You’re no doubt familiar with Early Intervention Systems (EIS) used by law enforcement agencies to identify off-track behavior in officers. However, in recent years, agencies have sought a more proactive and preventative solution that can identify officers before they’re involved in a career-damaging adverse incident.

They’ve found that little has changed in traditional EIS platforms since the initial days of trigger-based systems. How they look has barely kept up with other technology, and the way they work hasn’t been updated since the 70’s.

The emergence of modern problems leads many agencies to reevaluate their current EIS and consider investing in a modern one.

Old technology and new technology

Non-Disciplinary by Design

Far from being a means to discipline, EIS platforms were intended to be non-disciplinary by design. However, using triggers to identify officers in need of additional support has since been found to create situations where EIS platforms are used as hindsight-driven, punitive tools, if they’re used at all.

Unlike classic EIS platforms, a modern EIS is configured to capture and analyze indicators beyond the simple mechanism of triggers and thresholds. This enables them to provide insight that can be used to address an officer before they have an incident that could require disciplinary action. It also provides a greater depth of insight into an agency’s overall health, including officers deserving of recognition, and individuals who have been exposed to a critical number of stressful events.

An EIS is intended to be an objective, smart, and automated mechanism that supports the health, safety and efficacy of your officers. Still, the idea of trusting an algorithm to interpret officer data can be off-putting to those who prefer a human touch. However, a truly modern EIS blends seamlessly with your department, informing and amplifying the impact of your frontline supervisors rather than replacing them.

Similar to the communication and tactical improvement brought about by two-way radios, an EIS extends your supervising staff’s ability to respond to officers in need of support. Furthermore, in recent years agencies have been using EIS to identify officers worthy of recognition for exceptional service.

How Do Early Intervention Systems Work?

Initially, EIS platforms were called “Early Warning” systems. While “Intervention” and “Warning” are sometimes used interchangeably, the latter has gradually fallen out of favor. Consider this –a warning will tell supervisors something is wrong, but it won’t tell supervisors how to help the officer who triggered it.

According to the National Police Foundation, using intervention terminology “emphasizes the role of the agency in providing officers with support and resources to address problems at their earliest stage.” Most police executives would agree helping officers is preferable to punishing them.

The important part, regardless of what term you use, is that you are aware an officer is exhibiting behavior pre-determined to be atypical, enabling your supervisory team to take preventative actions that “promote officer safety, health and wellness, and success.”

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The first generation of EIS platforms relied heavily on the mechanics of triggers and thresholds. Agencies would select a set of indicators and then define thresholds for each one. For example, if an officer had three use-of-force instances in a single month, that would trigger an alert for a supervisor.

Though innovative at the time, recent advancements in technology allow for the development of sophisticated systems that refine triggers to allow for truly preventative action. A peer-reviewed study from our partners at the University of Chicago identified that most trigger-based systems result in a 78% false positive and 90% false negative rate.

These trigger-based systems can often orient the attention of supervisors in the wrong direction, wasting time and introducing the risk that officers in need of support will slip through the cracks. Beyond that, they often aren’t configured to provide an early enough warning.

Regardless, an EIS is an essential part of any modern agency’s personnel management toolkit for myriad reasons.

For more information about alternatives to a trigger-based approach, such as using analytics to convert data into insights, check out First Sign®.

Why would your agency want an EIS?

In a report on EIS best practices, the National Police Foundation defined one as “a personnel management tool designed to identify potential individual or group concerns at the earliest possible stage so that intervention and support can be offered in an effort to re-direct performance and behaviors toward organizational goals.”

In other words, an EIS can help you know where to focus your management efforts. Most companies and organizations have some type of support system or tool in place to position employees to succeed. Usually this falls under the purview of human resources. Agencies can apply some of these existing principles to how they think about supporting officers. EIS platforms are particularly well-suited to support agencies and their officers in the following ways.

Protect Your Officers (and Their Careers)

Law enforcement officers regularly must adapt to high-stress, complex (often unfamiliar) situations. They’re also expected to thoroughly document these events, including everything from when use of force is required to vehicle pursuits. This makes their profession unusual in that a lot of data is produced but not much is done with it to help personnel.

Early EIS platforms worked off indicators chosen through intuition. While this gets agencies part of the way towards a system that can help prevent officers from drifting into adverse behavior, these indicators alone simply aren’t enough to make sense of all the data generated by today’s LEOs.

A modern EIS allows supervisors and police executives to take truly preventative action, without getting bogged down in false positives and false negatives.

Accreditation Compliance

CALEA offers multiple tiers, but table stakes for accreditation include guidance on EIS usage. According to CALEA standard 35.1.9, agencies with an EIS must also have a “written directive” to provide structure around definitions of behavioral indicators, reviews of identified employees, remedial action, and so on. In CALEA’s own words, “the failure of an agency to develop a comprehensive system can lead to the erosion of public confidence in the agency’s ability to investigate itself, while putting the public and agency employees in greater risk of danger.”

Relationship with Community

A survey of nearly 2,000 residents of U.S. metro areas, “found that 75% of white respondents and 80% of Black and Hispanic respondents favored the use of early warning systems as an accountability mechanism within police agencies.” As communities continue to ask for more transparency and insight into how police agencies identify and address officers whose behavior does not align with their expectations, modern EIS platforms offer a solution that signals an agency is investing in not only the well-being of their officers, but the well-being of the community.

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6 Baseline Functions to Look for in an EIS

As you prepare to either reevaluate your existing early intervention system or consider purchasing one for your agency, here are some baseline functions you should seek.

Trigger or Threshold Mechanisms

Though research indicates these mechanisms are no longer enough (and can often mislead supervisors), they still provide some insight into the frequency of certain events. Though you might find yourself

A Research Base

While it’s great to gain insight into your officers, there’s only so much you can do comparing your agency against itself. Implementing an EIS built on top of a longitudinal research base helps you understand your officers in the context of policing across a variety of departments.

21st Century Analytics

Data without analytics isn’t very useful. If your EIS doesn’t come with advanced analytics, your team will be left to crunch the numbers on their own. And at the rate that law enforcement produces data, it’s nearly impossible for an individual to derive any meaningful insight without the help of modern technology.

Situational Evaluation

Your EIS should be able to interpret information based on situational data. This is critical to avoiding false positive and false negatives. If your EIS can’t process data in the context of a situation, the results won’t differentiate between a justifiably active officer and an off-track one.

Temporal Evaluation

When something occurred should also factor into the information you receive from your EIS. Whether a series of events happened during third watch, on the weekend, in the morning, or during a large event should factor into which officers are flagged, if any.

Command Channel Review Support

While all agencies have some review process, our experience has revealed that each one is unique. That’s why it’s key for your EIS to be flexible enough to align with your command channel review.

Choosing an EIS is an important decision for an agency. Consider seeking out a partner who understands the complexities of policing who can also leverage the power of advanced analytics.

People produce a lot of data. How much is a lot of data? Research company IDC, “estimates that by 2025, approximately 80 billion devices will be connected to the internet and the total amount of digital data generated worldwide will hit 180 zettabytes.”

To put that in context, an officer’s body-worn camera produces about 11.6 gigabytes of data every month. A single zettabyte contains a trillion gigabytes.

Folks in the tech space often refer to data as the “new oil.” This might be a nod to the great quantities of data all around us, unseen; or that all of the software and applications we use would be impossible without it. Another way to interpret the analogy is through data’s valuable byproducts (oil’s go into 6,000 items): instead of the rubber for basketballs, data yields insights we can use to make decisions.

With both internal and external factors driving change in police departments, using data to develop a holistic view of your officers will be crucial to your agency addressing its unique challenges.

What Types of Workforce Data Can Police Departments Capture?

There’s no shortage of technology in police departments but most of it is focused on policing and not the police as employees. Software like Computer Aided Dispatch and Records Management Systems make it easier to help the communities they serve. However, they don’t provide insight into your sworn and civilian personnel.

on-duty-officer-dataYou can’t have the benefits of people analytics without having people data to analyze. Through research conducted by the University of Chicago, seven performance areas have emerged that are both rich in data and critical to effective police force management. If you’re interested in using data to innovate your police department, here’s where to start.

Training and Certifications

Beginning with the academy, officers must continually demonstrate and hone their tactical skills. Training is essential to good policing, but it can be hard to understand holistically across an officer’s entire career. Implementing systems to track the training data generated by officers is a good first step to gathering people data.

An Officer’s On-Duty Activity

This area includes the daily on-duty activities that make up an officer’s career; everything from pedestrian and traffic stops to accolades and administrative notices. This type of people data is essential to police leadership. Without it, front-line supervisors could struggle to understand and evaluate officer activity across the department.

Use-of-Force Incidents

Many departments already track use-of-force incidents but do so in a way that makes analysis incredibly difficult, especially when it comes to understanding connections between your officers’ training, your leadership, and the outcomes your officers produce in the field.

Other important areas to begin tracking:

  • Internal Affairs Command Channel Review and Case Management
  • Community Engagement
  • Performance Evaluations
  • Officer Profile – a LEO’s historic and holistic record

How Can You Use People Data?

Essentially, people data, sometimes called workforce data, is any of the information you can capture about your employees. Certifications, absences, complaints, accolades, performance reviews, etc. Tracking these areas across all of your employees yields a mountain of information.

Unless you’re secretly a computer, that massive amount of data won’t yield much, especially if you’re trying to derive insights from years of workforce activity. This gap between data capture and data insight is bridged by analytics, which is the process of running raw people data through software designed to find signals in the noise. These signals are what we refer to as insights, patterns in the data that can be used to make informed predictions about future results.

For example, a company might use people data to measure overall employee sentiment or the internal net-promoter score (i.e., how many people would recommend working there versus not), where before they might have had an outdated spreadsheet and some water-cooler talk to inform its solution to high turnover. People analytics can be used to predict overall productivity or perhaps a surge in turnover; it can also be used to intervene ahead of negative consequences.

Executives view people data as a strategic advantage in an age where high expectations and high employee churn are rules rather than exceptions. Police leadership is facing similar stressors when it comes to recruiting, training, retaining, and developing their officers.

In our next post, we’ll further explore how police leadership can use people data. If you’re wondering whether your agency could benefit from a better understanding of people data, let us know and we’d be happy to discuss it with you.

Have you ever taken a self-assessment exercise? Often times the first thing you’re told is that there are no right or wrong answers – the objective is to become more aware of the totality of characteristics that comprise your identity. Makes sense, right? But unfortunately, that same principle does not apply to organizational self-assessment – there are right answers and there are definitely wrong answers.

Consider, for example, your current police force management provider. Are you getting the most technologically advanced solution possible? It should Tips for Assessing Your Professional Standards and Early Intervention Systemsbe fully automated and configurable to your specific needs. That includes meeting the specific polices of your agency, as well as your collective bargaining agreement. Also, is it scalable to integrate with other systems as needed – and holistic to provide you with the most visibility possible on your officer activity?

And what about your early intervention system? Is it preventative by nature – or does it feel like you’re always playing catch up? The true value of a professional standards solution should be to allow you to get ahead of issues before they become real problems . . . proactive vs. reactive, if you will. That means being able to intervene on off-track behavior before careers are jeopardized and issues are escalated to community and media exposure.

Something else to ask yourself – what role does research and analytics play in your police force management and early intervention systems? We know that across almost all professions and industries, evidence-based research and advanced analytics play a major role in human capital management. The same should be said for law enforcement, where we need the most reliable and actionable information possible to make informed decisions related to both on-track and off-track behavior.

These are just a few examples of things you should be considering, but you get the idea. Self-assessment can be easy when you know the right questions to ask. If you’re not sure, do a little bit of research – the information you need is out there.

You can also click here to take a quick, 6-question online assessment from Benchmark. Or, download the full assessment, compiled from our years of real-world policing experience, best-in-class technology expertise, as well as research and analytics background.

Does your early intervention system allow you to identify potential problems and intervene with customized responses at the very first sign that something could be going wrong? Here are 6 must-haves to look for when evaluating how well your current early warning system is serving you and your department.

1. Research-based

We know that research and analytics play a major role in human capital management across almost all professions and industries. We should be looking outside of law enforcement to inform ourselves on best practices that can be applied to the unique needs and goals of police departments. That means considering an early intervention system that is grounded in research and fueled by an analytics engine.

2. Go beyond simple triggers

If a system is using arbitrary, blanket metrics to indicate when an action is needed, then most likely you’re not getting a true reading or meaningful insight on your officer activity and behavior. Take for example an officer who gets three use-of-force complaints in a 12-month period and then is automatically elevated to an intervention program. Shouldn’t we know the context? Like total number of arrests . . . or the nature of those arrests . . . or historical activity for that officer, to name a few. Look for a solution that provides a window into context, patterns of problematic behavior and officer history.

3. Reduce ‘false positives’

The 6 Must-Haves of an Early Intervention SystemThis goes hand-in-hand with #2. Nothing can be more disheartening than to have an officer who is doing a phenomenally great job incorrectly flagged for off-track behavior. These ‘false positives’ are demoralizing and can be timely and costly by the time you identify and course-correct the flagging. Look for a system that only identifies officers who are truly engaged in a pattern that suggests their behavior might be trending off track, so you can provide them with the support they need to get back on track.

4. Be preventative and proactive

How many times have we heard someone say – or even ourselves have thought – “if only I would have known sooner”? When it comes to off-track behavior, timing is critical . . . and, it goes without saying, the sooner the better to step in and take action. Find a system that identifies and proactively notifies you at the first sign of an officer who is trending off track, and who has a real need for intervention to get back on track. It’s the difference between being preventative vs. reactive.

5. Be compliant

Look for an early intervention system that is configured to protect you from officer misconduct and rising liability costs. Does it comply with the body of standards proposed by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA)? Does it incorporate the best practices and elements of the ethics toolkit developed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)? What about the performance guidelines on officer conduct recommended by the Department of Justice (DOJ)? A system that meets all these criteria helps you safeguard against problematic behavior and the staggering price tag of liability settlements.

6. Built to improve accountability

You definitely want a solution that works to the specific operations, needs and goals of your police department. Does it allow supervisors and commanders to review and compare data for individual officers and units – even down to watches? Can you assign intervention actions for problematic behavior in need of correction? What about making recommendations for exceptional performance? Remember, the goal is to enlist a system that helps you improve overall accountability.

Selecting the right early intervention system is so key to the success of your department. Keep this checklist in mind when evaluating your current system and the options available to you.

To learn about First Sign™ Early Intervention, click here.

Thinking of replacing your current early intervention or early warning system — or exploring getting your first one? dominosHere are three essential things to consider as you weigh your options, in support of your professional standards within your agency:

1) Real-world policing experience

Anyone can claim to do anything — and they often do. That’s why when it comes to an early intervention system, you should look for one that’s been built by people who know what it means to walk in your shoes. Were they at one time an officer themselves? Or a member of a command staff? Or perhaps worked in a mayor’s or city manager’s office? Bringing that real-world experience to the table can mean the difference between a limited, ineffective offering to a nuanced solution that’s built specifically for the needs of law enforcement agencies.

2) Best-in-class technology

The greatest software idea can fail miserably before it’s out of the gate if its technological framework doesn’t support your needs. How configurable is it to your department’s requirements, policies and goals? Is it fully automated, simple and secure? Is it built to integrate with your existing systems? How intuitive is it, for user friendliness and ease of use? These are all questions you should seek answers to when searching for a new professional standards early warning system.

3) Research based

Look for a police early intervention system that’s grounded in research. What we know from other professions is that the right data, brought together with the right analyses, intervening with the right support, can make a dramatic difference in how organizations function and operate. The same holds true for law enforcement, where research, data and analytics can drive preventative intervention for trending off-track behavior — before it escalates into a larger, more challenging problem for an officer and your department.

Obviously, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for departments across the board. But these are three critical criteria to consider — so that ultimately you and your officers are supported with a system that is easy-to-use, fair and unbiased . . . and one that can navigate the complexities you and your department faces every day.

For more information on First Sign™ Early Intervention, click here.