. A tragic loss of life was the result recently when an Oakland Police Officer responded to such a call and was killed in the line of duty. The officer was responding to a Cannabis cultivation burglary. The suspects broke in earlier in the evening and were returning when the tragic incident unfolded. Visibility on sites where we have deployed some of these technologies has resulted in (1) more accurate information provided to responding officers and (2) decreased response times because we were able to provide real time information enabling police dispatch to accurately prioritize calls for service.
In communities with limited police response capabilities (including “Green Zones” where Cannabis businesses are forced to be), such communities representing an alarming percentage of the total, the timely deployment of drones and MSUs becomes crucial. These mobile units can be rapidly dispatched to areas where immediate attention is required, providing a quick and agile response to incidents. Whether it's a crime in progress, a medical emergency, or a natural disaster, the ability to deploy resources rapidly enhances the overall responsiveness of law enforcement, bridging the gap in communities where traditional response times may be prolonged.
The utilization of drones and MSUs enhances the safety of both law enforcement personnel and the community at large. In situations where the terrain is hazardous or the environment poses risks, deploying drones allows for remote reconnaissance without exposing officers to unnecessary dangers. MSUs, equipped with the latest technology and communication systems, can coordinate responses from a safe distance, ensuring law enforcement can effectively address incidents while minimizing potential harm to themselves and bystanders.
Data gathered through drone operations and MSUs contribute significantly to informed decision-making and more targeted follow-ups. Information collected, including live video feeds, sensor data, and geospatial intelligence, aids law enforcement in understanding the dynamics of a situation more comprehensively. This data-driven approach enables better resource allocation, strategic planning, enhanced investigations, and a more targeted response to specific issues within the community, ultimately leading to more effective crime prevention and public safety measures.
In communities with limited police resources, cost-effectiveness becomes a critical factor. Drones and MSUs offer a more economical alternative to traditional policing methods. The initial investment in these technologies can result in long-term savings by optimizing resource allocation, reducing the need for extensive physical infrastructure, and improving overall operational efficiency. The cost-effective nature of advanced surveillance technologies, especially compared to traditional policing methods, makes them more available and accessible to a broader range of communities, leveling the playing field in terms of public safety.
We believe there are three (3) main conclusions in light of the foregoing.
PPPs play a pivotal role in fortifying public safety. The combination of resources, expertise, efficiency, innovation, accountability, and scalability makes these collaborations indispensable in addressing the multifaceted nature of contemporary safety challenges. We strongly believe that not only embracing but implementing symbiotic relationships between the public and private sectors becomes crucial for building resilient and secure environments.
The current state of law enforcement, characterized by low staffing levels nationwide, contributes to slower response times and a pervasive sense of distrust within communities. Recognizing these challenges is crucial for implementing comprehensive strategies that not only address immediate staffing concerns but also foster a renewed sense of trust and collaboration between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Building a resilient and responsive police force is essential for ensuring public safety and restoring confidence in the institutions entrusted with protecting and serving the community. This is understood. However, given the practical realities and dynamics of the current state of law enforcement today – and for the near future – implementing PPPs represent a significant opportunity to achieve multiple objectives regarding public safety and serving local communities.
There are multiple advantages and benefits of increased situational awareness through drone operations, mobile security units and proactive video monitoring are transformative for communities with limited police response capabilities. These technologies empower law enforcement to monitor, respond, and adapt to dynamic situations in real time, fostering a safer environment for residents. PPPs represent a significant opportunity to take advantage of the broad range of benefits currently offered by private sector partners actively engaged in the deployment and utilization of drone operations, MSUs and PVM for security and safety measures. As the integration of drones and MSUs continues to evolve, so does the potential for enhanced public safety and security in communities facing resource constraints through the implementation of PPPs.
We strongly encourage Community and Law Enforcement leaders to explore the wide range of advantages, benefits and costs of implementing a PPP targeted at achieving specific public safety and other objectives in their communities.
Chris Eggers is the CEO and founder of California-based Cannabis Compliant Security Solutions (CCSS), a consulting firm founded in 2021 with a mission and vision to re-define, disrupt, and significantly improve cannabis security and risk management for all licensed cannabis operators, including social equity operators and applicants.