The following article originally appeared in the January 1, 2000, edition of the Albany Democrat-Herald.
Wristwatch computers controlled by voice command may be worn by deputies and stun guns could be used instead of deadly physical force to stop criminals who are a serious danger to police.
Crimes committed thousands of miles away via the Internet and terrorist-type activity may also increase, law enforcement officials predict.
These might sound like unbelievable theories, but they could be where the future leads police during the 21st century.
The truth is no one actually knows what will happen between Jan. 1, 2000, and Dec. 31, 2099. But Linn County's law enforcement leaders say based on how law enforcement is already changing, these predictions are quite possible.
"(Law enforcement) has changed so radically in the last 23 years, it's hard to even fathom," said Linn County Sheriff Dave Burright, who began working at the Sheriff's Office 23 years ago. "We're just trying to stay up on the end of the technical stuff that's going on in our communities and not break the budget in the process."
When Burright started his career at the Linn County Sheriff's Office, they still used manual typewriters. Now everything is computerized.
The dispatch center has computers that automatically read where a caller is phoning from with the help of a gigantic database. The patrol cars have computers. Wireless technology is becoming more common. In the future, Burright said, he expects to see no more keyboards, only voice command.
Technology will also change patrolling for Oregon State Police troopers.
Eventually, said OSP Lt. Andrew Olson, Oregon driver's licenses will be scanned by officers at the scene, instead of being called in to dispatchers by number for verification. The driver's licenses currently being issued by the state have those bar codes, which will eventually be activated for that purpose.
Officers also will likely have an automatic fingerprinting device that will enable them to scan the fingerprints of alleged offenders at the scene, assuming that the people being scanned have criminal records, Olson said.
"It's pretty obvious that everything's going to be more automated than it is now," Olson said.
To save time and deter traffic crimes, there will be increased use of photo radar and photo imaging, Olson said. In other words, if you speed, you'll get a ticket in the mail instead of being stopped on the highway. In some areas, including in Albany, this future wave has already begun.
"That's just a start that's going to snowball," said Olson, who also believes that officers may eventually carry stun guns in order to protect themselves and the criminals they are chasing.
As the methods for dealing with lawbreakers change, so will the crimes.
Crimes via the ATM and Internet are as new as the concepts. They are increasing and even going international.
"These crimes aren't confined to Linn County," Burright said. "The perpetrator could be in Bangkok, Thailand, with the crime occurring here."
Telephone and mail theft is also increasing. These "non-person" crimes will continue to increase, Olson and Burright said. Although person crimes — assault, rape, sexual abuse, homicide — will not go away, "You will always have your person crimes," Olson said.
Olson also said he thinks there will be an increase of difficult-to-manage terrorist activity in the U.S.
"I don't know if we're ever going to be able to control that," Olson said.
Both Olson and Burright agree that although there will be an increase in police force and in technology-sharp officers, there will also be a shift from public to private law enforcement.
What this will mean is that gated communities and companies will increasingly police their areas with paid security on staff. And eventually, police forces may be run privately instead of through government funds, or will be contracted to private security agencies. This is a trend that is already happening with corrections in some other areas.
"Our population is growing and we can't afford to have enough police officers to do everything that people would like," Burright explained.
At the Linn County Jail, supervision is already changing and will probably continue in the same direction, said Jail Commander Lt. Tim Mueller.
The major change is switching from a system of more controlled, less interactive linear supervision to one that includes freer, non-liner supervision as well.
The trend toward non-linear supervision is nationwide, Mueller said.
The Linn County Jail has two cell blocks in a new wing built in February 1997 that are run using non-linear supervision. One deputy oversees 48 inmates in the block.
"These are what we call privileged blocks. They have to earn their way over there," said Mueller, who expects this trend to continue. "Direct supervision is the best way to go."
Advanced technology is also making monitoring of inmates more efficient.
"We're pretty much state-of-the-art now," Mueller said.
Even though changing technology could alter the faces of law enforcement and population growth could turn the Willamette Valley into one big metropolis from Portland to Eugene, Burright said he expects that law enforcement will continue to stay in touch with its public.
"I hope ... we don't lose the more personal touch and trust from the community," Burright said. "If we distance ourselves from the people we're serving, that's a slippery road that could lead to disaster."