At their core, early intervention systems have similarities with the philosophies that guide personnel development and human resources best practices commonly seen in the private sector. Their goal is to aid in evaluating an officer’s (employee) performance, identifying areas of improvement, and opportunities for support. However, in the case of law enforcement, the stakes are much higher as these performance issues relate directly to critical matters like agency readiness and maintaining the public’s trust.

Given that early intervention systems can significantly impact public trust and perception of policing, it stands that they should be held to a more rigorous standard than performance review technology used in much of the private sector. False negatives derived from faulty analysis are potentially costly, contributing to an agency’s exposure to the risk of a lawsuit or civil rights claim. What’s more, failure to provide adequate support in the case of a true positive can have a similar effect. This article explores the intersections of technology and human performance and how their relationship can assist, or hinder, a high-performing early intervention program.

Building the Tech

True/False PositivesThe first iterations of early intervention systems were relatively primitive compared to some of the more sophisticated systems in use today. Most notably, limitations in tech – processors, and data storage capacity posed challenges to complex and resource-intensive data analysis. These early systems also lacked the benefits of decades of research and on-the-ground experience, which are critical elements of an effective EIS. Given these limitations, most of those systems (and almost all today) relied on rules-based thresholds:

  • Department-level thresholds: There are standards set at the departmental level—for example, a certain number of complaints in a specified period.
  • Performance indicator ratios: As the name implies, these are a ratio between two different performance variables. Shifts worked versus complaints, for example.
  • Peer-officer average thresholds: a “like to like” comparison of officers in similar assignments or positions.

In the early 1990s, early intervention systems became increasingly common in best practice recommendations from the major professional and certification organizations. Then starting in 1997, federal consent decrees frequently mandated the use of EIS as a part of broader reform-minded measures. As EIS were more widely deployed, this added a more comprehensive sample size of users that researchers could use to study such a system’s efficacy and identify where they could be improved.

Those studying early intervention systems began to realize that the predictive ability of threshold-based systems was poor. One study found that a threshold-based system deployed in a major metro police department with more than 1,800 sworn officers incorrectly flagged hundreds of officers and failed to identify many others requiring intervention support. Even when additional variables were added to more rudimentary threshold-based systems, evidence showed they generally lacked the contextual analysis needed to perform as well as systems that incorporated predictive modeling. The same study found that when the department deployed a new, modeling-based EIS developed at the University of Chicago and now offered by Benchmark Analytics as First Sign® Early Intervention, there was a 20% reduction in false positives and a 75% increase in true positives, demonstrating the advantages of a more sophisticated, predictive EIS.

The Human Element

Early intervention systems are an excellent tool for supervisors and departmental leaders, but they are still a tool. They can be used to inform personnel decisions but are not intended to be the sole arbiter of these decisions. A well-constructed EIS can point to appropriate and evidence-based interventions, but ultimately that follow-through requires human interaction and support to be effective and lasting. These are a few practical and human factors that can contribute to or detract from an early intervention system’s success:

Accountability: Just as officers are held accountable for their actions on duty, supervisors are ultimately responsible for the quality of support they give to their reports. Interventions triggered by an EIS are almost always confidential as they can involve human resources issues, sometimes concerning mental health or sensitive matters. The private nature of these discussions risks inconsistency in intervention tactics, a major hurdle for effective intervention as it can lead to a perception of favoritism.

Budget and capital constraints: An EIS requires people to perform the intervention whether that is a referral, conversation, or other ongoing support. All of these require time, which has a cost. Agencies with access to more resources typically have more robust mental health and officer support systems. In contrast, agencies with more limited funding need to balance immediate and long-term funding needs. Officer mental health and wellness are essential facets of early intervention, and having the resources to maintain these support programs is a significant advantage in fielding an adequate EIS.

EIS design: Just as personal bias can affect intervention decisions, bias in design can lessen the effectiveness of an EIS. Technology is not inherently neutral and, without careful design, can consciously or unconsciously reflect the biases of its creators. While it is important to note there has been no research to suggest any evidence of this in early intervention systems, basing design decisions on evidence generated from peer-reviewed research can serve as a safeguard against unconscious bias in tech design.

Making the Technology Work

A new era of police reform has increased public interest in early intervention and made it a priority for professional organizations supporting the research and the academics involved in it. Data and experience are driving the newest iterations of these systems, and it is clear from these insights that incorporating research-based design into a predictive rather than threshold-based EIS is the most promising path for effective intervention. In partnership with a diversified research consortium, Benchmark Analytics uses peer-reviewed research-based design to build its EIS, First Sign®. Benchmark’s data scientists and engineers leverage the power of the world’s largest multi-jurisdictional officer performance database while incorporating iterative learning that uses cumulative analytics to get “smarter” and more efficient over time. This technology gives supervisors a more holistic picture of an officer’s performance, especially relative to others, and enables them to engage in more targeted and meaningful intervention.

City risk managers, municipal budget directors, and law enforcement leaders are increasingly viewing rapidly growing insurance premiums related to policing as a major concern going into 2022. With premiums rising as much as 20% year over year, many municipal budget officials are finding themselves in a difficult position to balance revenue and expenditure on essential city services. What’s more, a global pandemic and changing legislation have created new funding priorities.

raising ratesFor municipalities with police agencies, law enforcement-related insurance coverage is typically the most significant contributor to overall municipal insurance costs. A diverse set of factors are creating the upward pressures in premiums felt around the country including increasing severity of liability claims, statutory changes to workers compensation coverage, the global pandemic, and hard reinsurance market conditions.

Police Misconduct & Liability Claims

Misconduct settlements are among the most publicly visible drivers of growing municipal insurance premiums related to law enforcement. Though data is limited due to a patchwork of reporting requirements, available data shows that many of the largest municipalities in the country have paid hundreds of millions of dollars over the previous ten years. Whether these settlement claims are paid out through commercial insurance, municipal risk pools, or self-insurance, it is clear that the strain is being felt at the local level in many municipalities.

However, there is something of a disconnect between the perception of the frequency and size of payouts in settled cases of police misconduct. Available data shows that the overall number of police misconduct settlements has remained relatively flat or decreased since 2015. In addition to increased media coverage and public attention, what has changed is the size of the settlements in misconduct cases.

The are several theories as to why this might be. One is that attorneys taking misconduct allegations to court may be getting more selective in the clients they represent, preferring to pursue cases more likely to result in a settlement as opposed to lengthy litigation. Another mainstay theory is that cities, especially those that self-insure, may be more eager to settle to avoid an expensive, years-long trial that could damage a city’s or department’s reputation.

Though experts continue to debate the cause for the rise in settlements costs, it is believed the frequency of claims did not increase much simply because policies and regulation of law enforcement agencies had largely remained unchanged in the 2010s. With the dawning of a new decade, substantial changes have come into play. A tidal wave of reform efforts spurred by several high-profile incidents has led to significant legislative changes in law enforcement regulation and practice. What’s more, a global pandemic has placed what is likely to be once-in-a-generation strains on law enforcement and government.  At the end of the day, the increasing severity of claims is a direct driver of increased premiums for municipalities.

Compensation-Related Legislation

The global COVID-19 pandemic has been a substantial source of change and instability across many sectors for the past two years. Much like it has upended our day-to-day lives, it has also put first-responders once again front-and-center in our response to the crisis. Responding to people in distress during a pandemic has put first-responders at increased risk for contracting the virus. Look no further than recent statistics involving law enforcement officer deaths to understand the pandemic has played an outsized role in contributing to on-duty deaths.

Recognizing the issue’s urgency, state legislatures have introduced new laws to cover injury to first responders due to COVID-19 in their state workers compensation programs. Lawmakers in 27 states proposed legislation to establish workers compensation presumptions of compensability related to COVID-19. Though some bills have since failed, several of these pieces of legislation are still pending at the time of this writing.

In addition to the strain of COVID-19, several high-profile incidents involving police have led to rapid, reform-driven legislative changes to policing. Much of the legislation is focused on accountability and transparency measures – use-of-force procedures, body-worn cameras, duty to intervene, and measures concerning the deployment of specific tactics are common. What doesn’t always get as much press are elements of legislation designed to address and improve officer physical and mental wellness. To many, these new laws reflect a growing societal awareness of the importance of mental health, especially in first responders.

For example, recent changes to the Minnesota workers compensation statute have created an evidentiary presumption for PTSD claims. Practically, this means it is much easier for those making PTSD claims to receive workers compensation benefits. From 2014 to 2019, the city had a total of 30 PTSD claims from first responders. In contrast, from mid-2020 to the end of 2021, the city had more than 180 claims. The total cost of these claims will easily be in the tens of millions – all of which are subsequently reflected through increasing rates for these lines of insurance.

A Hard Reinsurance Market

Increasing settlement costs arising from misconduct allegations, the COVID-19 pandemic, a changing workers compensation landscape, and other forms of social inflation are creating an excess loss for insurers. Reinsurers cover these losses through excess loss contracts. However, the reinsurance sector is currently experiencing hard market conditions. Simply, there are significant constraints in capacity (capital) in the reinsurance market driven by an aversion to new and changing forms of risk driven by unprecedented events such as the recent wave of settlements in police misconduct cases.

A tightening of the supply of capital in the reinsurance market is leading some municipalities and risk pools to pay significantly more for reinsurance. In some more extreme cases, these entities are not receiving any bids for reinsurance on excess loss. Driven by low supply and market volatility, reinsurance cost increases create additional upward pressure to premiums for municipalities, presenting an obvious challenge to city budgets.

What’s to Come

The pace of legislation driving increases in municipal insurance premiums shows no signs of letting up. The reform dialog around policing is likely to continue, creating new demands on agencies and officers to evolve into new capabilities. Additionally, increased awareness of mental health issues is likely to translate into greater availability of health care and workers compensation coverage for these conditions. In addition to social inflation pressures, a hard reinsurance market will creating further stress on municipal budgets in the near term.

Risk managers, insurers, and policymakers are already looking for new tools to understand and plan for these changing risks. Risk Managers, policymakers and law enforcement leaders are increasingly relying on analytic tools to help them better understand risks in law enforcement and address them before they become more significant problems.  In the long term, the only way to reverse the cycle of rising municipal insurance costs is to fundamentally mitigate the underlying risk that is driving increased claims payment.


Increased awareness of mental health issues related to policing is a significant driver of the reform dialog in the United States. In 2015, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing made several sweeping recommendations for greater research on the intersection of mental health and policing, and action addressing everything from law enforcement officers’ mental health needs to what training officers receive on mental health issues. Over the last three decades, agencies have trained Crisis Intervention Teams (CITs) to respond to calls related to mental health. As the latest research adds to our understanding of mental health and policing, CITs have continued to evolve to meet their missions’ demands better. This article explores the context in which they were initially created, how they serve their communities, and some of the critiques of the strategy.

Shifts in Mental Health Care

Crisis Intervention TrainingIn the United States, a significant shift in how mental health services were funded in the early 1980s led to major changes in how officers are trained to deal with mental health issues. In the simplest terms, funding at the federal level was diverted in the form of block grants to states, which according to the National Institutes of Health shifted the federal role to “one of providing technical assistance to increase the capacity of state and local providers of mental health services.” The merits and efficacy of this change to funding are the subjects of frequent debate. Still, one point of general agreement is that this policy shift has led to a patchwork system of mental health resources throughout the country, with evident disparities between states and between urban and rural areas.

This new funding model, coupled with changing attitudes towards institutionalization, led to a marked shift in providing mental health in the United States. In many cases, shortfalls in the availability of mental health care and related mental health crises came under the purview of law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Illustrating this point are recent statistics suggesting that while an estimated 5.2% of the US adult population lives with serious mental illness, that same population experiencing severe mental health issues makes up an estimated 16% of the prison population. This, combined with research suggesting as many as 20% of police calls are related to mental health issues or crises, makes the argument that law enforcement is being put into a role it isn’t always adequately equipped to handle.

Law Enforcement Adapts

Recognizing this gap in capacity versus need arising from mental health-related calls, agencies began to look for new ways to augment and improve their capabilities. In 1988, the Memphis Police Department (MPD) pioneered a first-of-its-kind formalized strategy to address an increased reliance on law enforcement to respond to mental health crises by creating the first CIT.

The department partnered with local mental health providers, the Memphis chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), as well as the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee to lay the groundwork for training a new, specialized unit. This evidence-based approach incorporated research findings and proven mental health practices to more safely and effectively address mental health crisis calls for assistance. An initial group of volunteer officers received extensive and ongoing crisis intervention training to help them recognize situations involving mental illness and prioritized techniques like triage and de-escalation, helping officers connect those with serious mental illness with care providers rather than relying on arrest or detention as a means of resolution.

The MPD’s CIT program has shown significant positive results and served as a model for agencies nationwide. As of 2021, similar CIT programs drawing from the experience of MPD have been replicated in more than 2,700 communities throughout the country.

Successful Crisis Intervention Training Implementation

An effective CIT program creates tangible benefits for persons with serious mental illness. By avoiding arrest and incarceration and instead referring subjects to mental health resources, CIT programs can help the mentally ill avoid arrest records and convictions that can be barriers to employment, housing, and public services. There are also demonstrated benefits to departments that support CTIs. NAMI has collated and analyzed decades of research and identified three primary benefits.

Giving law enforcement officers better tools to do their job safely and effectively
Research suggests that officers who have undergone crisis intervention training are significantly more likely to report verbal engagement of negotiation as the highest level of force used in encounters with those experiencing mental illness. The same study showed that referrals and transport for care were more likely than arrests. Further research investigating the MPD’s CIT program found an 80% reduction in officer injuries during mental health calls involving crisis, suggesting a tangible benefit to officer safety.

Maximizing Officer Efficiency in the Field
Evidence suggests that, in some cases, CITs reduce overall time spent on mental health calls. Specialized crisis intervention training gives officers the tools to recognize scenarios involving mental health and respond appropriately. Additionally, the lower incidence of injury and use of force reduces officer time spent involved with rehabilitation, court, or internal affairs investigations.  This allows officers to get back into the field on patrol more efficiently.

Cost Savings for Governing Bodies
Put simply: jails and prisons are not mental health treatment facilities. NAMI explored the costs of incarceration versus mental health treatment and found that the cost of as few as 35 days of adult incarceration is roughly equivalent to that of an average course of inpatient psychiatric treatment. In the case of juveniles, who are much more expensive to house in detention, that figure drops to as few as six days.

Criticism of CIT

Though there is research to suggest a CIT program can produce benefits for law enforcement officers, the communities they serve, and those with mental illnesses – the findings are not conclusive. As with so many policing strategies and programs, the chances of success lie in the implementation. There is a danger that CIT training can be seen as another one-time box to tick off. Without follow-up and ongoing education, that training might not be adequately integrated into an agency’s overall strategy. Additionally, these strategies rely on the availability of mental health resources that may not be readily available in an era of municipal and state budget cuts, especially in rural and otherwise underserved communities. There is agreement among many in the field that, no matter how well-implemented a CIT is, it cannot entirely replace an effective mental health care system.

As CIT training and practice continue to evolve, they will rely on new research and evidence-based recommendations from mental health professionals and law enforcement leadership to build on the past successes and learn from missteps. Though these programs are not a one-step cure-all for limited mental health care resources, they will be vital in the mental health equation.

Look for a future post in which we’ll explore different CIT strategies and training methods in agencies across the country and how they are adapting to meet the needs of 21st century policing.



Law enforcement is inherently a 24/7 profession. Calls for service can come in at any hour of the day, and it is mission-critical that a department’s officers be alert and able to respond to these calls quickly and efficiently. The nature of shift work and its often-unpredictable scheduling can lead to a substantial occurrence of fatigue in law enforcement, which in turn can manifest as a challenge to an agency’s readiness as well as a genuine health concern for officers.

Effects of Fatigue in Law Enforcement

Fatigue isn’t always one discrete condition but rather can present itself as a range of symptoms that includes feelings of tiredness, depression, other mood disorders, and reduced mental and physical capacities. A lack of sleep can also lead to memory impairment, irritability, and stress-related illnesses like obesity and hypertension.

Night Fatigue

More than 90 percent of law enforcement officers report being routinely fatigued, and 85 percent report driving while drowsy. Effectively, officers are almost always doing their jobs while experiencing some degree of fatigue.

More than 90 percent of law enforcement officers report being routinely fatigued, and 85 percent report driving while drowsy. National Institute of Justice Journal.

Beyond the health impacts, persistent fatigue creates real-world dangers for officers and the communities they serve. More officers are killed by unintended events, like auto collisions, than events related to the commission of felonies. In recent years, up to a third of officer deaths have involved automotive accidents. Research into officer fatigue and auto collisions indicates that as many as 46% of officers have nodded off while driving. The danger doesn’t stop with the end of a shift either, as many officers endure substantial commutes to reach their homes.

What is Contributing to Officer Fatigue?

Long workweeks with the possibility of overtime or moonlighting are the most attributable causes of officer fatigue. A study published in the National Institute of Justice Journal looked at officer fatigue’s underlying and less-obvious causes. Though it is difficult to establish specific causes and effects of a subject as complicated as fatigue, the research pointed to five main areas of concern related to officer fatigue.


Shorter duration shifts that occur with greater frequency are shown to be more disruptive to sleep patterns. Research findings suggest that agencies that schedule a 40-hour workweek over less than five days reduce the fatigue felt by officers.


As we age, our ability to cope with fatigue diminishes. This is especially true for shift workers. As such, older officers tend to experience the effects of inconsistent shift scheduling more intensely than their younger colleagues.


Officers with young children experience profound fatigue at a greater rate than officers without children. This may be especially true for women in law enforcement. Interestingly, though female officers’ sleep quality is often reported as lower than their male counterparts, they tend to report less fatigue.


As more officers live outside the communities they work in, commuting times are generally rising throughout the country. Longer commutes, compounded by the stress of heavy traffic in many metro areas, show a strong correlation with reported fatigue levels.


Irregular shift schedules can play havoc with a person’s circadian rhythms (the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle). In contrast, fixed shift schedules do not seem to produce such a dramatic effect on reported fatigue.


As many as 86% of officers state their agencies do not have enough sworn and support staff. These shortfalls are causing severe strain in scheduling at agencies around the country.

Compassion Fatigue

Though not a new concept, compassion fatigue is increasingly part of the conversation surrounding officer fatigue. Though much police work is relatively routine, most officers will respond to extreme situations like domestic violence, a mass-casualty event, or child exploitation at least once in their careers. Typically, officers are called to service by a desire to help their communities, and in these intense situations, they operate as caregivers as much as first-responders, comforting victims and working to restore a sense of order to otherwise chaotic situations.

A growing body of research suggests that repeated trauma accrues within an officer among law enforcement officers and other first responders and medical personnel, potentially leading them to have difficulty disengaging from a stressful shift. Compassion fatigue impacts cognitive processes, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and negative behavioral patterns that can often involve substance abuse. Recent survey data shows as many as 23% of officers report high levels of compassion fatigue. The anecdotal discussion suggests this number is likely growing.

Charting a Course of Action

To combat officer fatigue, departments are moving past long-established law enforcement traditions and, instead, are following the data from research to inform their decision-making. Some departments are experimenting with and seeing results from four-day workweeks and compressed shifts as a part of broader wellness programming. Other departments limit officer overtime, capping them at no more than 20-25 hours per week to encourage rest and healthy sleep schedules. Giving officers a say in their shift schedule has also shown promise in reducing the effects of shiftwork, lending some predictability to an officer’s schedule.

While structural forces constitute a significant driver of fatigue risk factors, officers can take action to reduce these risks for themselves. Good physical fitness can mitigate the effects of fatigue. Quitting smoking or nicotine use and moderating caffeine and alcohol intake are also positive steps, often supported by Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), that promote the healthy sleep and rest needed to fight fatigue.

The study of compassion fatigue is not as advanced as the study of other forms of fatigue. However, the ability of an officer to experience gratification from their service seems to be an essential factor in managing compassion fatigue. Agency leaders can help promote a feeling of gratification from service by inviting officers to share positive stories of their impact on the community in rollcall or other ways. Peer-support programs, mental health support, and different facets of EAP offerings also show real promise in emphasizing the value of an officer’s work.

The nature of policing will always create significant challenges to officer wellness. The combination of a 24-hour schedule with calls for service that can be emotionally intense poses real dangers to officers’ mental and physical health. By understanding what causes fatigue, departmental leaders can follow the research to craft policies that can help reduce the prevalence of fatigue in law enforcement.

In this era of police reform, the cost of misconduct settlements is a significant aspect of the public conversation around law enforcement. Coupled with this is a heightened awareness and concern about officer injuries on the job and the persistent and potentially costly effects of mental health challenges associated with the profession — like PTSD. Agencies manage these risks via policies and procedures, many of which originate from municipal insurers and risk pools. This makes risk management a critical operational and strategic concern of government agencies and a financial management issue as well.

Municipal Risk PoolsThe Association of Government Risk Pools (AGRiP) estimates that as many as 80% of municipalities participate in one or more risk pools. Similar to commercial insurance, these entities provide coverage in the event of lawsuits and help law enforcement agencies craft policies that reduce their risk exposure. However, they differ substantially in the way they operate and the services they provide. This article will explore how risk pools came into being, what they do for municipalities and law enforcement agencies, and their broader role in the reform landscape.

A brief history

The rise in the prevalence of municipal liability insurance is commonly associated with the Monroe v. Pape Supreme Court decision in 1961. The case began as a civil rights complaint involving a law enforcement search and interrogation, with the plaintiff alleging the deprivation of constitutional rights. The Court’s decision held that a municipality could be sued for damages related to the denial of constitutional rights.

This change in the interpretation of the law opened a new area of liability for cities. While the case itself was focused on a civil rights issue involving policing, the decision also impacted facets of government like school allocations and business licensure, to name just a few. To mitigate the impact of this new avenue of liability, municipalities looked towards the commercial insurance market to provide coverage against lawsuits and settlements.

Through the 1970s, a majority of municipalities carried commercial insurance. Beginning in the mid-1970s and accelerating in the early-1980s, a crisis in the municipal insurance market led to a period of substantial insurance cost instability. Reinsurers were folding rapidly and rates paid by cities grew dramatically as the market contracted from the supply side. The causes of the market disruption are still debated today, but the result of municipalities shouldering the burden of untenable premiums for their insurance led many to seek out alternative sources of coverage.

Risk Pools Emerge

Intergovernmental risk pools gained traction as commercial markets experienced their collapse in the early 1980s. In practice, they function much like commercial insurance companies. Cities, counties, or other government entities group together to pool their risk to diversify it and to control costs. By managing risk factors collaboratively, member entities reduce the overall cost of coverage for one another.

When managed effectively, municipal risk pools have the potential to offer several key benefits to participating entities. These are a few of the most commonly seen benefits:

Cost savings

Typical profit margins in commercial insurance range from 10-15%. Risk pools are, by definition, non-profit public organizations. Their coverage is not offered as a commodity but rather as a public service, leading to significant savings for member entities.  The National League of Cities (NLC) estimates that members of municipal risk pools save 10-20% annually over the long run compared to purchasing commercial insurance.

Member expertise

Municipal risk pools are mission-driven organizations with executive boards comprised of representatives from their member entities. In the case of risk pools that manage law enforcement risk, this means both serving and retired officers and specialized experts. They often bring with them a level of experience and expertise that is not only useful in crafting policy but frequently affords them an innate rapport with the law enforcement leaders that are charged with enacting risk management strategies. The familiarity with the language and culture of law enforcement helps promote trust and increase buy-in from member entities.

Long-term thinking

A public entity risk pool aims to stabilize long-term costs by reducing risk and increasing safety. Member entities all have shared accountability or “skin in the game” as their risk management policies, given the shared nature of risk and cost among the pool members, are likely to impact the overall health of the pool. With no quarterly profit incentive, risk pool members are empowered to create long-term policies initiatives centered on making meaningful change and lower costs for member entities.


Risk pool regulations vary state by state, but, in general, pools have a substantial degree of autonomy in their operations and decision-making. Because member entities share the same goals and understand the risks they are managing, efficient and effective management is mutually beneficial to members. Risk pools also usually seek accreditation which requires strict auditing related to governance, operational and financial practices, and a rigorous review of claims and underwriting.

The Role of Risk Pools in Police Reform

There’s a growing school of thought that insurers like risk pools can play an important role in enacting police reform efforts. Risk pools, by their nature, incentivize policies that reduce settlement, legal, and workers’ compensation costs. Policies that mitigate officer actions that can end in settlements are often complementary to those that minimize officer injury. When risk management is framed as common-sense cost savings rather than moralistic lines, there is evidence that buy-in from law enforcement agencies may increase.

“The idea is that the police may be less defensive when the constraints on them are framed as part of a sensible risk-management strategy to reduce liability and free up funds to pay for operational concerns, and equipment, and salaries.” John Rappaport, How Private Insurers Regulate Public Police.

Risk pools have the potential to contribute to the reform dialog in an especially impactful way compared to commercial insurance providers. With specialized knowledge derived from both member experience and expertise serves as a proving ground for new ideas that contribute to the general public’s safety and law enforcement officers. By improving public and workplace safety, law enforcement agencies can reduce their exposure to liability risks while, at the same time, increasing their effectiveness in fulfilling their mission to protect and serve their communities.

A new era of police reform has brought with it increased public attention to the liability costs of law enforcement, specifically in cases of misconduct settlements and risk management policy. Though the overall number of claims brought against law enforcement agencies has been relatively flat in the previous decade, the cost of misconduct settlements has increased dramatically. As a part of the broad continuum of reform efforts currently underway throughout the country, departments and municipalities are taking a close look at their risk management strategies to control liability costs.

Risk Management Basics

Risk management in law enforcement entered a new stage with the Supreme Court’s decision in Monroe v. Pape (1961). This decision, stemming from a high-profile misconduct claim, allowed individuals to sue law enforcement officers for damages in cases related to the deprivation of constitutional rights. The ruling opened a new area of risk for departments and municipalities, making it necessary for them to address legal costs and potential settlements arising from misconduct-related litigation.

Risk ManagementCommercial insurance companies were the first to offer policies specifically designed to help municipalities and law enforcement agencies mitigate their exposure to the financial risk of litigation. These policies worked on the basic principles of commercial insurance: grouping and limiting risk factors. Insurance market disruptions of the late 1970s and early 1980s led some municipalities and agencies to turn to risk pools and self-insurance. Now the vast majority of agencies and municipalities use at least one of these strategies.

“These insurers influence law enforcement agencies in various ways. They shape the content of departmental policies on things like high-speed pursuits and the use of force. They have a hand in how officers are trained, and how much training they receive.” John Rappaport, Professor of Law, University of Chicago Research Matters Blog

There is no one “right” strategy for a municipality. The complexity of local and state laws and the unique circumstances confronting leaders in different cities and departments make it difficult to make overly broad characterizations about any one strategy, let alone assess its efficacy in a general way. Though all of these insurance strategies have the same goal – managing risk in law enforcement – they take decidedly different approaches. Here are some of the critical points in each risk management strategy:

Municipal Risk Pools

In the law enforcement arena, risk pools are the most common kind of risk protection employed by municipalities, with a significant number of small- to medium-sized cities participating in these organizations. They came into prominence in the early 1980s to mitigate the cost fluctuations that many municipalities were experiencing due to disruptions in the commercial insurance market. Practically, they serve a similar function to commercial insurance companies. Cities, counties, or other government entities group together to pool their risk to diversify it and to control costs.

Risk pools are specialized “non-profit, mission-driven” entities that, optimally, mean cost savings for municipalities compared to the fees and need for profit in commercial insurance. They often employ retired police officers and administrators as consultants to help guide member municipalities’ risk management policies. Additionally, many risk pools engage with third-party data analysis providers to understand risk from a research-based perspective. While the recommendations provided by in-house staff and third-party firms aren’t always binding, this fluency in the language of law enforcement, coupled with an understanding of the nature of the profession in general offered by risk pool officials, helps engender a spirit of buy-in from member agencies.

Commercial Insurance

Today, commercial insurance is most often utilized by midsized cities with populations around 100,000 residents. This insurance works much like other types of commercial insurance, with insurance providers assessing risk, charging a premium, and providing coverage based on the terms of the agreement. In terms of overall costs, they can be seen as more stable than alternative forms of municipal insurance, though sometimes more costly. Commercial insurance companies typically offer many different types of insurance, leading to a much more diverse portfolio of risk than other means of municipal insurance. After insurance pricing and supply fluctuations of the late-1970s and early-1980s disrupted coverage for some municipalities, the industry is now well-regulated and better-capitalized, offering another layer of financial stability to cities.

Insurance companies use loss prevention analysts to study an agency’s policies to understand better what’s working or where they can offer specific procedures or policy suggestions. The companies also utilize underwriting and price setting to incentivize adopting policies they believe will reduce risk. The relationship between insurers and municipalities is a business relationship — meaning that while these recommendations and pricing structures do create an incentive, they typically are not binding.


Self-insurance as a practice is most frequently, though not exclusively, seen in larger cities with extensive tax bases and substantial budgets. It rarely means “going without” an insurance structure but instead carefully assessing risk and planning a budget to cover litigation costs. This type of risk management gives municipalities the greatest autonomy in setting policy and, potentially, if not managed effectively, more risk exposure.

Risk management practices are generally at the municipality’s discretion. Consent decrees and state mandates can also play a significant role in setting policies related to risk management. The robust budgets of many larger cities can help them absorb the costs of litigation and more easily put practical new risk management tools into places like body-worn cameras, smart car technology, or early intervention systems.

Risk Solutions

In response to an urgent need for more effective risk management strategies in law enforcement, Benchmark Analytics is launching Benchmark Risk Solutions a first-of-its-kind product suite using evidence-based risk analytics, advanced predictive modeling, and proven loss-control interventions to mitigate law enforcement liability. By proactively assessing risk, the product suite identifies loss-prevention actions and proven interventions to manage these underlying risk drivers while continually measuring its effectiveness.  This suite of products is designed to meet the needs of every insurance strategy, enabling public risk pool professionals, municipal risk managers, law enforcement command staff to better control costs and achieve greater financial stability. See our press release for more information.

Look for future posts where we will be exploring other aspects of law enforcement and municipal risk management.




Rappaport, John. “How Private Insurers Regulate Public Police.” Harvard Law Review. 130.6 (2017). 1541-1613. Web. 25 September 2021.

A crucial element of the police reform discourse is the rising cost of police misconduct settlements and the impact they have on municipal budgets. Elected and agency officials must contend with these costs though taxpayers in most instances are subsidizing the funding used in settlements. There is ample reason for law enforcement personnel, lawmakers, and taxpayers to all be keenly interested in the cost of these settlements. What do misconduct settlements look like? What is being done to mitigate the costs of misconduct settlements? These are questions this article endeavors to answer.

Misconduct Settlements: A Nationwide Concern

Even tracking the overall costs of police misconduct settlements has proven a significant challenge for researchers. There is currently no national reporting database and municipalities’ approach to record-keeping can vary widely. On a national level, the data just doesn’t exist to present a broader picture of how much misconduct settlements cost taxpayers. In an effort to address this lack of data, in March of 2021, the Cost of Police Misconduct Act was introduced into Congress, which seeks to compel reporting to federal authorities. Whether or not this bill will be passed into law is presently unclear, but it does represent one of the most high-profile efforts to explicitly tie the costs of settlements with the pushes for reform.

Despite the lack of specific data, it is well-understood that the costs of misconduct settlements are quite substantial and create strain on city budgets. In a recent survey of 31 of the 50 cities with the highest police-to-civilian ratios in the country, available data shows settlements cost these municipalities more than $3 billion over the last decade. Though the dataset is incomplete, it illustrates the substantial figures municipalities are contending with in settling misconduct allegations. Until recently, these costs were not typically figured into municipal budgets for policing and related costs.

City Budgets Misconduct SettlementsFurther complicating matters is how municipalities pay for misconduct settlements. In general, many small to medium-sized cities carry some form of liability insurance or risk-pool while the largest cities are either self-insured or will issue bonds to cover settlements and their related costs. Both approaches have their drawbacks. Bonds accumulate interest and servicing fees while insurance typically is funded via property taxes or other public user fees. In either model, it is once again taxpayers that ultimately bear the cost.

These settlement costs appear to be trending upwards too. In a survey of ten cities, the Wall Street Journal found misconduct settlement amounts rose from $1 billion between 2010 and 2014 to $1.6 billion from 2015 to 2019. There is no one reason for this rise but it is generally thought that things like increasing public pressure in favor of reform efforts and the widespread use of smart phone cameras have contributed to this rise. Additionally, some agencies and municipal governments look towards a settlement as a way to avoid a drawn out and expensive court battle.

Agencies Respond

Law enforcement leaders, elected officials, and taxpayers all have an obvious interest in controlling misconduct settlement costs. These unplanned expenses can significantly impact municipal budgets and can force unexpected reallocation of funds. Agencies and municipal governments are employing a number of different methods to control these costs. Here are some of the most common and effective examples:

  • Additional training is a strategy agencies and municipalities are using to reduce the likelihood of an adverse event leading to a settlement. Training requirements are frequently a component of new reform legislation being passed at the state level. De-escalation training and coursework related to identifying and responding to mental health crises are becoming more prevalent as are new standards in use-of-force training. Effectively managing and tracking officer training is seen as a proactive tool aimed at preventing law enforcement encounters that end up in settlements.
  • In recent years, the companies that insure small to medium municipalities are responding to the growing cost of settlements by exerting more control over agencies’ operations. This insurance risk management oversight takes on many forms such as policy audits, use-of-force simulators, and even ride-alongs to observe officer behavior. In some cases, insurers can even influence staffing decisions. Other municipalities participate in risk pools in which they “share” risk. The Association of Government Risk Pools connects member cities and facilitates collaboration while providing best standards and education.
  • Improvements to data collection are furthering policymakers’ and agency leadership’s ability to base decisions on rigorous analysis of data. This encompasses everything from body-worn cameras and audio recording devices to Internal Affairs and Use-of-Force metrics that are tracked and monitored via software. With more comprehensive and smarter data collection, policymakers and agency heads can be more confident in their decision-making, knowing it is based on a holistic view of performance and personnel data.
  • Early Intervention Systems (EIS), are software suites designed to help agency leaders monitor officer behavior and, ideally, intervene before any issues arise. Benchmark Analytics’ First Sign® Early Intervention System is preventative by design and more sophisticated than other, trigger or threshold-based systems, allowing leaders to identify off-track officer behavior before it rises to a level of seriousness that could involve an out-of-policy incident.
  • Once an EIS has alerted an agency’s leadership to the potential for performance issues, it is up to them to implement corrective measures to get that officer back on track. This often involves additional support like further training and mentorship. Benchmark’s Case Action Response Engine® (C.A.R.E.) helps track not only that assigned interventions are being completed but that officer performance is in fact on a path to improvement.

Elected officials, taxpayers, and agency leaders all have a vested interest in seeing the costs of misconduct settlements minimized. Data collection and analysis pertaining to officer performance are vital parts of the conversation around reducing the overall costs of misconduct settlements. By using new research-based software tools to better understand this wealth of data, agency leaders are empowering themselves to make the decisions necessary to ensure police funding is wisely spent on things like agency growth and training — and ultimately reducing the likelihood of problematic behavior that can potentially contribute to the rising cost of misconduct.

The following is part 2 of 2 in our IACP Leadership Series conversation between Benchmark CEO Ron Huberman and Thomas Eicher, Executive Director of the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability, New Jersey Office of the Attorney General. In this entry, Mr. Eicher discusses new polices his state is implementing to improve transparency and accountability, moving toward a more effective, evidence-based early intervention system — as well as sharing his thoughts on various policing reforms over time and the need to look at the criminal justice system as a whole.

RH: Tom, let’s continue our discussion on police reform policies being initiated or expanded upon in your state of New Jersey. Your novel concept of tracking and reviewing use-of-force incidents statewide by assigning a county prosecutor to work with every agency is breakthrough. What else are you implementing?

TE: Sure. The other thing we looked at was transparency, and we issued an updated body-worn camera policy that requires disclosure to the public within the completion of the initial investigation, typically 20 days for a police-involved shooting. We have expanded that to not only body-worn cameras, but dash cams and private cameras that might inform the public what really happened during a particular incident.

We issued an amended policy about impeachment material for officers. Even though it’s been the law for a long time, we had not had a statewide policy that really set out in any detail the requirements to track and make available to defense counsel and defendants impeachment material about the officers who were testifying. We put that in place. We, again, pushed that on the county prosecutors a bit to put them at the frontline to gather that information and
make it available.

We thought these two updates were important reforms to strengthen public trust and heighten transparency. We also continued and emphasized our resiliency program where we looked at trying to help officers who needed assistance because of a problem in their life – such as a drug or alcohol issue –making it easier for them to reach out and get help without incurring disciplinary action.

Finally, and this is a work in progress, we are looking at how we can improve the early warning system directive that we have, and move it more towards an early intervention system — improving the capacity, either on a statewide level or within the individual departments, and the ability to implement this updated system in a way that really facilitates training, as opposed to discipline; or interventions early rather than later so that you don’t have to wait until something really goes off the rails. And importantly, using data rather than hunches about what actually is effective — as well as what you should be measuring and looking at.

That’s true for all we’re talking about . . . I think that the focus on using the data that’s available is really key. It’s what makes this multi-dimensional reform effort somewhat different than some of the earlier reforms that didn’t have that ability to gather and analyze the data — and help use that data to inform policies.

RH: You know what’s interesting, Tom? It’s that is precisely what I’ve advocated for in terms of what I’ve seen. In the ’50s we had the professional model policing: 911 came to take everything over, and everyone’s in uniform and random patrol — and it’s really what is even today the bedrock of policing. Through the ’70s, we started to see problem-oriented policing, which was followed by community policing. Community policing was concurrently overlaid with predictive policing,  joined by Compstat policing in the ‘90s, leading us up to this point in time.

What’s different to me at this point in time – and that you’ve articulated as well – is the fact that for the first time in the history of law enforcement, we have data and research to actually say, “We no longer have to rely on the hunch and the goodwill of a street supervisor. We can systematize an understanding of a pattern and practice of problematic behavior in the early stages — before we have horrific incidents that really crush our profession every time they happen.”

Tom, let me just tap into your experience. You were a federal prosecutor for 30 years, with much work in civil rights crimes. Has there been a trend you can identify? Were there things that you were much more likely to prosecute 30 years ago and 20 years ago than today? And more to the point, if you will, what is the nature of problematic conduct in civil rights violations today versus 30 years ago — or is it really the same show?

TE: I think it’s pretty similar, honestly. But there has been a trend. The original cases I was involved with were more corruption cases. Police cases where drugs were stolen, money was stolen, drugs were planted, officers were on the take. Now, that was in Philadelphia; not to give them a bad name, but I was a prosecutor in the city at the time. We also saw that in New Jersey when I moved over here.

And then, whether it was because of focus or difference in conduct, the use of force over the last five to 10 years has become much more of a focal point. I think the public’s understanding of what is reasonable force for police to use has evolved. I think there was an era when the public’s attitude was, “Hey, if they committed a crime, they brought it on themselves and the police should do whatever they need to do to take care of this person.” They really didn’t care what happened to him. I think that’s changed.

I think even people who have committed crimes are being seen more as a person. And even though they deserve whatever punishment the system will result in. It shouldn’t be at the hands of the officers. I think the public’s definition of reasonable force, which is always at the bedrock of even the constitutional law, has changed. I think it’s evolved. I think the public is expecting and asking for more restraint when it can be safely done.

I think that’s a change. I think that’s different. One of the challenges in prosecuting civil rights cases – especially those for people incarcerated and I did a number of those – is that a lot of jurors at that point were like, “Hey, they must’ve done something or they wouldn’t have been in jail in the first place. And so therefore, they don’t have any rights.”

Of course, that’s not the law, but that’s a very difficult climate to bring those cases into. I think the public sentiment has changed, in part maybe, because so many people know someone who’s been incarcerated or know somebody else who knows somebody. It’s not the stigma it used to be. I think there is a more humanizing of people, and an expectation that police will deal with effectively, but fairly, with everyone they interact with.

RH: No, it’s interesting. What do you think has brought the public around? Do you have a sense of why there’s been such a shift in how it’s perceived?

TE: I think it’s an accumulation of the incidents that we’ve seen. And I think it’s the starkness of the George Floyd situation. It’s also a recognition that there is a general perception – and we can argue about whether it’s true or not – but there’s a general public consensus, I would say for the most part, that law enforcement does not always act equally with every citizen. That there is different enforcement based on race — or based on assumptions about people.

I think that the public, for the most part, is sympathetic to that. I believe that’s a big change. And I think it goes beyond the community that’s being most directly affected — and has now broadened to others who were not part of that community, but feel that changes have to be made to make sure it’s not happening. So, I think that’s a big difference. I also believe that police are open — they want to do a good job. My experience has been that police don’t want to be the bad guys.

There are some bad apples, of course, but most police want to do a job effectively, want to do it fairly, and want to see themselves in that light . . .and I think they should. We have to give police the tools, the policies, and the training to do it. I think we didn’t do that.

To just anticipate a little bit of your question or what you mentioned about community policing, I think the Compstat model overran community policing. By focusing on data to see where crime hotspots were, and then deploying resources in that way, what it did is it tended to be almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. Less affluent neighborhoods, which in the major cities tended to be more minority, got much more attention from the police. So, then there were more arrests . . . and those arrests lead to more arrests. I think while it suppressed crime, it also created a really negative interaction with the community that I think has to be undone — through the community policing aspects of where you’re interacting, not just in a bad context, but in a normal everyday context.

The data that led the Compstat reform was effective in a way, but it undermined that community relationship in a way as well. I’ll give you an example: I won’t say the name of the case, but it involved the investigation of a fatal police encounter. The citizens that I spoke with about it said, “the police are always here harassing us. They’re in our neighborhood and they’re just always trying to catch us on some little things so they can stop us, try to search us, and see if they can find something.” I said, “All right. I understand that perspective.”

I talked to the police officer and I said, “What were you doing?” “We were on directed patrol”, he replied. “What does that mean?”, I asked. “We were in a neighborhood, a high crime neighborhood trying to catch them doing something like running a stop sign, so we could stop them and try to catch them with something”, he responded. They were both talking about exactly the same thing. The police thought it was highly effective law enforcement, and the neighborhood thought it was a means of oppression and being picked on.

It was interesting to see that the very same description of it almost leading to very different conclusions. I think both of them have some merit, but I believe if you’re only focusing in on one, and not the other, you’re going to lose the big picture. I think that’s what happened with Compstat.

RH: What’s so interesting, in my personal experience when I was a Chicago police officer, CAPS – which was the big Chicago police community initiative in the mid-’90s – was a major focus concurrent with Chicago’s version of Compstat. These initiatives were living concurrently — or trying to live concurrently. I think both had different success outcomes and both negated each other at some level.

What worries me a little bit about the current chapter of police reform, Tom, is the defund the police movement which I’m going to argue is not about funding per se, but just people being punitive by being in support of taking money away from the police. There’s an argument to be made that we should ask the question, “Who is the best person or group to deal with what situation?” I don’t think anyone’s going to pretend a police officer’s mental health training impacts a situation the way a mental health worker’s experience does. But to the degree that we peel the police away from humanizing interactions – giving that job away to other people – and leaving the police only to deal with crimes alone, we’re going to lose a certain humanity in all of this that could cause its own issues.

Tom, I’m going to close up with just a few questions. All of us who care a lot about the profession of policing and want to see it continually professionalized and elevated, we worry about democracy. Stick with me for a minute. There’s a whole body of political science that advises, “To the degree that people have faith in the systems of justice.” It’s not just the police . . . but police, courts, due process, etc. I believe when there’s a high level of public confidence, you see very stable democracies.

When you have a low level of faith in the systems of justice, you tend to see very weak democracies. If you look at South America, where there’s unbelievably low levels of confidence in systems of justice, you see democracies turn all the time. Very unstable governments. Well in the United States, much more so recently, folks’ faith in the systems of justice is deteriorating at a rapid pace. If you believe the work – you could say that’s a proxy to the health of our society, we should all be extremely worried about these reform efforts and building the trust.

Tom, what do you think we need to do to restore faith in policing, make it the honorable profession that it should be, and in many cases is, to the average American?

TE: I think that’s a really interesting question and it’s not one that a lot of people are focusing on right now. Part of it is, we require the police to do everything. We release people from the large mental health institutions and put them on the street — and the police are the first respondents, so that’s one.

Second, police also are saddled in some ways with the overall criminal justice system. Here’s what I mean by that; maybe I shouldn’t say this, but in one of the police departments that I’m involved in looking at, what we found was that African Americans had much more higher rates of arrest than Caucasians — and that’s obviously troubling. When we dug down a little more, what we found was, a lot of that difference can be explained by bench warrants out for individuals. They’re pulled over for speeding and they have a bench warrant. Well, if they have a bench warrant, the officer is going to arrest that person. They can’t ignore that warrant; It’s there, they’ve got to enforce it. What I mean is police are doing their job, but that can result in a lot of negative feelings by the community.

What do we have to do? We have to step back as we’re policing and not just focus on policing, but look at the criminal justice system at large. Is it really appropriate to have so many bench warrants for basically economic failures? You didn’t pay a fine, you didn’t pay the restoration fee on your driver’s license, you committed a crime, and now we’re going to tack financial penalties on top of it. So, a lot of that, as we saw on Ferguson [Missouri], is underlying a lot of the discontent with the police. The police are the face of that system that’s really, at some level, arguably oppressive to the people.

Not that they didn’t incur the fine, not they didn’t double-park or over run their meter — but the cumulative effect of it is, it creates this enormous negative energy between the people and the government. I think we have to step back. There have been those efforts by the Chief Justice in New Jersey and others to look at, “Is this the right way to do it? Should we be arresting somebody for an old parking ticket from a couple of years ago? Are there better ways to resolve that?” So, I think that’s part of what we have to do, is we have to help the police by taking a look at the big picture, at the whole criminal justice system, to see if we can do it in a more efficient and better way — and a more humane way. I think we can.

We’ve seen that in some of the re-entry efforts around the country that – once somebody’s served their time – it’s in everyone’s interest to see them succeed and to knock down barriers to that success. That’s just good common sense, because if you don’t do it, you’re going to end up with another person cycling through the system. I really do think what we have to do is not limit our focus to the police, but broaden it to the criminal justice system as a whole. And that requires some really fundamental discussions about what direction we want to go.

RH: Yes, I know. I’m so glad you brought that up, because I agree. There’s a big picture piece here and the micro-focus on police ultimately will not solve this problem; it’s bigger than that. We’re grateful for your service to our country as a prosecutor within the State of New Jersey — and everything that you do to elevate policing.

This interview from October 2020 has been edited for clarity.


Note: The following article is reprinted by permission of POLITICO LLC, and originally appeared on June 2, 2020.


I Was the Mayor of Minneapolis and I Know Our Cops Have a Problem

Racism permeated the culture of the department. But there are ways to change that culture that other cities can copy.

By R.T. Rybak

The searing images from the past several nights of anger and violence in dozens of cities across the country have shocked and horrified the nation. But there is one image that we need to keep fixed in our minds, the one that started it all:

A human being, staring calmly off into the middle distance, while his knee slowly suffocates another human being.

Our repulsion should boil over as we realize that the white police officer, who took an oath to protect and serve that person on the ground, who is black, would not have acted so brutally if the man he was restraining were white. Until every one of us can see that image for what it is—an example of a two-tiered justice system that treats black and white people differently—we cannot move another inch forward. We need to acknowledge that on some level, every one of us had a role in keeping this inequity in place.

I’ll go first, because after living in Minneapolis all my life, covering the Minneapolis Police Department as a Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter and, more directly, serving 12 years as mayor of this city, I should.

My own efforts to change a police department and its culture failed badly. That starts with appointing three different police chiefs who all made change but not enough. It includes attempts to diversify the force, to change practices in mental health and numerous efforts to work with individual officers on softening their approach so they could empathize more deeply with community. These failures will haunt me for the rest of my life, and it should. As each of us sees and acknowledges our own part it can be paralyzing. It was for me.

But I was heartened by something a colleague at the Minneapolis Foundation said to me the other day. Chanda Smith Baker grew up and raised a family as an African American in north Minneapolis, and for years has lead the Pillsbury United Communities. She has seen so many more of the consequences of our deep, endemic racism than I ever will. But as we surveyed the damage and pain in our community she said simply: “We have no choice but to act.”

So we are acting. Our foundation, which has been centered on racial equity for decades, is granting $1 million in the next few weeks to community-based solutions that strive for justice and healing in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in police custody. Knowing we need to have tough conversations about race and culture, we launched our “Conversations with Chanda” podcast that will give our community, which has avoided those tough conversations for too long, the space to “go there.”

Like everyone in this city, we know that is still not enough. A very well-intentioned friend asked me what one thing he could do to make this situation better. I had to say, “There’s no one thing.” You can’t fully stop racism in policing without understanding the racism in the laws we ask our police to enforce, the racism in a criminal justice system that over-incarcerates black men, the racism in how we white Americans perceive a threat when we see someone who is black. An unjust economic system matters, and so does the issue where I focus most these days: the intolerable racial inequities in education. So does the classism that allows so many of us with privilege to have someone else’s child put on a police uniform and walk into tough situations so we can safely, mindlessly go about our lives.

But, right now, nothing matters more in Minneapolis than reforming the city’s police. An obvious first step would be to demilitarize the department. As a mayor who took office right after 9/11, I quickly saw that the community-based preventive programs like Bill Clinton’s “cops on the streets” initiative lost funding while we seemingly had a blank check for equipment and weapon systems that too often have the officers we want to “protect and serve” separated from their communities by shields and armored turtle suits.

Fortunately, we don’t need to invent a solution from scratch. We already have the Obama administration’s “21st Century Policing Plan,” which lays out in detail how our country’s police departments can be rebuilt around six pillars: building trust and legitimacy, policy and oversight, technology and social media, community policing and crime reduction, training and education and officer safety and wellness.

One of the most important values I took from that plan is something I learned on a deeply personal level as a mayor: Police officers are human beings. We then train them, put them with others we have trained into cultures that develop around the job and expect them to perform in the most high-stress situations imaginable.

We also know a lot about what makes that human being performing as a police officer thrive in the job or become a headline from a searing incident we could have prevented. The Center for Data Science and Public Policy at the University of Chicago has studied officer conduct over time in major departments and analyzed what actions signal when behavior starts to go off track. This helps us act more quickly when we need to intervene so that officers can be retrained or treated, and get back on track.

When I first saw this research, I realized that if, as mayor, the police chief and I, and the department’s supervisors, had known early when our officers needed our help and attention, we could have saved tens of millions in settlements costs and scores of lives. The problem was we never had the technology or tools to connect in real time what was happening with each officer and we didn’t have access to what we now know about how to step in.

That’s why I joined the founding board of Benchmark Analytics, which is now using that work in 60 cities and the state of New Jersey to connect department internal personnel systems to that deep research so mayors and chiefs can do what I never could to prevent the next tragic incident.

There are many more specific actions that can be taken but above all we need to address police culture. I have never been a police officer, so my experience is limited to what I have seen as a reporter and mayor. But I have come to know so many officers and continue to struggle with how I can know so many truly committed people whose collective actions I don’t recognize. In my city, at least, we have a majority of officers who let a minority of officers create an us-vs.-them culture that over time dehumanizes the people and neighborhoods the officers are supposed to protect and serve. Throw race into this toxic mix and you end up with behavior that often has to be named for what it is: racism. It plays itself out when a knee stays on the neck of a human being treated like he’s not human.

Much has been written by people who know more than I about police culture, but I do know it can be reformed only from within. That means the majority of officers need to rise up and take control of their culture. To the many good officers I know exist, I say this: I know the consequences of being shunned by your co-workers, but I also know you know in your heart that George Floyd should not be dead. Your silence is deafening and this city, and this country, cannot move forward until we hear your voices.

There is good news. We have stood at this place before, in Minneapolis and across the country. Yes, this might seem like the beginning of a familiar and dispiriting cycle: a terrible incident, a few days of promises and then, as the attention fades, so does the hope of change. But I also know that this is not a predestined conclusion. Change is possible. I know because I have seen it before in this very city.

Forty-one years ago, I was a young crime reporter. Night after night, I covered a police department that had deep issues of trust with two communities: residents who were black, and residents who were gay.

All these years later, one of those groups has seen enormous change. The Minneapolis police, which back then routinely beat and humiliated gay residents, is now one of the most gay-friendly departments in the country with openly gay officers serving in every part of the force, including at one point, the role of chief. There was no one action that made that possible, instead, in thousands of interactions, that wall creating an us vs. them turned into a we because each group recognized we are human beings on the other side.

The fact that we have seen so much progress with gay residents and almost none with black residents says a lot about the perniciousness of racism. We need to own that. But it does also say that change is possible, and now we have to prove that is true.

Copyright 2016 POLITICO LLC.

Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) has impacted communities across the country, as law enforcement and other public sector agencies prepare for the short- and long-term effects of this virus. This includes having tools in place to support staffing, training and communication; having ample supplies such as personal protective equipment (PPE); being prepared for evolving community requests; and delivering plans and procedures that reflect recommendations from local, state and federal authorities. COVID-19 Funding

To ensure that public safety agencies across the U.S. are prepared for the current impact of COVID-19, as well as what lies ahead, Federal grant resources have been issued.

Federal Grant Resources: BJA-CESF
On March 30, 2020 a grant solicitation was shared by the Office of Justice Programs  regarding the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) program. The funding program has $850 million available and the BJA intends to make 1,873 awards.

The BJA-CESF program will provide funding to assist eligible states, local units of government, and tribes in preventing, preparing for, and responding to the coronavirus. BJA -CESF

In the solicitation, the BJA shared that “States, U.S. Territories, the District of Columbia, units of local government, and federally recognized tribal governments that were identified as eligible for funding under the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 State and Local Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program are eligible to apply under the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) Program solicitation. Only the State Administering Agency that applied for FY 2019 JAG funding for a state/territory may apply for the state allocation of CESF funding.”

The eligible allocations for the FY 2020 CESF Program can be found at:

What will BJA-CESF be used for?
Funds awarded under the CESF program will be used to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus. Allowable projects and purchases include, but are not limited to:

  • Overtime, equipment (including law enforcement and medical PPE)
  • Hiring
  • Supplies (such as gloves, mask, sanitizer)
  • Training (such as training management software for organization-wide virtual training — as well as cross-training of personnel for temporary duty reassignment to assure proper coverage of essential duties)
  • Travel expenses (particularly related to the distribution of resources to the most impacted areas)
  • Addressing the medical needs of inmates in state, local, and tribal prisons, jails and detention centers.

BJA-CESF program next steps
The application for BJA-CESF is due May 29, 2020. Cities and states are awarded funding on an ongoing, rolling basis from now till the application due date.

For more information how the BJA-CESF program works and grant submission help, visit our Grants Page at

The importance of COVID-19 data collection
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has shared that collecting data and documenting response protocols for future review and assessment during this time is important as well. “While pandemics rarely occur, an agency can learn a lot about its emergency response by studying past efforts,” as stated in IACP’s resource Organizational Readiness: Considerations for Preparing Your Agency for COVID-19. Types of data include, but are not strictly limited to, COVID-19-related calls for service, officer exposure, staffing numbers, and health and wellness measures of officers.

COVID-19 Data Collection

To that, agencies are partnering with personnel management software providers for monitoring, tracking and reporting data. For example, the Benchmark Management System® can create custom COVID-19 Exposure Forms that capture interactions related to coronavirus — to help identify trends, facilitate proactive intervention and help keep department personnel serving on the frontlines safe. This data can also be used post-pandemic to justify reimbursement of expenditures at the state and federal levels.

Visit to learn more.