As part of our series exploring the future of work in a variety of industries – everything from agriculture to education – we’re taking a look at justice and law enforcement. What are the changes in criminal behaviour that these industries will face in the coming decades? How will justice and law enforcement organisations adapt to cope with those changes? And what does that mean for you if you want to either undertake your first qualification in the field or are looking to come back for further study?
We spoke to a number of Charles Sturt University’s expert academics in the areas of law, policing and security to find out.
Policing does not exist in a vacuum
Colin Rogers, Professor of Policing and Law Enforcement, sees the industry having to constantly adapt to ever-shifting circumstances and the constant innovation of criminals.
“In terms of law enforcement and security, recently there has been – and will continue to be – a massive shift in criminality. The way that people are committing crime is changing. We still have the same types of crimes but the way criminals operate is changing dramatically. In part that is to do with the rise in technology that perpetrators are using to commit criminal acts, alongside the rise in globalised cybercrime, and also the constant threat of terrorism that will probably be with us for generations to come.
“However, policing does not exist in a vacuum. It is affected by everything that happens around it. So it is influenced by everything from shifts in the political landscape and economic decisions to environmental issues. And these are changing – whether that be the squeeze on professional budgets due to austerity and budget-saving political decisions, economic inequality leading to civil unrest, or scarcer natural resources leading to conflict.”
Brian Daly, course coordinator for policing in the Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security, highlighted how these changes are reflected in the interests of current students in the field.
“Cybercrime is certainly growing as an area of interest, given that the ability for people to live globally and cross borders more easily has led to an increase in transnational crimes like money laundering. It’s also one of the reasons why fraud and financial crime is another area in which there is a lot of uptake, not only from law enforcement professionals but also those working in the private sector, such as in banks and other financial entities. There’s also a lot of interest, course-wise, in terrorism and security – everyone from those already working in that area to those just eager to learn more about the subject.”
Technology and justice
Technology is influencing not only how crime is perpetrated, but also how law enforcement tackles crime.
Professor Rogers sees this as having different levels of application across the industry.
“The interpretation of data is vital. It is probably not cost-effective to train police officers in IT; rather, recruiting IT professionals into law enforcement makes more sense. This is happening in the UK and may well become more common in other countries. So the scope of experience in the industry is widening.
“For ordinary police officers, they won’t necessarily need to know how to deal with, say, cybercrime, but they will need to understand it, to recognise it, as they are increasingly likely to come into contact with it in one way or another. So they will need the skills to, for instance, preserve evidence used in cybercrime investigations. So there is a drive for officers to undertake specialised study in aspects of technology and cybercrime.”
Kim Bailey, a lecturer in law at our Centre for Law and Justice, explained how technology can also open up opportunity in the provision of legal services.
“It used to be the case that to practise law you needed to operate from a physical office. Legal practice today has vastly changed. For example, most conveyancing and legal practice is conducted online, with virtual law offices and files stored in the cloud. A number of our guest lecturers practice this way. Technology has opened up a world of opportunity for legal practitioners and online global legal research means you don’t need a physical office or the law in printed form. Today’s lawyers can practice anywhere, anytime and can offer legal services to rural, regional and remote areas. Part of our degree at Charles Sturt is equipping the next generation of lawyers to develop their skills in these areas, so they can practice and contribute to social change in areas lawyers may never have gone before.”
People and policing
While technology will no doubt change the industries of law enforcement and justice – just as with many other industries, such as healthcare and social work – the role of people remains central to effective law enforcement.
People are also at the heart of a very contemporary aspect of justice: victimology. Dr Amber McKinley, a lecturer at our Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security, is one of the country’s few academics specialising in this growing area, and explained how it is and will increasingly influence many aspects of justice and law enforcement.
“Victimology is a relatively new and growing area; it is broken into theoretical, applied and forensic victimology. It is basically about managing broader victims’ issues, educating investigators on how to assist victims after reporting the crime against them, the criminal investigation process itself becoming more victim-centric and, sometimes, how the victim presents within a trial. In the past, victims have often simply been considered tools in the investigative process or as evidence, and little time was invested in their personal experiences of the crime and its consequences – including during or after the justice process.
“Increasingly, there is an understanding – being put into action through law reform, policy and internal organisational procedures – that victim management should be a central part of investigations. Not only does this mean a better outcome for people who have often been traumatised by the offences against them, it can also lead to more convictions as victims are less likely to remove themselves from an investigation as they have a better understanding of the process and what they can reasonably expect from it.
“This focus on victims – on people – also gives investigators the understanding that all people won’t react the same way to crimes. There are different cultural aspects, different sexual orientations, diverse populations and so on, which intersect and affect the way people are perceived, how they work within the system and what they can expect from the police and an investigation.”
Changes to legal learning in Australia
Understanding people and culture is also central to another major change in the way policing is carried out – and how students in the future will learn. That change is around cultural competency.
The impetus from the New South Wales Department of Justice is for correctional, policing and legal students to undertake some study of Indigenous perspective. Most universities only offer this as a single standalone subject at best.
Ms Bailey believes this will change soon.
“The Department of Justice has indicated that to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous Australians in custody, and to ensure access to justice, lawyers and corrective services, professionals must move towards cultural competency as a basic graduate requirement.
“At Charles Sturt, Indigenous cultural competency is an integral part of our law degree and is embedded in most subjects throughout the course. We differ from other universities – and go beyond government requirements. We believe that Indigenous perspective is one thing, but achieving cultural competence is a lifelong journey and one that must be started by embedding Indigenous perspective throughout the degree.
“Our Bachelor of Laws was written in consultation with local Indigenous elders. We have worked hard to ensure Indigenous perspective is given alongside an accredited legal education. We have an Elders-in-Residence program, where local Wiradjuri elders not only teach into our subjects but are consulted on the content and delivery of Indigenous perspective.
“Unlike many universities, we teach and assess cultural competency. This helps students to understand why this is a vital and valuable set of skills that is transferrable to working in any culture. Certainly, the outcome of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the Bowraville Inquiry have highlighted that legal practitioners must develop these attributes, and we are leading the field with our degree.”
The career question
So with these challenges and changes liable to affect justice and law enforcement in the coming decades, how are prospective and current professionals in these industries going to secure a rewarding career?
Dr McKinley feels that changes in law enforcement are opening up opportunities in the field beyond traditional police officers.
“There is a huge opening for other professions to come back to universities and move into law enforcement: social workers, medical staff undertaking forensics education, psychologists, lawyers, nurses and so forth. And a lot of our students are career changers. Overall we are seeing people getting advanced qualifications to learn about the new ways that law enforcement is working.”
Mr Daly explained that current professionals are also looking at expanding their skills and knowledge.
“Increasingly, organisations expect their staff to be professionalised, to have qualifications, especially if they are moving up through the ranks. They expect people to be exposed to a wide range of knowledge and experience. But there is also a personal drive to improve oneself. Often people are getting qualifications in order to take advantage of interesting career choices if they come up, to complement their experience or to assist them in gaining promotion.
“In general law enforcement there’s a real hunger for qualifications and higher learning. In years gone by, for organisations qualifications weren’t necessarily as important, but now professionals are looking for information outside what their organisation provides, beyond the procedural guidelines. And more and more they are looking for information from around the world, discovering how other institutions are dealing with challenges and bringing those ideas back to apply to their location. This is one reason why we run a lot of international residential schools in our courses – in places like Canada, Columbia, Cuba and Israel. As crime becomes more transnational, so is crime prevention and law enforcement.”
Wherever you want to take your career in policing, law or security, there are likely to be opportunities across many different areas of these industries, as justice and law enforcement adapts to keep pace with the ever-evolving world of criminality.
Colin Rogers is a professor of policing and law enforcement at Charles Sturt University. He is also Professor of Policing and Security at the University of South Wales in the UK. His research interests include the future of policing, community involvement in policing, and education, governance and accountability.
Brian Daly served in the NSW Police Force for 30 years. He has taught in policing qualifications from the police recruit program through to master’s qualifications, and is currently the course coordinator for policing and security at Charles Sturt University’s Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security.
Kim Bailey is a lecturer in law at Charles Sturt University, focusing on criminology. She has extensive professional experience, particularly in litigation and common law. Kim has taught Criminology and Social Perspectives on Criminological Issues at Charles Sturt since 2014.
Dr Amber McKinley is an applied victimologist, teaching on that subject and on evidence and investigation. Her research interests include victim care, sexual violence and homicide solvability.