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.

up and to the right

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.

You can think about officer performance evaluation from three different, though equally important, perspectives. First, an officer’s performance is evaluated by field training officers (FTOs) based on how well they apply academy techniques to real-world scenarios as new recruits.

Continue reading “What Data to Consider when Evaluating a New Officer’s Performance”

Training doesn’t have a sterling record in the business world. Studies have found that after one hour, people forget more than 50% of a lesson.

This isn’t necessarily new information, either. In the 19th century, German Psychologist, Hermann Ebbinghaus, published research demonstrating “The Forgetting Curve.” He found that humans forget 40% of what they learn within 20 minutes.

How to Develop Goals for Your In-Service Learning Management System

After 9 hours, we’ve forgotten about 64%.

And yet we continue to train because we continue to uncover new approaches and new skills that can be critical to influencing how we work. The act of training itself isn’t falling short as much as the tools we use to deliver and reinforce it.

Organizations use Learning Management Systems (LMS) to provide training to their employees at scale. This software is often deployed using a Software-as-a-service (SaaS), or online training, model. Which means you and your team can access the software in the field, at your desk, or at home, without losing momentum.

Know What You Want from Your LMS

efore transitioning to a new LMS, or choosing one for the first time, it’s important to articulate exactly what you hope to get from it. SMART is a helpful framework for goal-setting that’s probably familiar. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

For example, a SMART goal could be:

  • 100% of patrol officers will have completed the revised Use of Force training by May 12, 2019.
  • By 2021, new de-escalation training will reduce citizen complaints by 25%

If you find you can’t execute against your goals with your current system, work with your team to find out why. Is it due to software limitations or something else? This will help you identify which features will be most important to your team should you choose to implement a new or different LMS.

What to Ask Before You Start Goal-Setting

Once you’ve decided to pursue an LMS, create a rubric to guide your decision making. It should reflect your goals for the system, as well as any internal or external mandates your agency must comply with.

Support the certification of your officers

Certification is a critical part of an officer’s career. For better or worse, many advances in technology entail a certification process: breathalyzers, TASERS, firearms. The list goes on. This can make staying compliant feel like a full-time job, a responsibility that’s only exacerbated by outdated tools like desktop spreadsheets. An LMS can automate much of this process, thus reducing your overall department risk of under-delivering on training (and increasing your exposure to liability) while improving the training experience for your officers. Leveraging this automation lets you comfortably co-exist with the complexity of maintaining certifications across your entire department.

Reduce the burden of data management (literally…and figuratively)

binders-of-officer-training-dataBinders are no one’s friend. Especially when you’re trying to deliver crucial training in use of force or active shooters. Using an LMS lets you deliver courses to your team through a centralized digital classroom that’s easily maintained by your trainers. This enables your department to stay nimble in understanding how to respond to emerging threats while maintaining best practices in other areas.

Confidently review status updates on the progress of officer training

When a salesperson misunderstands or fails to adopt tactics from a coaching session, the worst-case scenario is some prospect enduring a bad pitch. For police officers, the consequences are high-stakes. Using an LMS provides your leadership team with a single view into training adoption and progress. This is especially useful during accreditation processes like the one offered by CALEA, or when maintaining training standards mandated by the state or POST.

Minimize your department’s exposure to risk

If an officer’s performance is ever scrutinized by a third-party external to your department, the last thing you want is gaps in training data (or people data in general). An LMS allows you to easily generate documentation that shows a holistic view of the your officer’s training history, which you can refine to only include data relevant to the case in question. This ease of reporting extends to any request for officer records like those solicited under FOIA.

Provide your officers with the tools to continuously hone and learn important skills

Perhaps most important, an LMS provides the digital infrastructure your officers need to perform at their best. It also provides you with the insight you need to shape future training goals based on performance or knowledge gaps that reveal themselves through your department’s data.

Which Features Support Your Goals?

Once you have the goals for your LMS documented, you can start to identify which features and functionally you’ll need to support them. Here are some examples of options you’ll encounter:

  • Tracking adoption and training activity
  • Reporting on compliance and officer performance
  • Integrations with other technology you use to track Use of Force, Community Engagement activities, as well as performance evaluation
  • SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) Compliance, which is a content development standard used by training providers; this is especially important if you rely on a lot of third-party content for training
  • User interface (how does it look to your learners and trainers, and how easy is it to use?)

As you think about your current training resources and how you’d like to see them evolve in the coming years, consider whether or not they can support SMART goals to the same degree an LMS can. If not, it’s likely time to consider a new solution.

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.