“Personnel management…is one of the most difficult challenges you face.” – Chuck Ramsey
Over the course of a decades-long career, Chuck Ramsey influenced, defined and communicated police culture at two major agencies. First, as Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department, then as Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia.
When he left his leadership role in Chicago for Philadelphia, he anticipated the two agencies would be mostly similar, though he quickly realized the differences would have a bigger impact on his goals for the agency.
How can a police executive proactively shape police culture?
Leaders are likely to find that the universality of police practices can cut both ways. They should allocate sufficient time to understanding their agency’s culture. This is especially critical in circumstances where you’re coming from outside the agency. Ultimately, any time you want to change how an agency operates, you need to understand the why and how of its current state.
Regardless of its familiarity, if your agency’s culture is divisive or fails to support your intended policies and training – such as an increased focus on officer wellness – it’s not the right one.
Try to see beyond the traditional mindset of policing. Its culture can only change by identifying and recognizing the people who do things the right way while intervening to correct and support those who don’t.
During a recent Q&A with Benchmark’s CEO, Ron Huberman, Chuck shared what he learned about developing cultures of excellence and wellness – as both an insider and an outsider – to help today’s leaders better navigate the changing landscape of policing.
Every use-of-force incident has the potential to undermine community trust, expose officers to liability and create an operational, financial or reputation risk to the agency. With a newly state-mandated emphasis on de-escalation and alternatives to force, law enforcement agency leaders will be responsible for carefully reviewing their policies, training their officers and assuring a robust internal review process is in place.
In 2018, 677 civilians in California were involved in officer use-of-force incidents that resulted in death or serious bodily injury – or an officer discharging his or her firearm. Those incidents resulted in 146 civilian deaths1 – a decrease from the 741 civilians involved in serious force incidents in 2017 that resulted in 172 deaths2.
The primary reason described by officers – both in 2017 and 2018 – for using serious or deadly force, was to effect an arrest or to take a civilian into custody. In 40 incidents in 2018 and 22 incidents in 2017, an officer used serious force to prevent an escape. With the enactment of AB 392, new restrictions on using deadly force during an attempted escape mean there will be more scrutiny than ever before3.
The message sent by the Legislature was clear when it recently enacted bill AB 392: “[I]t is the intent … that peace officers use deadly force only when necessary in defense of human life.” AB 392 requires officers only respond with deadly force when a threat of death or serious bodily injury is “imminent,” meaning the assailant has “the present, opportunity, and apparent intent to immediately cause death or serious bodily injury” to the officer or another person. Officers are also required to use available resources and techniques other than deadly force If “reasonably safe and feasible to an objectively reasonable officer.”
SB 230, as one police chief said, is equally – if not more so – important as AB 392, the landmark bill recently signed by Governor Newsom that rewrote California’s deadly force standard.
Until AB 392, California’s use-of-force standard had not been amended since it was enacted in 1872. Understandably, department leaders have expressed concern about the demands new reforms will place on their agencies by the new reforms. Chiefs and Sheriffs understand change is necessary, but they also know they will be under intense pressure to make sure the requirements of AB 392 are effectively implemented.
This is where SB 230 comes in. Initially, it was meant as an alternative to AB 392. Over the last several months though, lawmakers transformed it into a powerful set of policy and training requirements agency leaders will need to thoroughly understand and implement. This transformation will benefit their officers as well as the communities they serve.
Another law enforcement veteran called SB 230, “absolutely critical,” if California’s leadership wants to see meaningful and lasting change in the application of the use of force.
Once it takes effect, SB 230 will require law enforcement agencies enact a full set of use-of-force policies that will stretch from training . . . to the actual use of force . . . to its immediate aftermath and beyond. Those policies need to be in place by January 1, 2021, meaning the 500-plus agencies in California will need to train nearly 80,000 peace officers in a little over a year.
Agencies will have to enact and maintain policies covering the following topics involving use-of-force incidents:
Vulnerable persons (pregnant women, children, the elderly and the disabled)
Tactics, such as using time and distance
Deadly force guidelines
Alternatives to force
Approved methods and devices
Fair and unbiased policing
Guidelines for drawing or pointing a firearm
Shooting at or from moving vehicles
Consideration of surroundings and bystanders
Intervening when observing force clearly beyond which is necessary
Agencies will also have to enact policies for actions taken in the immediate aftermath of the force incident, including:
Providing, if properly trained, or promptly procuring medical aid
Prompt internal reporting and notification
Reporting the witnessing of potential excessive force
Chiefs and Sheriffs will also have to put policies in place regarding supervision, accountability and transparency, including:
Supervisors’ roles in reviewing uses of force
Factors for evaluating and reviewing use-of-force incidents
Procedures for the filing, investigation and reporting of force complaints
Procedures for complying with Penal Code § 832.7 (public disclosure of records)
Procedures for complying with Government Code § 12525.2 (reporting of serious force to the State Attorney General)
Of course, policy without training is meaningless, and each of the described requirements will demand training of your peace officers. SB 230 specifically requires:
Training standards and requirements relating to knowledge and understanding of use-of-force policies
Training for situations involving vulnerable persons, including those with physical, mental or developmental disabilities
Minimum training and course titles required to meet force policy objectives
State legislation has now fully entered areas that were until recently the domain of department policy. SB 230 states “in all circumstances, officers are expected to exercise sound judgment and critical decision-making when using force options.” This is not an expectation without teeth, as the very next subparagraph allows for the introduction of an agency’s policies and training as evidence in proceedings for consideration of the totality of circumstances of the involved officer. In other words, your agency’s policies and training regime are going be part of the record in administrative, civil and criminal matters.
Those are not the only challenges chiefs and sheriffs will have to consider. With the new legislation, peace officers will believe they are at greater risk for being held criminally and civilly liable, community expectations will increase, there will be more news media scrutiny into whether your department is complying, and there will be more operational and reputation risks for agencies than ever before.
Designing and enacting the appropriate policies and then training all officers or deputies will require a significant organizational effort. With the right tools in place, though, not only will the coming transformation be manageable, they will bring about lasting change.
The coming challenge will be an opportunity to rethink how your agency does a lot of its work. You will be able to ask questions you often do not have the time to get to.
7 Key Steps for Successful Implementation
There are several important measures department leaders will need to take for a successful transition into the new use of force environment.
1. Have the right policies and procedures in place.
Your policies will need to comply with new state laws as well as local rules and collective bargaining agreement provisions.
2. Assure everyone is thoroughly trained
The learning and training mandates of SB 230 are vast, and departments will be under pressure to complete the training by January 1, 2021. This will require extensive tracking as new courses are brought online and rolled out to sworn staff. In providing human capital solutions to the law enforcement community, Benchmark Analytics® has developed a learning management system (LMS) that meets the unique needs of public safety. The LMS includes the capability for managing certifications and has a specific configuration incorporating California POST requirements. Benchmark will further customize its LMS solution for a partner department’s unique training and course titles.
3. Carefully monitor and evaluate each use-of-force incident
AB 392 amends Section 835a of the Penal Code to state “the decision by a peace officer to use force shall be evaluated carefully and thoroughly, in a manner that reflects the gravity of that authority and the serious consequences of the use of force by peace officers.” The Benchmark Management System® (BMS) delivers a complete police force management system with which to carry out a thorough investigation of serious use-of-force incidents and complaints, including evidence management and command-channel review. BMS is built to be configured to specific agency needs like those emerging in California. For example, BMS can easily help your agency comply with the strict timing requirements of the Peace Officer Bill of Rights so critical deadlines are never missed. Benchmark also has the added capability to automatically notify your records or discovery unit so your agency can stay in compliance with the Public Records Act and the recent significant opening of records under Penal Code section 832.7.
4. Collect the information you need to carry out your mandate
The Benchmark Management System includes a use-of-force module that can be readily configured to streamline your agency’s compliance with California’s requirements. This puts a platform at your agency’s fingertips that allows for thorough documentation and capture of data, such as officer and civilian information, geographic and lighting characteristics, the sequence and types of weapons used, and injuries sustained. In Benchmark, users can easily indicate whether a force incident falls within the California Code definition of “serious” force. Workflows can be developed to automatically notify your internal affairs team and activate timers to track video recording release schedules, helping your agency stay in compliance with Government Code section 6254. Additionally, Benchmark automatically flags the appropriate data fields for later export to the California Department of Justice URSUS use of force reporting platform.
5. Develop a thorough understanding by measuring and analyzing what you collect
In a changing landscape, “[police] forces must put analysis at the heart of their decision-making processes.”4 BMS is designed to give agency executives and supervisors the tools they need to review data, analyses and progress or designated periods of time . . . from a week or several months, to a year or more. Moreover, with its built-in analytics and machine learning capabilities, BMS gets smarter over time so you can uncover new insights with which to raise your department’s performance to a higher level.
6. Learn who is exceeding expectations and who is getting off track
Not knowing is not a management practice. You end up just hoping you can make it through the next watch without an event occurring that will endanger your officers, or the public, or put your agency’s reputation at risk by undermining community trust. A sophisticated early intervention system ought to be preventative by design so officers can, in fact, get the additional support they need as soon as possible. First Sign® Early Intervention is a first-of-its-kind research-based early intervention system that incorporates officer history, context of assignment and patterns of problematic behavior instead of relying on simplistic threshold-based systems.
7. Act on what you learn
Identifying an officer who is at risk of engaging in adverse behavior is just the first step. Next, a department has to develop effective interventions and provide the additional support to get the officers who need it, back on track. To address this critical need, Benchmark has developed a proactive intervention support platform called the Case Action Response Engine® or C.A.R.E. With C.A.R.E., you have access to proven best practices, demonstrated to be most effective at moving employee behavior in the right direction with non-punitive interventions. You can facilitate the intervention planning process with templates of actionable steps, goal-setting and follow-up actions, and also provide your supervisors with the capability to provide meaningful progress reports.
The last several years have presented many new challenges to policing. With those challenges comes the opportunity to develop and publish new policies, train your sworn staff and put in place robust review and reporting tools.
If you would like to know more about what Benchmark can do, click the button below to request a demo of our technology or a consultation with me to develop a plan to help your agency navigate the new use-of-force landscape in California.
1Use of Force Incident Reporting, 2018, California Department of Justice.
2Use of Force Incident Reporting, 2017, California Department of Justice.
3 Section 196 of the Penal Code is amended to say that “a peace officer is justified in using deadly force. . . to apprehend a fleeing person for any felony that threatened or resulted in death or serious bodily injury, if the officer reasonably believes that the person will cause death or serious bodily injury to another unless immediately apprehended.”
4Policing – a vision for 2025, McKinsey & Company, January 2017, at p. 12.
Law enforcement generates extraordinary amounts of data. Every call and dispatch, every arrest, and most interactions with civilians create data an agency can use for analysis. Historically, the practical application of this information has been limited to crime analysis and prevention (e.g., hot-spot policing), but the increasing availability of data and analytics makes it possible for agencies to apply similar strategies to technology-driven personnel management.
Law Enforcement’s Data Ecosystem
Much of an agency’s data is captured through deeply integrated platforms such as Computer-Aided-Dispatch (CAD) and Records Management Systems (RMS). The emergence of CAD and RMS allows police leadership to streamline everyday operations while tracking patterns in historical data to develop sophisticated proactive strategies for crime prevention.
As agencies continue to upgrade to digital systems – including the deployment of equipment like body-worn cameras, dashcams, and V2X telemetry – it becomes easier to derive insights from officer activity. New technologies overlay existing systems to create a digital ecosystem that produces an increasing volume and quantity of data. This growth makes analysis more important, more complicated, and much harder to do well. However, it also creates an opportunity to do more with agency data.
For example, an agency could expand the focus of its data analysis beyond a criminal lens to include performance management of its officers. A recent article by Michael Armstrong, Bill Bratton and Sean Malinowski:
Performance Management has been described as an ongoing process to establish and maintain a high performance culture, focused on aligning individual objectives with the overall goals of the organization. Performance Management is characterized by inclusion and agreement on goal setting, establishing standards of measurement and immediate and ongoing collaboration and feedback. (Armstrong, M. (2006). Performance Management. London: Kogan Page)
In other words, performance management is effectively working with your officers, leveraging strengths and managing weaknesses to improve the overall outcomes of your agency’s police work. This begins with identifying what data to capture, how to effectively do so, and what the data you collect actually means. Most departments have an abundance of officer data but very few have managers trained to conduct meaningful data analysis.
In a previous blog, we connected this analysis of data to agency transformation (see the 5 Stages of Transformative Management for Law Enforcement). We mapped a typical agency’s journey from an undefined process to a transformative one and the distinct stages in between (including analytic). Well-documented processes with automated data collection get agencies pretty far along the path – without this data, you’d have nothing to analyze – though it takes more than just data to transform an agency. Each data point is like a rain drop. When you have a documentation process in place, you can get to the point where you know it’s raining and intuit how much rain is falling. It is Analytics that provides you with the information to decide whether or not you need an umbrella.
Using Analytics to Generate Actionable Insight
In this context, analytics refers to both the approaches and the software that can process massive amounts of varying data types within set parameters (provided by a user) to uncover patterns – achieving a level of insight that would be prohibitively difficult to do without the assistance of a computer. Law enforcement has used analytics to explore tactics to advance the efficacy of policing. This is only possible because of the data created by officers, both digital and not. At this level, an agency is just asking its officers to do paperwork. Necessary, no doubt, if only to have a chain of documents to audit. But agencies could be using this information to help officers get better at their jobs.
For the individual officer, analytics can guide continuous growth and improvement. How you measure this progress will depend on what standards your agency implements, but generally speaking, observable “growth and improvement” is any behavior that moves an officer up and to the right from whatever baseline expectations you set for them. If data indicates an officer is more likely to use force during third watches, you might consider evaluating them for sleep hygiene or avoid assigning them to third watch. It could be this individual is less likely to de-escalate when their natural sleep patterns are disrupted. Or maybe additional training paired with mindfulness coaching could be part of the solution. Instead of policy-driven management – which operates on whether an officer is following the rules or not – we can use data analysis to understand what behavior, coupled with training, leads to the best overall outcomes for an officer and the community.
This is similar to the type of ongoing growth we expect from other industries. Doctors are evaluated by their outcomes as well as subjective factors like bedside manner and perceived empathy. The same could be said for teachers, who receive regular evaluations from students and have access to myriad professional development opportunities. There is a distinct difference between an average doctor and an exceptional one; a teacher with room for improvement, and one voted Teacher of the Year.
Beyond certification for weapon and tactical systems, officers grow and improve throughout their careers. Officers are continuously refining their approach to interacting with the civilian population and each other. Yet this process of improvement is often independent of explicit agency guidance. Officers grow (or not) on their own, absent the same type of regular feedback and guidance from supervisors typically considered table stakes in other professions.
How can supervisors use data to help officers improve?
We can apply analytics to four areas of law enforcement: understanding what types of people tend to be exceptional police officers; identifying an agency’s best officers to help supervisors develop models for professional development; gauging the impact of trauma exposure on officers; and identifying and addressing behavior patterns that are likely to precede adverse events with civilians.
Policing is a difficult job. Successful officers project empathy and power simultaneously while responding appropriately to rapidly evolving situations. In the same way everyone isn’t built to play professional football or achieve Grandmaster status in chess, not every person is wired to be an officer. In theory, anyone can throw a football well or recognize opportunities on a chessboard – some just come by these skills more naturally.
Over time, we can begin to understand why certain individuals get things wrong and how others can learn from it. The stakes are undoubtedly high: mistakes can put an individual officer at risk as well as members of the community. Yet through the use of data, agencies can provide tailored, outcome-specific feedback to individual officers based on their own unique profile so they can improve.
To get these results, agencies have to familiarize themselves with the limitations of certain types of data processing. It’s a step in the right direction whenever an agency implements a process for objective self-evaluation. However, some methods for using data to manage officers that were once thought to be effective are no longer reliable sources of insight.
Beyond trigger-based personnel management
A primary example of using data more effectively to manage and support officers is the use of early warning systems. Since the 1970’s, agencies implemented early warning systems to flag officers acting outside a predetermined norm. Supervisors configured the system’s “triggers” using a blend of experience and intuition. Research has shown this approach is ineffective: trigger-based systems fail to correctly identify off-track officers. Further, they focus solely on what not to do rather than what officers could be doing to improve.
Data Science empowers us to move beyond these simple mechanics. Instead of intuition, we can use insight generated through rigorous analysis of longitudinal data. This enables an agency to provide tailored management to its officers. This leads to more effective policing and by extension a safer, and engaged, community.
Policing has always asked its officers to make difficult decisions about the nature of law enforcement. But three decades of advancements in police technology introduced a new level of complexity to those choices.
Most police executives rose through the ranks fully expecting – perhaps even motivated – to tackle systemic barriers to effective law enforcement. However, few could have anticipated the rapid changes to the public perception of policing’s role in society and the national spotlight that’s been directed at it for most of the 21st century. Law enforcement now requires those in leadership roles to make many of the same technologically complex decisions traditionally reserved for executives in other professions.
Data Centers, cloud technology, cybersecurity, smart cities, chatbots and A.I., virtual reality, IoT, V2X, predictive analytics: a police executive needs to be comfortable with this terminology to make effective decisions about operational and technological investments for their agency.
What Your Officers Think about New Technology
A recent report published by Accenture surveyed hundreds of law enforcement professionals globally to develop a hypothesis for what policing could look like in the future. While the mission hasn’t changed – defined in the report as “protecting the public, preventing crime and keeping the peace, while maintaining the public’s trust” – effective service depends on agencies developing “a more agile workforce and rely[ing] on an increasingly expanded ecosystem of partners.”
Of the officers interviewed, 76% believe the demand for digital skills will increase over the next three to five years. 75% expressed a belief that digital skills will be required and demonstrated an interest in acquiring those skills.
But officers don’t decide what technology they use. That’s up to the supervisors and executives.
Your officers expect their leaders to quickly and accurately assess the implications of new technologies; to understand how and why a technology came to exist, in what ways it’s likely to evolve, and whether your officers will benefit. Additionally, you have to anticipate your community’s perspective as stakeholders impacted by the adoption of new technology.
Sources of Complexity in Law Enforcement
Most readers have more computing power in their pocket or strapped to their wrist than what was available to police through most of the 20th century. It’s relatively easy to point to the upside of new technology, but that upside is often accompanied by higher expectations and increasing operational complexity.
According to some researchers, complexity is introduced to policing via six channels. In recent decades, each has gone undergone a rapid evolution, at times through an expanded mission scope or bringing new stakeholders to the law enforcement table.
When the average person thinks of police work, they possibly think of deterring petty crime like theft and tagging or solving crimes like homicides and burglary. But the scope has expanded greatly in the 21st century. Now police are asked to account for terrorism, immigration issues, cybercrime, and escalated narcotics work involving deadly opioids.
Instead of reactive deterrence, police are expected to proactively deter crime. This means using tools and methodologies to anticipate crime before it happens and introduce a police presence into the area where it’s projected to occur. Because environment plays such a fundamental role in proactive policing, officers now have to wrestle with social issues that were previously outside their purview.
We cover this topic in depth here and here. Whereas historically law enforcement took their cues from leadership and occasionally politicians, now there is no shortage of perspectives on how police should operate in the 21st century. Communities increasingly want a seat at the table and a say in how they are policed. Which makes Community Engagement a critical part of any police strategy.
Until recently, police worked by patrolling in squad cars, responding to calls as needed, and investigating reported crimes. That’s a tight loop of accountability and responsibility. However, that’s expanded to include overlapping strategies like Broken windows, Community-oriented policing, Hot-spots policing, and Intelligence-led policing.
Most agencies will find that a blend of these approaches is the best fit for their community and officers. However, each strategy entails new specializations, new ways of thinking, and often new technology.
The duty belt used to hold your baton, handcuffs, a firearm, and two-way radio. Now you’ll find TASERS, Mobile Computer Databases (MCDs), body cameras, and pepper spray. Beyond that, new technology is useful at departmental level as well. Leveraging advancements in overall computing power, agencies are able to take advantage of CCT, automatic license plate readers, and social media to keep communities safe.
New requirements and evolved responsibilities bring new demands on already limited resources. They also require new ways of thinking, and new specialized knowledge (e.g., cybersecurity). At the same time, resources aren’t necessarily growing in turn.
It’s a challenge to identify and evaluate the varied ways in which these channels interact with one another to create additional complexity. While technology might be a source of complexity in some situations, technology can also solve it.
Technology as Source and Solution
This is why your technology decisions are so important. Though it’s been identified as a channel that introduces complexity, Police Technology is a broad category. Its spot on the list is partially due to its categorical breadth compared to the days of the truncheon, whistle and lantern.
However, contemporary police technology extends beyond the tools and techniques you use in the field. While the introduction of body-worn cameras, TASERS, Mobile Computer Databases (MCDs), automated license plate readers (ALPRs) and DNA analysis help police manage crime, on their own, they don’t provide much insight into the overall effectiveness of police.
Useful Guides to Navigate New Terrain
Police technology needs to perform for an agency under volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) conditions. Part of fully using new technology is understanding its why. People go on auto-pilot when it comes to upgrading their phone or acquiring some other shiny tech, but a different mindset is needed for evaluating technology for work.
Luckily, choosing technology for your department is not an exercise requiring you to reinvent the wheel. Organizations like IACP and PERF recognized that police executives needed to develop a shared framework for choosing, implementing, and using technology.
IACP’s Technology Policy Framework (2014)
This framework sets out a set of “universal principles” to “be viewed as a guide in the development of effective policies for technologies.” This is useful for agencies concerned with data security, protecting the privacy of their officers, and conserving ever-tight resources.
From the report:
“Agencies should define the purpose, objectives, and requirements for implementing specific technology, and identify the types of data captured, stored, generated, or otherwise produced.”
“Agencies should articulate in writing, educate personnel regarding, and enforce agency policies and procedures governing adoption, deployment, use, and access to the technology and the data it provides. These policies and procedures should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis, and whenever the technology or its use, or use of the data it provides significantly changes.”
The whole framework is worth reviewing whenever you plan to invest in a new technology.
PERF and Lockheed Martin’s Law Enforcement Technology Needs Assessment (2009)
PERF and Lockheed Martin approached the question of police technology from a different perspective. Instead of guidance on policy, they set out to, “explore and document:
The operational needs of law enforcement agencies
The law enforcement perspective on technology—including beliefs about its effectiveness
A prioritized list of technologies to develop for law enforcement
Barriers to the introduction of technology in the LEA community”
Ultimately, the study found that adopting new technology depends on police executives who “understand the importance of technology and can link technology to the agency’s overarching strategic goals.”
Simple is No Longer an Option
The technology landscape is not likely to simplify in the coming years. If anything, police executives will have to become comfortable working and delegating within an ecosystem of complex technologies like artificial intelligence, virtual reality, the rapidly expanding Internet of Things, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
There isn’t a single solution to offsetting the complexity introduced through technology, but there are solutions. Finding the right technology partners is a good first step after you’ve gone through the exercises to uncover what your agency needs in the context of its goals. After you’ve made a decision on a technology, you need to introduce it to your officers and champion adoption. We’ll address the typical pain points agency’s experience during an implementation and ways to avoid them.
(Ed. Note – This is the second part of a two-post series. Read the first post here.)
On Oct. 7, 2015, more than 100 of the nation’s leading law enforcement officers and politicians met in Washington D.C. to discuss the recent rise in violence experienced in a number of major U.S. cities. Convened by then U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the purpose of the panel was to not only determine why violent crime was increasing in major cities but also how law enforcement could address it.
Police Use of Force: The YouTube Effect
The discussion took an interesting turn when the head of Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), Chuck Wexler, suggested that “perhaps the most difficult to calibrate, but the most significant, is this notion of a reduction in proactive policing.” Wexler was trying to point out a gap in cause and effect. Was crime a rising wave overpowering law enforcement agencies across the country, or was something else leading to the perceived rise in violent crime? Could it be that police were less proactive than they were? And if so, what was the cause?
Leaders from multiple major cities noted an emerging trend they were calling, “the YouTube Effect.” They’d observed their officers withdrawing from proactive policing following a cluster of high-profile cases where the use of force had been captured on video and distributed on different platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. These videos took split-second decisions and exposed them to an unprecedented level of public scrutiny.
Officers and law enforcement leadership weren’t prepared to manage the speed and amplification of negative sentiment made possible by social media. Seemingly overnight, what once might have been considered the exception became representative of law enforcement in its entirety. Officers found themselves existing in a limbo between law enforcement expectations and fearing that a single misinterpreted encounter could lead to a career-ending media frenzy. Or worse.
Later that month, in an address to several hundred law students, then FBI Director James Comey asked: “In today’s YouTube world, are officers reluctant to get out of their cars and do the work that controls violent crime?” Additionally, Comey said reducing crime requires a strong police presence of officers willing to proactively seek out and stop criminal activity. Increasingly, it seemed, this willingness was offset by the perceived threat of viral videos.
Data Points: What Does Law Enforcement Think?
In 2017, the nonpartisan research group, the Pew Research Center partnered with the National Police Research Platform to conduct an expansive study of 7,917 American police officers, working in departments of 100 or more officers. The purpose of this study was to determine officers’ opinions of the policing profession amid widespread calls for police reform and anti-police protests.
The study, one of the largest of its kind ever conducted, surveyed American police officers on a variety of topics, mostly related to their feelings about their profession, how society views policing and how these things have changed over time. Considering the sample size (7,917), this study presents a statistically accurate representation of law enforcement’s feelings on the topic of policing.
Police on Policing
According to the study, 86% of officer respondents said the policing profession is now harder due to recent high-profile fatal encounters between police and minorities, and these incidents have made policing more dangerous. Additionally, it found 86% of officer respondents from departments with 2,600 officers or more said their fellow officers are more hesitant to stop and question individuals who may appear suspicious.
Furthermore, 85% of officer respondents in the 2,600 officer or more category reported being more reluctant to use force, even when force is warranted.
In regard to actually using force, 56% of officer respondents were concerned their peers would spend too much time diagnosing situations before acting decisively, while 41% were concerned their peers wouldn’t spend enough time diagnosing situations before acting.
When addressing use-of-force policies, 26% of officer respondents felt their department’s use of force guidelines were too restrictive, while 73% sided with the policies striking the right balance between restrictive and too lenient.
Additionally, 34% of officer respondents felt their department’s use-of-force guidelines were very helpful, while 51% felt the policies were somewhat helpful. The remainder of that final group (14%) felt that the guidelines were not helpful in use-of-force situations.
Resolutions Through Legislation
The State of California chose to take a more official route to addressing police use of force following the March 2018 shooting of Stephen Clark by Sacramento Police Officers. Within days of the shooting, the Sacramento Police released the officer’s body cam footage, which was quickly shared across various social media platforms.
In response to widespread activist support, California legislators introduced Assembly Bill 392, which aimed to re-define when a police officer can use deadly force; recommending a shift from the Supreme Court standard of “reasonable” to a new threshold of “necessary”. Under this bill, an officer must justify why deadly force is necessary, though opponents worry it could subject the officer’s decision to the relatively easier analysis of 20/20 hindsight. Additionally, the bill includes the definition that an officer face an ‘imminent harm’ which “is not merely a fear of future harm, no matter how great the fear and no matter how great the likelihood of the harm, but one that… must be instantly confronted.”
Following initial disagreements about the language of AB 392, law enforcement organizations, the public, and legislators were able to come to a resolution on AB 392, which, as of this writing, is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
Decide in Seconds, Revisit for Years
The use of force is undergoing a rapid transformation catalyzed by factors like the “YouTube Effect” and new state legislation. There’s a natural tendency to resist change, but there’s no putting this particular genie back in the bottle. Law enforcement is still a relatively young profession, only formally coming to being in the early 19th century. What feels like change is actually evolution: as the environment introduces new challenges to law enforcement, agencies adapt and become better able to serve their community because of it.
There’s no denying that many use-of-force instances necessarily result from split-second decisions. What police executives can do to offset the frustration and reluctance stemming from the increased scrutiny is put systems and technology in place to ensure officers have the best preparation to make the best decisions in those seconds.
Historically, officer wellness has been viewed as the physical fitness of an officer. Today’s agencies recognize it’s important to show officers how to take care of both their bodies and mind. Emerging technology can help agencies better understand how the stresses of policing affect an officer’s mental health and provide guidance on how leadership can support personnel before the stakes are raised by a critical incident.
A police department is essentially a small community. Departments are predisposed to sharing ideas, norms, attitudes, ethics, and values. Some may value proactivity and arrests, while other departments may value community action and non-enforcement contacts.
It’s likely no child has ever spent a wish on becoming a paper pusher, but it’s an unavoidable part of nearly every job. Some companies, like those serving other businesses or selling goods directly to consumers, have pivoted to cloud-based document management, while others, namely government agencies and organizations serving the public, continue along the paper trail.
Paper continues to factor into your agency’s processes through its familiarity and ubiquity. At least, that’s how it’s been until recently. Digital products have rapidly assumed a commonplace role in the day-to-day of most people’s lives. People have skilled-up entirely on their own in order to communicate where their friends, family, and colleagues spend most of their time: online.
Most agencies find moving to a cloud-based or digital document management approach provides more control over compliance (like CALEA accreditation), security, collaboration, and general efficiency. If that sounds compelling, here’s where to start.
Preparing for a paperless agency
Identify and map your paper-based workflows
You can’t go paperless without knowing how you currently use paper. Instead of asking your team to provide a run-down of all the ways they use paper, make a list of the most important documents you see on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Then it’s time for a little reverse engineering. Trace the identified documents to their source (e.g., the first iteration of a Use -of-Force report, or the officer who fielded a citizen complaint), noting every person or process it encounters along the way. This exercise will uncover the many ways paper moves through your department and provide a roadmap for digitization.
What stays, what goes
While you identify your agency’s paper-based workflows, from where they originate to where they terminate, you can begin choosing which ones you’ll digitize and which you can abandon.
This step will vary by agency. While businesses might reinvent their processes every few years, many law enforcement agencies move at a slower pace. Modes of operating continue on through generations of law enforcement, adopted and perpetuated because, “That’s just how we do it.”
Pick an agreed upon time to start digitizing…and stick to it
This is where many businesses and agencies get stuck when moving away from paper (or while navigating any kind of change). There’s where you want to be and there’s where you’re at. Balancing between those realities can be uncomfortable, but necessary, for many leaders. The time-tested way to expedite change-management is to draw a line in the sand between past and present operations.
Choose a date for your agency to fully commit to digital processes, stick to it, and accept that some paper might find its way to your desk.
Support new processes with training (preferably online)
To ensure paper becomes the exception to the rule, your team will need training on your department’s new way of doing things. Once, you might have distributed print-outs to explain new methods or alert your personnel to changes. Embrace your new paperless agency by using an online training solution to teach people how to use your new digital processes. You can learn more about online training platforms, often called Learning Management Systems (LMS), here.
Why it’s worth your department’s time
Going paperless might sound daunting, but it pays off in the long run. Especially for organizations that handle a lot of data, are compelled to operate transparently, or have a field-based workforce. There are plenty of unique advantages each department will realize on the way to digitization, but we often see the following three outcomes regardless of an agency’s size or specifics.
Reduce the effort of compliance and accreditation
Law enforcement agencies are increasingly subject to a number of data transparency laws. Recent examples include California Senate Bill 1421 and Colorado’s House Bill 19-1119. Both of these laws require departments to produce documents related to internal affairs cases upon request from the public. Doing so with paper and excel spreadsheets just isn’t feasible. Consider the time your personnel would spend on a single request. What could they be doing instead?
Less paperwork, more police work
It’s a basic truth – the more time your officers spend on paperwork, the less time they’re spending out in the community. For better or worse, short-changing either isn’t acceptable, so your officers end up burning the candle at both ends. The impact is felt in your department, in your communities, and in the homes of your officers.
Improved collaboration between your agency and third-parties
No agency exists in a vacuum. Many use third-parties for training materials, accreditation management, and other operational support. Mentioned previously, most companies have started to embrace cloud content and data management. By working off paper, you won’t restrict your agency so much as devalue the impact third-party providers could have on your officers.
If you want to implement new de-escalation training, but the company only provides digital courses with online tests, would your officers be prepared to use them? Would you be able to evaluate the impact of that training by looking at whatever field reports are on hand? You might be able to do so, with enough time and assuming that data has been captured accurately. But time is a luxury in law enforcement.
Going paperless might sound intimidating to some, but your agency will continue to feel the positive impact for years to come. Paper was the reigning method of knowledge management for…a long time. Going digital will ensure your agency can focus on issues more important than process management, like community engagement.
Learn more about the Benchmark Management System® (BMS) here.
This site requires anonymous cookies and various third-party services to function properly.
To continue using the Benchmark Analytics website, you must consent to our Cookie and Privacy policies. I AgreeRead More