More than ever before, public safety and other local government agencies – including state, county and all municipalities therein – face a host of challenges within their respective communities.  Creative thinking and discovering new ways to problem solve are critical at this time — as is identifying the most effective means for communication and collaboration between colleagues.

21st Century SkillsWith that said, it is essential for today’s public sector workforces to be equipped with 21st century skills that allow them to be successful in complex work environments . . . while executing daily operations. These skills include:

  • Critical Thinking: The ability to observe, analyze, problem-solve, and make decisions.
  • Creative Thinking: The ability to organize, see what’s not there, and problem-solve in an open-minded, stimulating environment.
  • Collaboration: The ability to work effectively with others, compromise, and delegate.
  • Communication: The ability to share ideas in different formats, both oral and written, as well as actively listening and engage with one another.
  • Information Literacy: The ability to identify, find, evaluate, and use information effectively.
  • Media Literacy: The ability to identify and utilize different types of media — and understand the messages shared.
  • Technology Literacy: The ability to use and understand technology to access, integrate, create and communicate information.
  • Flexibility: The ability to adapt to change, as well as the willingness and ability to respond to changing circumstances.
  • Initiative: The ability to think individually and innovatively, develop and implement something new, unique or improved . . . and make incremental, bold changes to improve processes.
  • Social Skills: The ability to listen, cooperate, and have empathy for others.
  • Productivity: The ability to problem-solve, manage time, handle stress, and make solid, actionable decisions.
  • Leadership: The ability to think strategically, manage people, initiate change —and plan and deliver on proposed activities and projects.


How Do We Advance 21st Century Skills in the Public Sector Workforce?

We are two decades into the century so the concept of  “21st century skills“ is not a new one, and some may assume that today’s workforce has embraced these skills. Yet, research shows that, for many, 21st century skills are still lagging. According to an American Management Association Critical Skills Survey, 51.4 percent of survey respondents said employees had average communication skills — and 46.9 percent stated employees had average skills in creativity. Additionally, in a report by the Stanford History Education Group, individuals in the study demonstrated a lack of literacy skills and had a hard time distinguishing advertisements from news articles . . . or identifying where information came from.

As community leaders, public safety and other local agencies must all take action to continue building these skills. This is not a lofty aspiration.

21st Century WorkforceWith the right tools and plans in place, organizations can provide the training and courses to build their current workforce. Public safety agencies and municipalities can begin by utilizing technology, such as an effective learning management system (LMS), to turbo-charge the learning experience. The Journal stated a 21st century LMS should have an intuitive interface, collaboration tools that go beyond standard teacher-learner communication, analytics and reporting dashboards — and the capacity to structure learning for and individuals, as well as for an entire organization.

Additionally, an effective LMS can provide courses that build specific 21st century skills. A few examples include:

  • Courses that are collaborative and measure success by department or unit results build collaboration skills.
  • Courses that promote cross-cultural understanding build social skills.
  • Courses that provide opportunities for learners to lead, implement and delegate develop leadership skills.

The entire public sector workforce can develop 21st century skills by establishing mentoring programs where individuals collaborate, share knowledge — and communicate both in-person and through written formats. The Alliance for Innovation also suggests organizations can create career development programs, utilizing features in the LMS, where employees move in various directions – gaining essentials skills to keep pace in today’s workplace.

The Benefits Are Clear. 

The benefits of developing your workforce goes far beyond day-to-day operations. By advancing 21st century skills, employees are increasing their capabilities to manage their responsibilities efficiently and effectively — and employers are strengthening their internal groups to develop, grow and lead the organization.21st Century Public Sector Skills

If you are ready to learn more about tools that can help your organization build 21st century skills, take a look at our blog post “The Benefits of a Learning Management System for Today’s Public-Sector Organizations.”

A robust learning management system (LMS) software can make a big impact on an organization’s training and professional development strategy. Case in point: e-learning can increase learning retention rates by 25 to 60 percent (TechJury), vs. 8 to 10 percent with face-to-face training.

So what exactly is a robust LMS?
A comprehensive, top-to-bottom software application that can administrator, manage, track and deliver training and learning effectively across an entire organization. It’s software that provides easy ways for administrators to deliver content, as well as easy ways for your workforce to access the information, participate in threaded discussions, and complete courses. These systems built specifically for advancing learning can also be used to host compliance training, as well as generate required reports and certifications.

Public safety, in fact all municipal government sectors that utilize an LMS, can make a huge impact on the way their employees learn and experience professional development. Here are some fundamental things to keep in mind when considering an LMS software for your organization:

1. One size does not fit all.
The unique needs of public safety and municipal agencies are important considerations when it comes to selecting the right training platform partner. Not all systems are alike and can vary in their ability to meet the personalized needs and engagement criteria you’ve set for your team.

Learning Management System, One Size Does Not Fit AllFor instance, an LMS allows organizations to upload all their training content, multimedia, PowerPoints, and much more into a secure platform that allows them to assign training by person, job role, department, unit, or location — all depending on their unique training needs.

According to eLearning Industry, with the right LMS environment, employees feel empowered to interact and engage within the software platform, learn at their own pace, and participate in each step of every course/training session. If an individual prefers team-based learning, they can go through a collaborative training plan with their peers.

2. Enhanced tracking.
For organizations that provide training for multiple employees, it can be difficult to track learner progress and engagement, as well as course completion dates. With a robust LMS software, organizations can easily manage employee training schedules, track learning and professional development activities, and access certifications required for compliance.

Being able to track when individuals finish courses or training segments provides organizations the information they need to move employees along the learning path — whether to continue to develop their skills in current courses or move onto the next online learning activity. It can also inform when the last training was taken, and what must be retaken, to ensure employees’ skills and knowledge are up to date. Additionally, if leadership sees that an employee hasn’t successfully completed courses, they can connect with the employee and collaborate to create a training plan that leads to growth and success.

For public safety agencies specifically, tracking training activities is crucial for managing certifications to meet mandatory compliance. With an effective LMS in place, there is instant insight and visibility into your workforce’s compliance activity through tracking and dashboarding functionalities.

3. Easy access to information.
LMS software provides training administrators and end-users easy access to information, whether it be generating custom reports or access to specific courses. Reports can outline learner progress, as well provide updates on completion of courses and certifications.

Learning Management System Access to InformationGaining access to metrics around course completion and course abandonment allows administrators to evaluate if the content being delivered is serving its purpose by meeting the needs of their organization. It also helps training leaders develop next steps for the organization — whether it be adding new materials and resources or assigning a new version of content for compliance purposes.

The benefits of a robust Learning Management System are real and compelling — which is why so many organizations across the U.S. utilize them. If you are ready to adopt an LMS, or are looking to switch to one built for your public-sector organization, visit to learn more.

Even though Early Intervention Systems have existed in concept and practice since 1989, most agencies haven’t been able to implement a truly proactive instance of one. Historically, EI systems have been developed using thresholds and simple triggers to identify personnel exhibiting off-track behavior. What results is a necessarily retroactive method of supporting your officers, as the problematic behavior must occur before a supervisor receives an alert to address it. This simple system will always fail to realize the full potential of the Early Intervention programs.

In its latest report, Law Enforcement Best Practices: Lessons Learned from the Field, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) identified Early Intervention Systems as an important issue for law enforcement executives and personnel. Why now? Because computing power has finally caught up to what was required by the original vision for effective EI systems. And because more than ever we need to be providing officers with the right type of research-backed support at the right time.

What Type of Agency Uses an Early Intervention System?

According to the COPS report, “65% of police departments with over 250 officers had [an EI system] in place.” Because simple triggers were the norm until recently, we know these systems are less effective than they could be.

According to research conducted by our partners at the University of Chicago, EI systems using triggers produce 89% false negatives (i.e., officers who are likely to exhibit off-track behavior are not flagged by the EI system) and 71% false positives (i.e., the officers flagged by your system aren’t actually at-risk of off-track behavior).

Put simply, if you’re relying on triggers to flag at-risk officers, it’s unlikely you’ll ever succeed in identifying the right personnel at the right time. Trigger systems produce these results because they treat every officer – regardless of when or where they’re patrolling – in the same way. This doesn’t reflect the real world of policing.

Early Intervention as a Management Process

The COPS report defines an Early Intervention system as “a management process used in law enforcement agencies to monitor employee performance or behavior via administrative data.” The key word here is data. As mentioned, simple triggers won’t provide the insight you really need to have a meaningful impact in supporting your personnel. Without data, you are just taking a shot in the dark. New EI systems, like Benchmark’s First Sign®, take a data-driven approach. Meaning the system is designed to reflect the specifics of your agency’s data, allowing you and your supervisors to draw informed conclusions based on patterns of behavior and risk factors unavailable to those using simple triggers.

The report also emphasizes an EI System is “not designed to be punitive, but rather a proactive tool.” Again, this only becomes possible when you start with the data.

Anatomy of a Successful Early Intervention Program

If you’re starting to evaluate EI systems for your agency – or re-evaluating an existing one – you’ll find the COPS report valuable. In it, they lay out what makes for a successful EI program.

– It identifies personnel in need of support while also identifying the right support, intervention or training to put the officer back on track.
– It helps an agency better audit the types of training and support it currently has in place, surfacing data that enables supervisors to develop better interventions and provide tailored support.
– It necessitates policies and procedures to ensure personnel are trained to use it, thus ensuring a broad awareness of both the benefits of an EI system as well as the types of data factored into its analysis.
– It’s communicated effectively to the rank-and-file. This offsets any fear or apprehension about a system that could easily be perceived as disciplinary, though it’s critical to emphasize the proactive and non-disciplinary nature.
– It’s easily leveraged by First-Line Supervisors (another focus of this report), ensuring adoption and data fidelity to allow the system to provide valuable insights to stave off at-risk behavior in personnel.

The report is full of invaluable perspective for police executives. We’ll continue to share what we think are the most salient points for agencies looking to implement truly proactive, data-driven EI systems. In the meantime, you can read the full report here.

“Personnel management…is one of the most difficult challenges you face.” – Chuck Ramsey

Over the course of a decades-long career, Chuck Ramsey influenced, defined and communicated police culture at two major agencies. First, as Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department, then as Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia.

When he left his leadership role in Chicago for Philadelphia, he anticipated the two agencies would be mostly similar, though he quickly realized the differences would have a bigger impact on his goals for the agency.

How can a police executive proactively shape police culture?

Leaders are likely to find that the universality of police practices can cut both ways. They should allocate sufficient time to understanding their agency’s culture. This is especially critical in circumstances where you’re coming from outside the agency. Ultimately, any time you want to change how an agency operates, you need to understand the why and how of its current state.

Regardless of its familiarity, if your agency’s culture is divisive or fails to support your intended policies and training – such as an increased focus on officer wellness – it’s not the right one.

Try to see beyond the traditional mindset of policing. Its culture can only change by identifying and recognizing the people who do things the right way while intervening to correct and support those who don’t.

During a recent Q&A with Benchmark’s CEO, Ron Huberman, Chuck shared what he learned about developing cultures of excellence and wellness – as both an insider and an outsider – to help today’s leaders better navigate the changing landscape of policing.

Watch the entire discussion below:


What’s expected of leadership from year to year rarely stays the same. While every new cohort of police executives expects to face new challenges, the complexity of contemporary law enforcement is unprecedented. The extent of which is largely due to the impact of new technology on how people communicate and share experiences. If there’s a negative incident between law enforcement and the community, it’s no longer a local issue, it’s a national one.

“It’s not just worrying if something happened in your department; wherever it happens, it can have an impact on it.”

How one agency operates and responds to community expectations can inform the perception of law enforcement across the country. This can have a negative impact on police legitimacy, which is the metric for how law enforcement is perceived by the community they serve. Less perceived legitimacy translates to less respect for law enforcement, which can undercut community engagement efforts and complicate officer safety.

Watch the full Q&A to hear Chuck Ramsey’s thoughts on:

  • Managing relationships with your officers and your community
  • Moving beyond the reliance on legacy candidates in recruiting new officers
  • The actionable information every chief needs to lead effectively

Top Issues Every Leader Should Prioritize in 2020

During his twenty-five-year tenure at LAPD, Dr. Sean Malinowski held a number of challenging roles. At one point, due partly to a background in technology, he served concurrently as Chief of Detectives, Chief Information Officer, ran CompStat, and managed the department’s technology. Dr. Malinowski succeeded by recognizing how each of his roles interacted with the others to drive agency process and outcomes.

What Information Does a Chief Need to Run a Modern Police Agency?

High-functioning agencies need to create strategic dashboards to visualize data. Dr. Malinowski thinks of these as windows into the data, and the shape and scope is highly subjective, likely dependent on the preferences and needs of an agency’s executives.

For the LAPD, specifically then-chief Charlie Beck, Dr. Malinowski bucketed data in three windows. The first contained crime data, the second tracked public sentiment, and the third window provided insight into how the agency was doing on risk management – tracking use-of-force incidents and vehicular pursuits, for example.

But data tracking, particularly when in service to prediction, can cause friction between an agency and its community. However, according to Dr. Malinowski, this is largely due to a disconnect around intentions. As he sees it, the data isn’t used to arrest someone before they commit a crime just because an algorithm says they are likely to – but used as an indicator that empowers an agency to take preventative steps. To stop the crime from happening without having to arrest anyone.

This is similar to how Benchmark developed First Sign, our research-based Early Intervention System. We use the power of advanced analytics to help agencies intervene with an officer before off-track behavior results in an adverse incident.

Watch the Q&A below to hear how Dr. Malinowski implemented one of the first Early Warning Systems for the LAPD.

The New Era in California Policing

Every use-of-force incident has the potential to undermine community trust, expose officers to liability and create an operational, financial or reputation risk to the agency. With a newly state-mandated emphasis on de-escalation and alternatives to force, law enforcement agency leaders will be responsible for carefully reviewing their policies, training their officers and assuring a robust internal review process is in place.

In 2018, 677 civilians in California were involved in officer use-of-force incidents that resulted in death or serious bodily injury – or an officer discharging his or her firearm. Those incidents resulted in 146 civilian deaths1 – a decrease from the 741 civilians involved in serious force incidents in 2017 that resulted in 172 deaths2.

Civilian Death and Injuries Chart

The primary reason described by officers – both in 2017 and 2018 – for using serious or deadly force, was to effect an arrest or to take a civilian into custody. In 40 incidents in 2018 and 22 incidents in 2017, an officer used serious force to prevent an escape. With the enactment of AB 392, new restrictions on using deadly force during an attempted escape mean there will be more scrutiny than ever before3.

Reasons for Use of Force

The message sent by the Legislature was clear when it recently enacted bill AB 392: “[I]t is the intent … that peace officers use deadly force only when necessary in defense of human life.” AB 392 requires officers only respond with deadly force when a threat of death or serious bodily injury is “imminent,” meaning the assailant has “the present, opportunity, and apparent intent to immediately cause death or serious bodily injury” to the officer or another person. Officers are also required to use available resources and techniques other than deadly force If “reasonably safe and feasible to an objectively reasonable officer.”

SB 230, as one police chief said, is equally – if not more so – important as AB 392, the landmark bill recently signed by Governor Newsom that rewrote California’s deadly force standard.

mounted officers california Link: Attribution:

Until AB 392, California’s use-of-force standard had not been amended since it was enacted in 1872. Understandably, department leaders have expressed concern about the demands new reforms will place on their agencies by the new reforms. Chiefs and Sheriffs understand change is necessary, but they also know they will be under intense pressure to make sure the requirements of AB 392 are effectively implemented.

This is where SB 230 comes in. Initially, it was meant as an alternative to AB 392. Over the last several months though, lawmakers transformed it into a powerful set of policy and training requirements agency leaders will need to thoroughly understand and implement. This transformation will benefit their officers as well as the communities they serve.

Another law enforcement veteran called SB 230, “absolutely critical,” if California’s leadership wants to see meaningful and lasting change in the application of the use of force.

Once it takes effect, SB 230 will require law enforcement agencies enact a full set of use-of-force policies that will stretch from training . . . to the actual use of force . . . to its immediate aftermath and beyond. Those policies need to be in place by January 1, 2021, meaning the 500-plus agencies in California will need to train nearly 80,000 peace officers in a little over a year.

Agencies will have to enact and maintain policies covering the following topics involving use-of-force incidents:

  • De-escalation techniques
  • Crisis intervention
  • Vulnerable persons (pregnant women, children, the elderly and the disabled)
  • Tactics, such as using time and distance
  • Deadly force guidelines
  • Alternatives to force
  • Proportional force
  • Approved methods and devices
  • Fair and unbiased policing
  • Guidelines for drawing or pointing a firearm
  • Shooting at or from moving vehicles
  • Consideration of surroundings and bystanders
  • Intervening when observing force clearly beyond which is necessary

Agencies will also have to enact policies for actions taken in the immediate aftermath of the force incident, including:

  • Providing, if properly trained, or promptly procuring medical aid
  • Prompt internal reporting and notification
  • Reporting the witnessing of potential excessive force

Chiefs and Sheriffs will also have to put policies in place regarding supervision, accountability and transparency, including:

  • Supervisors’ roles in reviewing uses of force
  • Factors for evaluating and reviewing use-of-force incidents
  • Procedures for the filing, investigation and reporting of force complaints
  • Procedures for complying with Penal Code § 832.7 (public disclosure of records)
  • Procedures for complying with Government Code § 12525.2 (reporting of serious force to the State Attorney General)

Of course, policy without training is meaningless, and each of the described requirements will demand training of your peace officers. SB 230 specifically requires:

  • Training standards and requirements relating to knowledge and understanding of use-of-force policies
  • Training for situations involving vulnerable persons, including those with physical, mental or developmental disabilities

Minimum training and course titles required to meet force policy objectives

State legislation has now fully entered areas that were until recently the domain of department policy. SB 230 states “in all circumstances, officers are expected to exercise sound judgment and critical decision-making when using force options.” This is not an expectation without teeth, as the very next subparagraph allows for the introduction of an agency’s policies and training as evidence in proceedings for consideration of the totality of circumstances of the involved officer. In other words, your agency’s policies and training regime are going be part of the record in administrative, civil and criminal matters.

squad car hollywood california Link: Attribution:

Those are not the only challenges chiefs and sheriffs will have to consider. With the new legislation, peace officers will believe they are at greater risk for being held criminally and civilly liable, community expectations will increase, there will be more news media scrutiny into whether your department is complying, and there will be more operational and reputation risks for agencies than ever before.

Designing and enacting the appropriate policies and then training all officers or deputies will require a significant organizational effort. With the right tools in place, though, not only will the coming transformation be manageable, they will bring about lasting change.

The coming challenge will be an opportunity to rethink how your agency does a lot of its work. You will be able to ask questions you often do not have the time to get to.

7 Key Steps for Successful Implementation

There are several important measures department leaders will need to take for a successful transition into the new use of force environment.

1. Have the right policies and procedures in place.

Your policies will need to comply with new state laws as well as local rules and collective bargaining agreement provisions.

2. Assure everyone is thoroughly trained

The learning and training mandates of SB 230 are vast, and departments will be under pressure to complete the training by January 1, 2021. This will require extensive tracking as new courses are brought online and rolled out to sworn staff. In providing human capital solutions to the law enforcement community, Benchmark Analytics® has developed a learning management system (LMS) that meets the unique needs of public safety. The LMS includes the capability for managing certifications and has a specific configuration incorporating California POST requirements. Benchmark will further customize its LMS solution for a partner department’s unique training and course titles.

3. Carefully monitor and evaluate each use-of-force incident

AB 392 amends Section 835a of the Penal Code to state “the decision by a peace officer to use force shall be evaluated carefully and thoroughly, in a manner that reflects the gravity of that authority and the serious consequences of the use of force by peace officers.” The Benchmark Management System® (BMS) delivers a complete police force management system with which to carry out a thorough investigation of serious use-of-force incidents and complaints, including evidence management and command-channel review. BMS is built to be configured to specific agency needs like those emerging in California. For example, BMS can easily help your agency comply with the strict timing requirements of the Peace Officer Bill of Rights so critical deadlines are never missed. Benchmark also has the added capability to automatically notify your records or discovery unit so your agency can stay in compliance with the Public Records Act and the recent significant opening of records under Penal Code section 832.7.

4. Collect the information you need to carry out your mandate

The Benchmark Management System includes a use-of-force module that can be readily configured to streamline your agency’s compliance with California’s requirements. This puts a platform at your agency’s fingertips that allows for thorough documentation and capture of data, such as officer and civilian information, geographic and lighting characteristics, the sequence and types of weapons used, and injuries sustained. In Benchmark, users can easily indicate whether a force incident falls within the California Code definition of “serious” force. Workflows can be developed to automatically notify your internal affairs team and activate timers to track video recording release schedules, helping your agency stay in compliance with Government Code section 6254. Additionally, Benchmark automatically flags the appropriate data fields for later export to the California Department of Justice URSUS use of force reporting platform.

5. Develop a thorough understanding by measuring and analyzing what you collect

In a changing landscape, “[police] forces must put analysis at the heart of their decision-making processes.”4 BMS is designed to give agency executives and supervisors the tools they need to review data, analyses and progress or designated periods of time . . . from a week or several months, to a year or more. Moreover, with its built-in analytics and machine learning capabilities, BMS gets smarter over time so you can uncover new insights with which to raise your department’s performance to a higher level.

6. Learn who is exceeding expectations and who is getting off track

Not knowing is not a management practice. You end up just hoping you can make it through the next watch without an event occurring that will endanger your officers, or the public, or put your agency’s reputation at risk by undermining community trust. A sophisticated early intervention system ought to be preventative by design so officers can, in fact, get the additional support they need as soon as possible. First Sign® Early Intervention is a first-of-its-kind research-based early intervention system that incorporates officer history, context of assignment and patterns of problematic behavior instead of relying on simplistic threshold-based systems.

7. Act on what you learn

Identifying an officer who is at risk of engaging in adverse behavior is just the first step. Next, a department has to develop effective interventions and provide the additional support to get the officers who need it, back on track. To address this critical need, Benchmark has developed a proactive intervention support platform called the Case Action Response Engine® or C.A.R.E. With C.A.R.E., you have access to proven best practices, demonstrated to be most effective at moving employee behavior in the right direction with non-punitive interventions. You can facilitate the intervention planning process with templates of actionable steps, goal-setting and follow-up actions, and also provide your supervisors with the capability to provide meaningful progress reports.

The last several years have presented many new challenges to policing. With those challenges comes the opportunity to develop and publish new policies, train your sworn staff and put in place robust review and reporting tools.

If you would like to know more about what Benchmark can do, click the button below to request a demo of our technology or a consultation with me to develop a plan to help your agency navigate the new use-of-force landscape in California.


Sources and Notes

1 Use of Force Incident Reporting, 2018, California Department of Justice.

2 Use of Force Incident Reporting, 2017, California Department of Justice.

3 Section 196 of the Penal Code is amended to say that “a peace officer is justified in using deadly force. . . to apprehend a fleeing person for any felony that threatened or resulted in death or serious bodily injury, if the officer reasonably believes that the person will cause death or serious bodily injury to another unless immediately apprehended.”

4 Policing – a vision for 2025, McKinsey & Company, January 2017, at p. 12.

The annual Midwest Security and Police Conference and Expo (MSPCE) 2019 was recently held at the Tinley Park Convention Center. The conference brought together law enforcement (LE) leaders from across Illinois within a 35,000-foot exhibit hall – and included informational sessions presented by security and LE professionals, professors, psychologists, authors and financial experts.

Benchmark Analytics had the opportunity to exhibit, as well as learn more about the challenges and opportunities in 21st century policing. Here are some of our key takeaways from participating at MSCPE 2019:

Agencies want to track community engagement.

It’s important for law enforcement agencies to establish public trust, and many agencies participate in community engagement activities to support this initiative. Just a few examples of community engagement activities include meeting local business owners, attending meetings and events, or participating in community projects. Many law enforcement leaders at MSCPE were interested to learn more about how they could track these efforts.Community Engagement

Being able to track and manage community interactions provides agencies the data they need to understand what’s contributing to proactive enforcement and community partnerships. It also provides a framework for leveraging that momentum to build sustainable positive engagement with their communities.

As an example, the Benchmark Community Engagement platform tracks and manages the time and effort officers spend engaging with the community, as well as records feedback received. This help agencies collaborate from an informed position and ensure their department is continuously responsive to community-based issues and activities.

Officer wellness goes beyond physical health.

MSPCE 2019 provided an informational session, PTS, Why Cops Experience Traumatic Stress Differently and discussed the importance of building resiliency, managing and treating officers, as well as making positive choices about diet, nutrition and exercise.

Police officers have a wide variety of tasks and duties, which of course can include responding to extreme incidents. So it’s no surprise that these extreme incidents and on-the-job trauma can contribute to higher rates of PTSD, depression and mental illness among officers. In fact, some mental health challenges are more prevalent among the law enforcement population (Statistics are underreported for police):

  • PTSD: 35% for police officers vs 6.8% in general population
  • Depression: 9% – 31% vs 6.7% in general population
  • Suicidal thoughts: 7% of officers have persistent thoughts of suicide

Other associations, such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and Police Executive Research Form (PERF), have symposiums, toolkits and webinars dedicated to supporting the mental wellness of police officers.

Use-of-force data is critical.

Also a prominent topic at MSPCE was the FBI’s launch of its National Use-of-Force Data Collection. According to their official press release, the database is “in an effort to promote more informed conversations regarding law enforcement use of force in the United States.”Use-of-Force Data

This initiative, which has been discussed at many conferences and meetings this year, has prompted agencies to look at how they document incidents, collect and organize information, review use-of-force reports, and access related data and analytics. By utilizing use-of-force data and analytics, agencies have the opportunity to notice any positive or negative trends, which can create a pathway for agencies to recognize and help their officers accordingly.

What to do next.

These are just three of the key takeaways from this year’s MSPCE, but there is so much more to be discussed. Join us in keeping the conversation going by visiting us at the National Internal Affairs Investigators Association Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as well as at the IACP Annual Conference (Booth #4839) in Chicago in October. Benchmark Analytics will be demoing its Officer Management and Early Intervention platforms, as well as providing insight and informational sessions on officer wellness, 21st century policing and other critical topics in law enforcement today.

Law enforcement generates extraordinary amounts of data. Every call and dispatch, every arrest, and most interactions with civilians create data an agency can use for analysis. Historically, the practical application of this information has been limited to crime analysis and prevention (e.g., hot-spot policing), but the increasing availability of data and analytics makes it possible for agencies to apply similar strategies to technology-driven personnel management.

Law Enforcement’s Data Ecosystem

Much of an agency’s data is captured through deeply integrated platforms such as Computer-Aided-Dispatch (CAD) and Records Management Systems (RMS). The emergence of CAD and RMS allows police leadership to streamline everyday operations while tracking patterns in historical data to develop sophisticated proactive strategies for crime prevention.

As agencies continue to upgrade to digital systems – including the deployment of equipment like body-worn cameras, dashcams, and V2X telemetry – it becomes easier to derive insights from officer activity. New technologies overlay existing systems to create a digital ecosystem that produces an increasing volume and quantity of data. This growth makes analysis more important, more complicated, and much harder to do well. However, it also creates an opportunity to do more with agency data.

For example, an agency could expand the focus of its data analysis beyond a criminal lens to include performance management of its officers. A recent article by Michael Armstrong, Bill Bratton and Sean Malinowski:

Performance Management has been described as an ongoing process to establish and maintain a high performance culture, focused on aligning individual objectives with the overall goals of the organization. Performance Management is characterized by inclusion and agreement on goal setting, establishing standards of measurement and immediate and ongoing collaboration and feedback. (Armstrong, M. (2006). Performance Management. London: Kogan Page)

In other words, performance management is effectively working with your officers, leveraging strengths and managing weaknesses to improve the overall outcomes of your agency’s police work. This begins with identifying what data to capture, how to effectively do so, and what the data you collect actually means. Most departments have an abundance of officer data but very few have managers trained to conduct meaningful data analysis.

up and to the right

In a previous blog, we connected this analysis of data to agency transformation (see the 5 Stages of Transformative Management for Law Enforcement). We mapped a typical agency’s journey from an undefined process to a transformative one and the distinct stages in between (including analytic). Well-documented processes with automated data collection get agencies pretty far along the path – without this data, you’d have nothing to analyze – though it takes more than just data to transform an agency. Each data point is like a rain drop. When you have a documentation process in place, you can get to the point where you know it’s raining and intuit how much rain is falling. It is Analytics that provides you with the information to decide whether or not you need an umbrella.

Using Analytics to Generate Actionable Insight

In this context, analytics refers to both the approaches and the software that can process massive amounts of varying data types within set parameters (provided by a user) to uncover patterns – achieving a level of insight that would be prohibitively difficult to do without the assistance of a computer. Law enforcement has used analytics to explore tactics to advance the efficacy of policing. This is only possible because of the data created by officers, both digital and not. At this level, an agency is just asking its officers to do paperwork. Necessary, no doubt, if only to have a chain of documents to audit. But agencies could be using this information to help officers get better at their jobs.

For the individual officer, analytics can guide continuous growth and improvement. How you measure this progress will depend on what standards your agency implements, but generally speaking, observable “growth and improvement” is any behavior that moves an officer up and to the right from whatever baseline expectations you set for them. If data indicates an officer is more likely to use force during third watches, you might consider evaluating them for sleep hygiene or avoid assigning them to third watch. It could be this individual is less likely to de-escalate when their natural sleep patterns are disrupted. Or maybe additional training paired with mindfulness coaching could be part of the solution. Instead of policy-driven management – which operates on whether an officer is following the rules or not – we can use data analysis to understand what behavior, coupled with training, leads to the best overall outcomes for an officer and the community.

This is similar to the type of ongoing growth we expect from other industries. Doctors are evaluated by their outcomes as well as subjective factors like bedside manner and perceived empathy. The same could be said for teachers, who receive regular evaluations from students and have access to myriad professional development opportunities. There is a distinct difference between an average doctor and an exceptional one; a teacher with room for improvement, and one voted Teacher of the Year.

Beyond certification for weapon and tactical systems, officers grow and improve throughout their careers. Officers are continuously refining their approach to interacting with the civilian population and each other. Yet this process of improvement is often independent of explicit agency guidance. Officers grow (or not) on their own, absent the same type of regular feedback and guidance from supervisors typically considered table stakes in other professions.

How can supervisors use data to help officers improve?

We can apply analytics to four areas of law enforcement: understanding what types of people tend to be exceptional police officers; identifying an agency’s best officers to help supervisors develop models for professional development; gauging the impact of trauma exposure on officers; and identifying and addressing behavior patterns that are likely to precede adverse events with civilians.

Policing is a difficult job. Successful officers project empathy and power simultaneously while responding appropriately to rapidly evolving situations. In the same way everyone isn’t built to play professional football or achieve Grandmaster status in chess, not every person is wired to be an officer. In theory, anyone can throw a football well or recognize opportunities on a chessboard – some just come by these skills more naturally.

Over time, we can begin to understand why certain individuals get things wrong and how others can learn from it. The stakes are undoubtedly high: mistakes can put an individual officer at risk as well as members of the community. Yet through the use of data, agencies can provide tailored, outcome-specific feedback to individual officers based on their own unique profile so they can improve.

To get these results, agencies have to familiarize themselves with the limitations of certain types of data processing. It’s a step in the right direction whenever an agency implements a process for objective self-evaluation. However, some methods for using data to manage officers that were once thought to be effective are no longer reliable sources of insight.

Beyond trigger-based personnel management

A primary example of using data more effectively to manage and support officers is the use of early warning systems. Since the 1970’s, agencies implemented early warning systems to flag officers acting outside a predetermined norm. Supervisors configured the system’s “triggers” using a blend of experience and intuition. Research has shown this approach is ineffective: trigger-based systems fail to correctly identify off-track officers. Further, they focus solely on what not to do rather than what officers could be doing to improve.

Data Science empowers us to move beyond these simple mechanics. Instead of intuition, we can use insight generated through rigorous analysis of longitudinal data. This enables an agency to provide tailored management to its officers. This leads to more effective policing and by extension a safer, and engaged, community.

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

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

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

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Non-Disciplinary by Design

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

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

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

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

How Do Early Intervention Systems Work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why would your agency want an EIS?

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

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

Protect Your Officers (and Their Careers)

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

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

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

Accreditation Compliance

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

Relationship with Community

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

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6 Baseline Functions to Look for in an EIS

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

Trigger or Threshold Mechanisms

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

A Research Base

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

21st Century Analytics

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

Situational Evaluation

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

Temporal Evaluation

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

Command Channel Review Support

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

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