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.



Much like the year that preceded it, 2021 saw a continuation of the sweeping changes to law enforcement tactics, procedures, and reporting brought about by state-level reform legislation. In the absence of legislation at the federal level, state legislatures continued to pursue changes to use of force policies, more rigorous certification reporting standards, and newly established duty to report requirements. Though states have taken varied approaches to reform and modernizing their law enforcement agencies, the legislations’ goals and themes are broadly consistent – to increase the effectiveness and consistency of law enforcement by improving community trust and making strides towards greater transparency.  With that in mind, we look back on another busy year in law enforcement legislation.

2021 By the Numbers

2021inreviewOf some 2,670 bills introduced into state legislatures across the country, 366 were enacted into law. Most, but not all, of these pieces of legislation are a part of broad reform efforts that began in 2020 in the wake of several high-profile incidents involving law enforcement.

Forty-three pieces of legislation covered certification and decertification of officers. Though many of these bills were relatively routine updates to certification standards, there was a notable trend in reform-oriented bills designed to increase transparency in hiring and certification. Legislation like Colorado’s HB21-1250 aims to close perceived loopholes in reporting complaints against an officer. Many of these new laws call for increased information and data sharing among agencies and POST organizations.

Law enforcement training was addressed in 59 bills, with many of the pieces of legislation requiring (and funding) enhanced training for officers. Mental health awareness was a noteworthy aspect of many of these new training requirements, with seven states mandating training designed to help law enforcement officers recognize and respond to individuals experiencing mental health crises.

It is well understood policing can be a challenging profession even in the best of times.  The health and wellness of law enforcement officers have been a vital concern of policymakers across the country, undoubtedly owing to the increased demands on agencies and officers. A total of 24 states enacted 47 bills that provide funding for comprehensive programs addressing trauma and PTSD that affect first responders by providing crisis counseling and trauma-informed mental health services to agencies.

In 2021, 30 bills enacted into law tackled data, data security, and oversight. A common theme was standardizing the data collected and reported by state POST organizations regarding officer certification and training. New laws like Oregon’s HB 2932 called for creating databases to capture information on use of force incidents for public review and participation in the National Use-of-Force Collection initiative led by the FBI.

Narrowing our focus, we’ll take a closer look at three themes commonly seen in state-level reform legislation. Though the following list is not exhaustive, it represents some of the most notable new legislation of 2021.

Use of Force

Incidents related to policing and use of force in 2020 were a significant driver of reform-oriented legislation carrying into 2021. Before this, a patchwork of often ill-defined laws and local restrictions governed use of force. After substantial public debate and commentary, several states passed sweeping legislation clarifying use of force policy and creating new guidelines on when force can be applied, what kind of force is used, and how it is reported.

The state of Delaware approved significant changes to use of force policies that were previously loosely defined. In 2021 the state established a “reasonableness” standard for instances involving use of force involving law enforcement. Going a step further, many states addressed the specific issue of chokeholds in 2021 law enforcement legislation. Indiana, for example, restricted the use of holds that place pressure on the neck and now defines them as a form of deadly force with the passage of HB 1006. In contrast, the California legislature passed AB 490, which forbids the use of “carotid restraint” with no exceptions for deadly force.  In addition to California, eight other states have banned chokeholds entirely, limiting their use to incidents where deadly force would otherwise be justified.

Centralized Reporting

To confront so-called “wandering officers” who leave a department due to misconduct allegations only to seek employment at other agencies, many state legislatures have addressed the need to create more robust systems to track officer certification at the state level. By monitoring and reporting issues with officer certification, the hope is that officers showing patterns of misconduct complaints will be prevented from resuming employment at another agency. Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Utah, and Washington, among others, set up new requirements concerning reporting officer resignations, terminations, or misconduct.

A National Decertification Index is maintained by the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST). While the database does not preclude anyone from employment as a law enforcement officer, it serves as a national registry for certification revocations that come about as the result of officer misconduct. In 2021, Indiana and Washington joined Massachusetts in reporting to this voluntary database.

Duty to intervene

To further reduce the use of unnecessary force, four states created varying regulations requiring fellow officers to intervene in incidents involving excessive force or official misconduct. In addition to curbing the use of excessive force, these policies aim to strengthen community trust in law enforcement through increased transparency, improve officer safety by ensuring proper procedures are being followed, and diminish the effect of a “code of silence” that permits unlawful or unethical behavior to persist.

Of these four states creating a duty to intervene, three have also enacted an obligation to report misconduct or excessive force to superiors. While there is some variation in the definitions of excessive, prohibited, unreasonable, and unauthorized force, the underlying motivation in preventing unwarranted force incidents remains the same. Five of these states’ new laws do not mandate any specific sanctions for a failure to report, while several others call for discretionary action, usually through Internal Affairs or other agency-specific procedures. For example, Washington created one of the more comprehensive duty-to-intervene laws requiring that officers found to violate these policies face mandatory decertification. In California, a new law creates specific protections for officers that report potential misconduct related to use of force.

Later this month, we’ll be looking forward, exploring how these trends will continue to evolve in 2022.




Police officer retention is perennially a hot topic in both the practical and scholarly discussion of policing. Departmental leaders have plenty of reasons to want to retain good officers. It saves on recruiting and academy training costs. Experienced officers have good relationships with the community they serve as well as their fellow officers. They tend to pass their experience along with other positive traits to their more junior colleagues. In the ideal case, they model the professional standards policing leaders and the communities they serve want.

leadership growthOur previous article took a broad view of the issue, looking at why officers leave their departments or the profession entirely. This article will look more closely at how a department’s leadership affects officers’ job satisfaction. As one might expect, this is a substantial predictor of an officer’s likelihood to stay on the job. We’ll also explore how departmental leaders view leadership in a more modern light and, using these new leadership ideas, train and advance the leaders of the 21st century.

Job Satisfaction Factors

Common sense suggests that workers who think highly of their workplace leaders will often have a generally positive outlook on their job and at least a modicum of job satisfaction. Recent research from 2020 suggests that, among police officers, the perception of the internal work environment of a department is significantly correlated with high job satisfaction. Factors like strong supervisor support were linked to job satisfaction to a similar degree as citizen treatment of police.  The same study suggests that a positive internal work environment with good leaders can help mitigate some of the external stressors of the job, like community relations, that lead to low morale and poor job satisfaction.

While many of the factors influencing job satisfaction among officers are outside of the direct control of police executives — such as the inherent dangers of the job, budgets, and community perceptions influenced by national news stories — upper management does have a substantial role to play in the selection, training, and continual improvement of direct supervisors.

What Officers Want in a Leader

Another often-cited study of research on police workplace concerns offers critical insights into how officers feel about the leaders of their departments. Officers were asked to rank ten responses to various questions concerning leadership development and performance and factors perceived to constrain the efficacy of leaders. Here are a few of the most illustrative examples:

  • Achieving key tasks, goals, and missions was important, with roughly a quarter of the participants ranking it as their #1 response and 72% ranking it in the top five responses.
  • Inadequate leadership development systems were cited by 47% of officers as being a top three constraint to the effective leadership in their department.
  • 69% of officers rank a leader’s interest in and ability to manage the “growth or development of [officers]” as one of their top five concerns.

It may come as unsurprising to most familiar with the profession that it is “dedication and effectiveness in fulfilling the mission” that registers as the topline-reported concern of officers in the field. What is especially interesting in this set of survey data, however, is that officers place a high degree of importance on the so-called “soft skills” of their leaders – the ability to support officers with feedback, recommend leadership and professional development opportunities, and generally showing care for the needs of officers. This speaks to a desire among officers for a more modern approach to leadership techniques and the necessity to take a more holistic and research-driven to leadership development.

21st Century Leadership Development

The Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, released in May of 2015, continues to help set the plan moving forward for police training in the 21st century. The report calls for agencies to “provide leadership training to all personnel throughout their careers,” among many other recommendations and action items. A key example cited in the report is the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Leadership in Police Organizations training course. The coursework uses research-driven behavioral science and leadership theories in a framework designed to “inspire a lifelong commitment to the study and practice of effective leadership.” It also addresses a critical action item calling for a “national curricula and instructional methodology” movement.

These efforts stand in contrast to some of the more traditional approaches to police leadership training that emphasize seniority and a more military-style order and discipline when selecting future leaders. Instead, this more modern way of thinking reflects practices seen commonly in the private sector and helps satisfy officers’ needs for professional development and career advancement opportunities. It is hoped that training every officer in leadership skills will promote a culture that “values ongoing education and the integration of current research into the development of training, policies, and practices.”

“It’s complicated. It’s complex, but it’s fixable. It’s going to really take an effort to really get serious about leadership development in police agencies…” Benchmark IACP Leadership Series Conversation with Chuck Ramsey.

Reimagining leadership development and training by moving in a direction guided by data and research first and foremost addresses the needs of the communities that departments serve. Importantly, it also addresses what the study suggests the needs of officers are – to be supported, shown compassion, and offered real opportunities for growth and advancement in the profession. By responding to the needs of officers and by incorporating science and the latest research in their approach, police chiefs and department executives can foster an environment where officers feel valued, have a greater sense of job satisfaction, and are less likely to leave their job.

Departmental leaders use tools like First Sign® Early Intervention (EIS) to help spot off-track officers and identify additional training opportunities to get them back to a positive career path. Benchmark Management System® (BMS) similarly harnesses the power of a department’s data to track an officer’s progression, training status, and performance, ensuring they are both in compliance with the latest training requirements but also being offered the right performance-based opportunities for career development and enrichment.


Police retention has long been a significant point of discussion and reflection among departmental leaders, researchers, and policymakers. Like so many issues facing police leaders today, there is no simple solution to this complex problem. There are, however, both established strategies and innovative new ideas to help leaders confront the challenges of retention, enabling their departments to fulfill their mission and serve the needs of their communities more effectively.

As was discussed in our previous article, there is a genuine need for departments to expand their current staffing levels to deal with rapidly evolving challenges facing policing in this country. Looking at the most recent figures available from research produced by Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), resignations have increased as much as 18% year over from the previous year, while retirements have topped out at a 45% increase over the same period. This level of police attrition combined with recent recruitment shortfalls has established police retention as a topic of urgent interest to police leaders.

Why Police Retention is Important

One of the more easily quantifiable problems of insufficient officer retention is the bottom-line cost to agencies. With the cost of training a recruit surpassing $100,000 in many departments, the desire to not have that investment “walk out of the door” with an officer transferring between departments or leaving the profession is easily understood. This problem is especially prevalent, though not exclusive to smaller departments, which officers sometimes see as stepping stones to more comprehensively resourced agencies.

Police Retention

Less quantifiable but of vital importance is the departmental culture that a reasonably stable staff of sworn officers helps create. Though it is difficult to assign a dollar value to the institutional knowledge and expertise lost when officers leave a department before retirement, the loss is felt both within the department and the community it serves. Experienced and successful officers build up a rapport with their colleagues and the community, allowing them to promote a healthy agency culture and understand conditions in the field and pass that experience on to more junior officers.

 Why Officers are Leaving

  • Chiefs and other departmental executives report salary as the top reason officers exit the profession or join another agency. The problem is especially acute for small departments that often have more limited budgets when compared to that of larger cities and state or federal governments.
  • The public perception of policing is changing, driven to some extent by recent high-profile incidents. This degree of social pressure combined with mismatched expectations new officers may have about the nature of the job is a significant driver of early-career attrition.
  • Much like in the workforce on the macro-level, police departments face generational changes led by Baby Boomer retirements. While Generation X officers make up a sizeable portion of departments today, millennials are filling many of the vacancies left by retiring boomers. This new generation tends to look beyond the availability of overtime and retirement benefits as primary motivators to stay on the job. They are seeking work that offers personal fulfillment as well as opportunities for advancement and higher pay through skills development, education, and cross-training.

Police Retention Strategies

Though the problems posed by diminishing police retention can be seen as daunting, leaders in the profession are leveraging research from various academic disciplines to address these challenges.  Compensation issues are being addressed creatively without increasing base pay by offering benefits like performance bonuses, take-home vehicles, and subsidized education and enrichment opportunities. Departments are using in-depth behavioral interviews, job previews, and sessions with veteran officers to give recruits a 360° view of the profession to prevent them from leaving early in their careers due to a potential misunderstanding about the nature of the job.

There are numerous studies that suggest the younger cohort of officers is looking to satisfy different needs than previous generations with their career in law enforcement. Concepts like a sense of belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization typically rank higher among millennials than older generations. Departments with rigid hierarchical structures and transactionally based leadership can find themselves at odds with these needs. To address this, agency leaders around the country are taking cues from the private sector and emphasizing work-life balance by offering benefits like flex time off, maternal and paternal leave, and enhanced recognition for exemplary performance.

The evolution of workplace culture in policing cannot solely be driven from the top down. Best practice recommendations from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) speak to the value of developing the leadership abilities of mid-level supervisors by offering clear career ladders and career counseling to help officers identify opportunities for advanced training and education. This not only helps to promote a positive departmental culture by placing officers that demonstrate these values in positions of influence where they will lead by example, but it also addresses the need for belonging and self-actualization – demonstrating a path of career advancement leading to more responsibility, more opportunity, higher compensation and, ideally, higher job satisfaction.

Data-Driven Tools

Using tools like the Benchmark Management System®, departmental leaders can get quick overviews of an officer’s level of performance while also having the ability to drill down much further into an officer’s conduct, levels of training and educational attainment, and public feedback, to get a much more holistic view of an officer. With a comprehensive view of their officers’ potential, leaders can make data-informed decisions when it is time to allocate resources for additional training, education, and leadership development. This approach helps officers feel a sense of belonging and mission through career progression and promotes a healthy work culture that recognizes and demonstrably values performance.

The challenges of police retention are as diverse as the agencies they affect. Budgetary constraints and the public perception of police are complicated, long-term issues that require multi-faceted solutions to address. Promoting a healthy departmental culture that values performance, integrity, and the drive to grow professionally is something within departmental leaders’ capabilities to influence. By nurturing this kind of positive workplace culture, leaders are taking an important step in improving officer retention and the overall effectiveness of their departments.

The more than 2,000 new reform measures that have passed through state legislatures in the last 12 months have created new demands on officers and their leaders. Paired with this movement towards reform is ever-evolving research into the nature and practice of policing. A common theme in both the reform legislation and research is the need to expand and enhance the scope of law enforcement officers’ duties and capabilities – which requires that officers develop skillsets related to recognizing and responding to mental illness, de-escalating conflict, engendering good community relations, and so much more. Just as these officer responsibilities grow, training must evolve with it to suit changing community needs.

In our previous article, we looked at new training methodologies being implemented to respond to these needs. In this article, we will look at how the more established training framework is growing to meet the challenge of new policing reforms. It is important to note while there are many general similarities, training methods and requirements can vary widely from agency to agency and state to state.


For many (but not all) officers, training begins at the academy. Traditionally these are often bootcamp-style basic training courses not only meant to impart critical skills, but also to enculturate recruits to concepts like chain of command, rank, and an overall organizational style of discipline. Academy training is seen by many to be the first chance departments have to impart a lasting sense of culture and expectation on new recruits that will, ideally, guide them throughout their careers. New officer training costs can be as high as $200,000 so it is critical that initial training be as effective as possible.

For at least the last twenty years and, more recently in response to reform measures, some departments are rethinking the emphasis on the use of bootcamp-style training in their academies.  A recent paper published in Police Chief Magazine suggests that transitioning a portion of the instruction to a more a professionalized “adult-learning” model is worth considering for departments. Some elements of the more intense and traditional style of training are worthwhile and demonstrably effective, such as scenarios designed to induce stress in decision-making, and pushing recruits to the edge of physical limits. Other tactics, like instructors inducing via more aggressive tactics are seen as less effective as they model behavior and a relationship to power that is increasingly seen as counterproductive to the aims of reform measures and good community relations.

Research is providing new evidence as to the effectiveness of a modern style of academy training though. There is also survey data that may confirm that this evidence-based approach is also increasingly aligned with officers’ beliefs about their jobs. According to a 2017 Pew Research Center report, 65% of officers surveyed believe that officers should “show respect, concern, and fairness when they deal with the public”. Training that emphasizes the value of good community relations, especially in initial academy training, is likely to be a key factor in any successful reform effort.

In-Service Training

In-service education is also being thought of in a new light in this era of reform. Much like other elements of police training, reform and a stronger desire for evidence-based training methods is propelling these changes forward. The same Pew Research Center study mentioned above shows that, based on officer responses, that in-service training has typically dealt with tactical or procedural matters – firearms training and certification, nonlethal restraint methods, and other similar training. However, this same study also shows that training designed to expand awareness of mental illness, bias, and general community relations rank just behind these more tactical types of training.

law enforcement training police car

Requirements for new types of training designed to enhance awareness of such issues is a common element of many of the reform measures passed in the previous year. Some of these new requirements are highly targeted in their scope, such as HB162 in Utah which calls specifically for crisis intervention and de-escalation training related to the treatment of subjects experiencing a mental health crisis. Minnesota passed one of the more comprehensive packages of reform legislation that, among many other things, mandates new training to help officers in areas like recognizing individuals with autism and mental health needs. Others, like executive order 2020-11 in New Hampshire call for the establishment of a committee made up of policymakers and law enforcement officials charged with delivering new training recommendations.


The efficacy of higher education in law enforcement training is something that is fairly well-understood in both the academic and agency leadership worlds. It has been shown that officers with higher educational attainment experience fewer sustained misconduct complaints and are less likely to be involved in use-of-force incidents. A higher level of educational experience often positions an officer on a leadership track within their agency. As in many other aspects of law enforcement, new methods of data analysis are complimenting leadership selection processes that were once driven largely by intuition. Aspects like interaction data, job performance, and education level figure prominently in these new methods of analysis that can determine an officer’s advancement.

The Power of Data Management

 Benchmark Analytics is a leader in research-based early intervention and police force management software systems. As reform measures are driving changes to the way training is conceptualized and executed, agencies are relying on comprehensive solutions that manage and make sense of the data they’re collecting. The Benchmark Management System (BMS) provides leaders a comprehensive view of their agencies incorporating training, community engagement, and educational data. These data points – when collected along with many others – create a holistic view of the performance of both individual officers and their agencies.

Using some of the same data streams, First Sign® Early Intervention system (EIS) goes beyond the limitations of a threshold or trigger-based EIS and is, instead, preventative in its design. Using a research-based approach to analyze officer interaction data, First Sign® is designed to spot off-track behavior early on. This empowers agency leaders to guide an officer towards appropriate in-service training or make other educational opportunities available to them to help get them back on track.

Reform Efforts and Law Enforcement Training

Reform measures coupled with new research are driving much of the rapid change officers and agencies are seeing in the scope of their responsibilities. With these changes in approach to policing as a whole comes a change to the systems and methodologies agencies use to train officers. No longer is relying on traditional concepts and tactics alone adequate to train officers for the ways in which they will serve their communities now and in the future. New data and research-driven approaches are placing an increased emphasis on law enforcement training that promotes a culture of respect and fairness, especially when dealing with the public, but also within departments themselves.

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.

In our previous article we examined the brisk pace in the passage of new state-level reform legislation and how it’s impacting law enforcement agencies. Often driven by high-profile law enforcement incidents, these new mandates frequently result in agencies updating their training, certification, and data-gathering capabilities. At the intersection of these new laws and the agencies they impact are POST organizations.

What are state POST organizations?

Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) organizations are tasked with implementing elements of new legislation, especially as it relates to tracking data involving training and certification of officers based on these new requirements. POSTs operate at the state level, administering training and officer certification. These organizations are not exclusively known as POSTs either. For example, in Tennessee the equivalent certifying body is known at the Tennessee Law Enforcement Academy; in Illinois there is the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board; and in Texas the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement manages training and certification. Despite the varying nomenclature, the scope of these organizations is roughly the same – to administer and certify the training of officers, provide guidance on best practices to agencies, and, increasingly, to collect large sets of data on police interactions.

Reform State POSTIn the last 12 months alone, the National Conference of State Legislatures has tracked approximately 3,000 bills at introduced or passed at the state level related to police reform. Many of these bills recognize a shortfall in centralized data reporting encompassing everything from training certifications to officer interactions in the field. As a result, demands on state POSTs and their data collection capabilities are expanding, requiring them to modernize the ways in which they deal with this data.

On the national level, The International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST) is an organization of POST directors and leaders in law enforcement training from all 50 states. IADLEST does not govern training standards, however, they do certify courses through the National Certification Program which ensures coursework is accepted by most state POSTs and is transferrable if an officer joins a new agency. They also maintain several resource databases like the National Law Enforcement Academy Recourse Network, a center for training materials, best practices, and discussion among public safety trainers and officials.

New State Legislation and POSTs

Many of these new laws seek to standardize certification and training at the state, rather than local level. How POST organizations meet the challenge of new statewide requirements is going to be a key factor in determining the overall success of new law enforcement legislation. Here is a look at several prominent examples of the role state POSTs will play in enacting new laws.

  • Beginning in 2022, Colorado POST will, among other things, create and maintain a statewide database of information related to an officer’s “untruthfulness, repeated failure to follow POST training requirements, decertification, or termination for cause”. This new mandate is part of broad news efforts contained in SB20-217, signed into law by Governor Polis. (In 2019 Benchmark Analytics was selected as the provider of record for Colorado POST’s training and certification management system and is responsible for the implementation of a new Learning Management System designed to track the training, employment status, and certification of approximately 40,000 personnel statewide.)
  • This year, Utah’s state legislature passed a pair of POST-related bills that became law in May. SB106 mandates that the POST council create statewide minimum use of force policies while SB13 calls on agencies to provide information about certain internal investigations of officers to the state POST. Both bills were constructed to more thoroughly establish statewide standards administered by POST.
  • In New Hampshire, Governor Sununu signed an Executive Order on Law Enforcement, Accountability, Community, and Transparency. As a result of this executive order, Benchmark Analytics was selected by the New Hampshire POST to head up a statewide capture of employment, training, and certification data across the state’s more than 200 law enforcement agencies.
  • As a part of a larger law enforcement bill signed by Governor Baker, Massachusetts established, for the first time, a statewide POST commission. The nine-member commission will be charged with creating certification standards for officers as well as investigating misconduct allegations.
  • SB2 was recently approved by the California state senate, establishing the state’s POST commission as the authority for certifying peace officers. The bill also mandates the creation of a nine-member Peace Officer Standards Accountability Advisory. This board will be responsible for reviewing findings of POST investigations and making recommendations on de-certification. Furthermore, the POST Commission voted in February to add a new four-hour use of force training requirement for officers.
  • New training mandates in Missouri, passed into law by the state legislature, were approved by the state’s POST commission. The mandates require that officers complete two separate one-hour classes covering de-escalation techniques and coursework on recognizing implicit bias. These two new hours of instruction are included in the 24 hours of annual training officers must complete on an annual basis. Additionally, the POST commission has established a committee to study pre-employment background checks and to make recommendations on their statewide implementation.
  • Signed into law in July of 2020, the Minnesota Police Accountability Act contained several provisions aimed at providing the state POST with the financial resources and leadership needed to enact new legislation. The bill called for the expansion of the POST board to 17 members to be appointed by the governor. The legislation also provided nearly $4 million in funding to POST for the expansion of its data collection efforts, training, and associated operational costs.

With these new resources, the Minnesota POST undertook a comprehensive audit led by IADLEST. The purpose of this audit was to modernize POST business processes, provide data for strategic planning, and to clarify procedures surround training and certification. As a part of these efforts, Minnesota POST partnered with

More data collection, greater uniformity in training, and the monitoring of officer certification status have been, and likely will continue to be, key provisions of law enforcement bills being passed throughout the country. Much of this legislation requires state POSTs to enhance their abilities to not only track both training and officer certification but create new systems and procedures for capturing and reporting data. As more of these bills become laws, POST organizations will likely continue to see their roles grow even further in enacting these changes.




It would be an understatement to say that in the last 12 months the world has changed in ways no one could have predicted. A global pandemic disrupted social norms, healthcare infrastructure and economic stability. Add to that a series of high-profile law enforcement incidents that ultimately resulted in renewed calls for police reform — and it’s easy to see how historians will look back at this year as a pivotal moment for change in the face of challenge and adversity.

One of the outcomes was an unusually active legislative environment, with states from coast to coast focused on enhanced as well as new police reform legislation. During this tenure of rapid change that continues today, it’s important to step back and look at the big picture in state-level policing reforms — to more thoroughly understand them in a broader context. According to a recent analysis by The Washington Post more than 2,000 policing-related bills have been introduced across the country since June of 2020. By unpacking and understanding the broad aims of these bills, departments and their leaders can better anticipate potential reform efforts that affect them and implement more effective change management strategies in response.

state-driven police reformTypically, most states have a pre-determined legislative period, with some not even meeting on an annual basis. In the last 12 months, 23 of them held special legislative sessions outside of their normal legislative periods. While many of these sessions were called to tackle the impacts of the pandemic and provide special funding for first responders, it also gave lawmakers the opportunity to address urgent calls for police reform specific to use of force as well as accountability and transparency.

Newly compiled numbers from the National Conference of State Legislatures show that almost half of the states enacted some form of legislation that changed the way police operate. These reform efforts covered everything from physical interactions during arrests to record-keeping and compliance. In addition to these 24, several more states passed oversight reforms, calling for commissions or other groups to study ways to improve standards and transparency.

Two of the most common types of reform have been those addressing the use of neck-restraints, or chokeholds, and those mandating an officer’s duty to report or intervene. 18 states and the District of Columbia passed laws limiting the use of neck restraints with ten states banning them outright. Other legislation passed in 12 states requires officers to report and, in many cases, attempt to intervene to prevent out-of-policy instances of force by a fellow officer. Further, some states have enacted broader, more comprehensive reform measures — for example:

  • Colorado Governor Polis signed into law a broad accountability bill titled Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity, where agencies will be required – among other things – to report all details of all use of force incidents that result in death or serious bodily injury; track all instances when a peace officer resigned under investigation for violation of policy; and maintain a database on officer de-certifications
  • Governor Sununu of New Hampshire signed an executive order establishing the state’s Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability, Community, and Transparency. Benchmark Analytics was selected to develop and implement a state capture of employment, training, and disciplinary history as well as certification across 200+ statewide law enforcement agencies.
  • Washington state Governor Inslee recently signed a dozen police accountability bills into law, notably including the creation of a statewide database of police use of force incidents, through the Washington State Office of the Attorney General.
  • New York, where Governor Cuomo issued an executive order that every law enforcement agency in the state adopt a reform plan by April 1, 2021. Titled New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative, the order requires that agencies develop clear policies specific to Use of Force and Early Intervention.
  • In Virginia, Governor Northam signed sweeping legislation comprised of a dozen bills covering everything from use of force and tactics to crisis intervention protocol, all areas requiring additional training and certification for officers.
  • The state of Utah passed several law enforcement bills signed into law by Governor Cox, including requiring Utah agencies to meet the FBI’s standards for reporting use of force — as well as setting up a panel to consider and make recommendations on data collection.
  • After the passage and signing of the Minnesota Police Accountability Act of 2020, Benchmark Analytics partnered with Minnesota POST to implement a statewide portal to capture internal affairs misconduct complaints across 400+ of the state’s law enforcement agencies.

Additionally, some states are mandating the reporting of incident data to both state and federal agencies. These reporting requirements as part of oversight trends are generally aimed at increasing the dataset available to the communities that agencies serve — as well as policymakers, researchers and data scientists. One of the thoughts behind these new requirements is that, with a larger dataset to study, it will better enable evidence-based decision-making at multiple levels of government and law enforcement.

Most observers see these legislative actions as the beginning, rather than conclusion of a process towards meaningful change in the way law enforcement agencies track and manage their forces. Comprehensive personnel management systems can make a substantial difference in the ease of which this data is monitored internally and reported out to various agencies and oversight bodies.

The Benchmark Management System (BMS), for example, features reporting tools designed to simplify data retrieval and review, putting incident-based data for individual officers, comparative stats for units, and a host of other data analysis features in one, simple-to-implement tool. This not only allows leaders to ensure accurate and timely milestone reporting to satisfy the requirements of any new legislation mandates, but day in and day out it empowers them to monitor performance data in real time, giving them an up-to-the-minute picture of the officers under their command. BMS also includes a next-generation Training Management System to help agencies track and manage any additional requirements and certifications as a result of new reform standards.

Law enforcement agencies are experiencing a time of rapid change in the way they do their work. New legislation will undoubtedly continue to shape not only law enforcement practices, but also training and the way data is managed and reported. By having a deeper understanding of not just the mandates of new legislation but the trends they represent, law enforcement agencies and their leaders can better rise to the occasion, ensuring their officers are well-equipped to navigate these changes.

Our next article will be looking at the role that state POST organizations are expected to play in these latest reform efforts.

Law enforcement software has changed immensely over the past decade. We have seen software innovations that help improve administrative workflows, such as use of force or internal affairs reports, as well as software that captures and utilizes data to help police chiefs make decisions on how to best serve their communities. More often than not, these innovations are presented as single-point solutions — versus as part of an integrated, holistic suite of offerings.

These standalone software applications are designed to address one specific agency need, such as training management, performance evaluations, or Covid-19 personnel tracking. While these systems capture and track information for the task they were built for, in the end they are disparate cogs in a machine that requires seamless integration and connectivity.

The Complexities of Standalone Software Applications
Until recently, the market has driven how agencies are able to purchase software solutions for their myriad of needs. And by that we mean, one by one: one platform for early warning and intervention . . . one platform for training . . . one for Covid-19 tracking . . . and so on and so on. And while these single-point purchases solve individual challenges in the short-term, over time they can lead to increased complexities within the agency and its administrative process.

The Benefits of a Single-Provider Software Suite

For example, agencies that utilize multiple software applications can experience integration challenges and find it difficult to compare and correlate data across applications. As a result, many administrative hours are spent on manual processes or even spreadsheets, in order to link information together from these different standalone systems. This takes valuable team time away from conducting more important core duties. And on top of all that, by the time all the information is integrated as needed, it may already be outdated and inaccurate. The unintended consequences? Agencies possibly making critical decisions based on inaccurate information . . . or making a hasty and potentially risky decision without benefit of the full information picture . . . OR, in lieu of that complete picture, taking no action at all.

Additionally, IT departments spend time and money maintaining, upgrading or acquiring new versions of each standalone application. When one application has a new version, it may require additional integration and maintenance with the other standalone systems in order for it to work, which in the end leads to an increase in hours and costs to maintain. All this, and we still see some agencies “make do” with multiple software applications, even if that strategy may not serve their various stakeholders in the most efficient and effective way possible.

The Benefits of a Single-Provider Software Suite
A single-provider software suite is a collection of software applications that have correlative features and functionality for law enforcement agencies. These suites also share a similar user interface and have the ability to easily exchange data with each other. Agencies who utilize a single-provider software suite experience numerous benefits. Here are a few below:

  • Data in one place.
    The key to avoiding manual work and time-consuming tasks is to ensure your agency has the ability to create, update, or modify data all in one place. For example, with standalone systems, personnel may need to log into several different applications to complete functions. With a single-provider software suite, individuals can utilize any portion of the system and input data that can be easily shared across other portions of the suite — saving valuable administration time. The Benefits of a Single-Provider Software SuiteAdditionally, the right software suite can seamlessly integrate all data, automate data processes and update information in real-time —  making it is easy to generate reports and compare data. Automating such processes also allows agencies to minimize personnel time spent on data-mining activities.
  • Decreased redundant IT tasks.
    Agencies with several standalone systems consume valuable IT time managing, maintaining and upgrading each individual system. A single, holistic software suite streamlines efficiency and minimizes redundancy in IT tasks.
  • Consistent experience.
    Standalone systems will have their own unique user interface designs. With a single-provider software suite, agencies get a consistent UX, which can minimize confusion, reduce learning time and increase overall usability.

Ultimately, with a single-provider software suite, agencies achieve transparency, streamline data, and manage department functions in one place. For these and other reasons, leading agencies are turning to Benchmark Analytics and its suite of personnel management software, which includes the Benchmark Management System® (BMS), First Sign® Early Intervention and Case Action Response Engine® (C.AR.E.).

BMS is a comprehensive software suite that features seven analytics-driven modules, which include: 1) Training 2) Use of Force 3) Internal Affairs 4) Activity 5) Officer Profile 6) Performance Evaluation and 7) Community Engagement. These seven integrated modules capture critical data and departmental reports that are easy to view in the BMS dashboard.

First Sign then leverages the data in BMS and analyzes it to identify officers who are exhibiting both on-track and off-track behavior. Once off-track behavior has been identified in First Sign, Benchmark expedites thoughtful and effective early intervention with C.A.R.E. — a proactive, targeted support program that features research-based case management modules for officer-specific interventions.

To learn more about the Benchmark Analytics Software Suite, visit:

Or, contact us today at

Computer-based training can be traced back to the mini-computer and mainframe of the 1960s and ‘70s. It was the first-time training was conducted without having to rely on printed worksheets or face-to-face instruction, and instead, employees logged into shared terminals to access training materials. It was 1998 when we experienced the first generation of online instruction.

(Source: eLearning Industry

Curated Content as a Service

Today, many organizations deliver online instruction through training platforms, which are online tools that provide training administrators and employees access to information and resources that support training delivery and management. However, not all training platforms are the same, and there are pitfalls to having a legacy platform in place.

What is a legacy training platform?

Legacy training platforms refer to software applications that rely on old methods and have become outdated, such as traditional Content-as-a-Service (CaaS).

Traditional CaaS software provides a content repository, such as a collection of videos, research papers and PowerPoints, to be accessed by organizations for training and professional development needs. While having content in one place is certainly beneficial, there are disadvantages to having this type of legacy system within your organization. Legacy System

For example, some organizations purchase off-the-shelf training that is designed for a mass-market audience versus a specific organization’s need. The traditional CaaS will store the off-the-shelf training, but it lacks the capability to distinguish what training is relevant to your organization’s specific needs. Additionally, protocols and industry standards constantly change, and traditional systems aren’t wired to update courses and content that would be considered outdated or obsolete.

It can also be difficult for training administrators to get to the content they want within the traditional CaaS platform because they’re spending time filtering through unneeded training. In the end, organizations may have learning content that they do not utilize or worse, is not relevant to their current needs.

What is Curated Content-as a-Service?

Engagement is critical when training your employees. According to HR Daily Advisor, “When learners are provided access to personalized, curated learning content that is applicable to their current roles and career trajectories, they will constantly search for opportunities to exhibit the skills they’re learning at work because they’ll be relevant. And when they optimize their performance and see how their learning paths are helping them achieve their goals and move forward in their career trajectories, they’ll be more engaged at work.”

Curated Content as a Service

At Benchmark, we understand that the most successful LMS outcomes is research-driven, evidenced-based eLearning content. Equally important, the most effective LMS is one that engages your employees in a way that inspires them, elevates their skills and improves their performance in meaningful, measurable ways. Which is why our LMS strategy employs Curated Content-as-a-Service™ (C-CaaS) as our differentiating, breakthrough process for enabling 21st century workforce skills in the workplace.

We’ve adapted the 21st Century Workforce Skills model to serve as a roadmap for partnering with public sector entities to create a thoughtful, curated content plan that will elevate your employee skill sets – and measurably improve performance levels ­– to better meet the needs and goals of your agency.

Here’s how the process works:

  • Meet and Assess
    Meet to understand and assess your current training program and compliance needs — as well as the level of workforce skills.
  • Establish Objectives
    Set eLearning objectives to comply with your training guidelines and address specific areas in need of improvement.
  • Curate Content
    Assign a Benchmark C-CaaS team of research-driven content curators to identify and deploy content that meets your objectives — accessing our robust library of eLearning offerings.
  • Configure and Implement
    Collaborate with your employee development team to configure and implement our LMS platform to meet your unique needs.
  • Evaluate and Evolve
    Evaluate your LMS content regularly to track performance, obtain feedback and make informed adjustments to evolve and advance your offerings.

Our LMS was built specifically with public sector agencies in mind. The Benchmark eLearning team includes thought leaders with years of experience in government operations, policymaking, education, professional development and eLearning proficiency.

Their expertise includes research and data analytics, software architecture and design, research-based content curation — along with highly skilled platform configuration, implementation and customer support.

To learn more, visit our Benchmark eLearning Differentiator: Curated Content-as-a-Service™ page at