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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.

References:
https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/state-policing-reforms-george-floyds-murder
https://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/legislative-responses-for-policing.aspx

 

 

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

Effects of Fatigue in Law Enforcement

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

Night Fatigue

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

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

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

What is Contributing to Officer Fatigue?

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

SHIFT LENGTH

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

SHIFT POLICIES

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

HOME LIFE

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

COMMUTING

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

SHIFT REGULARITY

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

STAFFING SHORTAGES

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

Compassion Fatigue

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

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

Charting a Course of Action

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

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

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

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

The importance of family is nothing new in the field of policing. For many, the decision to take up the profession is, at least in part, motivated by established family traditions of service in law enforcement. Before the commonplace adoption of formalized employee assistance programs (EAP) and departmental wellness initiatives, an officer’s family served a critical if informal role in helping officers cope with their profession’s stress and potential trauma.

family wellnessAs EAPs and wellness programs have grown more comprehensive and sophisticated in their approaches, the role of wellness in an officer’s family life has come to be seen as a mission-critical element of organizational culture. Family Matters: Executive Guide for Developing Family-Friendly Law Enforcement Policies, Procedures, and Culture, 2021 guide produced by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), is the latest in a long line of best-practice resources that seek to understand better how healthy family relationships support officers’ wellness while offering practical, data-informed recommendations to law enforcement leaders. The document explores the symbiotic relationship between an officer’s wellness and performance on the job with the conditions of their home-life, recognizing both as having demonstrated impacts on one another.

Why should agencies support family wellness?

The guide frames efforts to create family-friendly policies and culture not as simply a “nice-to-have” element of mental health programming but as one of the keystones to better agency performance and overall officer wellness. Three distinct positive outcomes are identified as the primary benefits of enacting such policies:

Boosts officer performance

Policing is a stressful occupation. Officers have to contend with the nature of the job: traumatic events, a shift-based schedule, and sometimes contentious community discourse around policing. Added to this inherent stress are the financial and family issues many officers experience due to their work. When not managed well, these types of stress become cyclical, with family stress accelerating job performance issues and the job stress impacting family life. This can lead to poor sleep patterns, fatigue, burnout, and substance abuse problems that can affect not only job performance but also an officer’s safety on the job. Healthy family relationships are known to increase mental resiliency and help individuals process trauma.

Improving retention and recruitment

As discussed in a previous blog post, officer retention is a high-priority concern of many law enforcement leaders. Recruiting and training officers is costly and frequent turnover can diminish the continuity of institutional knowledge and organizational values within an agency. Officers leave a department for various reasons though most of them can be broadly described as a lack of satisfaction with their working conditions. A new generation of officers places a higher value on quality-of-life job benefits like work-life balance and parental leave.

Building a workforce that reflects the community it serves

A central theme to much of the research exploring the factors influencing public perceptions and trust of police is that diversity matters. Law enforcement agencies whose officers and staff represent the diversity of the communities they serve are more likely to experience higher levels of public trust than agencies that don’t prioritize diversity. This includes intentional efforts at recruiting officers from family backgrounds that more accurately represent the evolving cultural definitions of a family unit. Understanding cultural differences related to multi-generational households, LGBTQ+ families and relationships, and other domestic living arrangements is vital to building a department culture guided by family-friendly wellness policies.

“Police departments that are deliberately and strategically inclusive of all family types are more likely to mirror the communities they serve, and therefore may be more effective at serving them.” Family Matters: Executive Guide for Developing Family-Friendly Law Enforcement Policies, Procedures, and Culture. 2021.

What law enforcement agencies are doing?

While informal family support structures within the law enforcement community are nothing new, there has been an increased emphasis on formalizing and funding programming designed to meet the needs of officers’ families. As the understanding of the importance of family relationships in the overall picture of officer wellness grows, departments are incorporating evidence-based techniques designed to enhance wellness more holistically with an eye toward preventative measures rather than purely reactive actions. In many departments, programs such as mental health services, financial counseling, pension, retirement planning, and established peer-support networks have shown very real results in improving officers’ working conditions and creating a meaningful sense of wellness for them and their families. Here are a few examples:

Metropolitan Nashville Police Department

Interestingly, the MNPD’s mental health programming began with an outward focus, initially created as a victim services unit tasked with providing support to victims of traumatic crimes. The training that officers and staff received to understand better the needs of victims led to an inward focus at the department and recognition of the mental health need of officers. In 1986, MNPD created the Police Advocacy and Support Services (PASS) unit to provide cognitive and behavioral health services to officers, staff, and, especially relevant here, their families. PASS has expanded several times since its inception, and now, in addition to full-time staff, a volunteer staff of chaplains coordinates special services for officers’ spouses and families. These include “family days” at the beginning and conclusion of academy training, several ongoing group-based support structures, and in-depth assistance in the event of traumatic events.

Milwaukee Police Department

In a previous article, we looked at the Milwaukee Police Department’s approach to wellness. In the last decade, departmental leaders have made significant investments in in-house employee mental health services. To avoid a perception of being a punitive measure, the wellness program was moved out of internal affairs and into training. The program utilizes a full-time psychologist from a law enforcement family, a veteran officer as a peer support coordinator, and two chaplains who are both retired MPD officers.  The non-denominational chaplains have a purposefully wide-ranging set of duties conscientiously designed to embed them in the broader community of MPD officers and families. The chaplains provide everything from confidential counseling after use-of-force or other traumatic incidents to serving as officiants at officer weddings and attending other family-based events. Furthermore, the mental wellness team hosts Family Nights, emphasizing the diverse line-up of services available to families and maintaining up-to-date contact lists to provide ongoing support.

The State of New Jersey

Recognizing an unmet need for formalized peer support on a statewide level, the New Jersey state legislature created the Cop2Cop hotline in 1999. The program’s mission is to provide 24/7 peer support, crisis intervention, access to provider networks, and other mental health services to law enforcement officers and, crucially, their families. The hotline is staffed by many retired police officers, many of whom are licensed mental health professionals, to provide structured peer support for officers and their families in times of crisis. Employing former officers is thought to help establish a trusted sense of rapport, approaching mental health more from a cultural perspective than a clinical one. The hotline staff seeks to create a continuum of care with the average relationship between a caller and dedicated hotline staff assigned to the case lasting around six months with an average of 15 points of contact.

Policy produces results

Creating policies that recognize the value of officers’ family support systems is a vital component of 21stcentury policing. The move from informal family support structures to ones strengthened by family-friendly departmental policies isn’t simply the “right thing to do”. Agencies that enact policies that enhance officer and family wellness have demonstrated positive and lasting results in improving officer performance and building trust in the communities they serve.

The Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act of 2017 served as an urgent call for more study into mental factors that contribute to officer wellness with the stated goal of producing actionable recommendations for law enforcement leaders. While the bill’s title suggests a somewhat narrow focus on mental health, the reality is that factors contributing to mental health among law enforcement officers span numerous interconnected areas of study. Researchers’ exploration of the subject has produced data vital to law enforcement leaders in their efforts to create innovative programs to promote officer wellness.

In our last post, we looked at some of the programs already in place at departments throughout the country. Many large, well-resourced departments have had employee assistance programs (EAP) in place for decades and continue to evolve them as emerging research sheds new light on how to best support officers in their careers. These programs have historically focused on counseling and peer-mentorship, demonstrating efficacy in improving officers’ working conditions.

Innovative Approaches to Officer WellnessAs research drives an increased emphasis on holistically supporting an officer’s wellness, new plans are being put into practice to work towards these aims. Some of the ideas may be surprising to outside observers in that they tackle causes of stress not typically addressed by traditional officer assistance programs. Among the more promising new tactics are programs designed to address underlying causes of job stress in officers: their physical fitness and financial health.

Financial Wellness

Stress about one’s personal or family finances is hardly unique to law enforcement officers. According to a wide-ranging study on financial health, 53% of respondents reported that simply thinking about their finances makes them anxious. That statistic jumps to as high as 63% in participants 18-35 years old, indicating the increased financial stress younger workers experience. Stress about debts and income is known to increase the chances of a person developing significant anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

Research published in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology suggests law enforcement officers may feel financial stress to an even greater degree than the general public. The study, published in 2020, surveyed causes of stress among 427 Illinois law enforcement officers. The data showed that concern about financial issues was a top cause of officer stress, with more than 72% of them reporting it as a significant factor, surpassing concerns about supervisor relationships or witnessing traumatic events while on duty. Reducing these financial worries is “extremely important” in reducing the overall stress that officers experience due to their work.

Lack of access to financial counseling services can be a real hindrance to financial health for officers whose salaries and wealth holdings might not reach the typical thresholds necessary to retain the services of a traditional wealth planner. Agencies like the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department have included financial counseling as a part of their EAP. The department facilitates peer-led groups that cover financial wellness as a component of their broader wellness curriculum. Furthermore, the department has, on several occasions, funded one-on-one visits from a financial planning consultant. Initially, the program was so popular that departmental leaders immediately scheduled extra sessions and follow-up meetings to satisfy robust demand from officers. Informational sessions and resources are also offered to retired officers to help them manage their finances post-employment.

Physical Wellness

Though there is a substantial physical component to the job for most officers, according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), only slightly more than half of them participate in any type of fitness regimen. Officers who do not keep a regular fitness routine were found in this IACP study to report more frequent issues with on-the-job injuries and to miss more shifts for post-injury rehabilitation. Missed shifts and opportunities for overtime can compound financial stress and strain on-the-job relationships, creating a domino effect of stressors.

Physical fitness among officers plays a more vital role in wellness than simply preventing injuries and missed shifts. Researchers and health professionals have documented a strong link between mental and physical health. Regular exercise is shown to reduce stress, improve mood, and enhance one’s resilience to mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

The Bend Police Department (BPD) has shown itself as willing to challenge law enforcement conventions to serve the goal of bettering officer wellness. Department leaders switched to a “three days on, four days off” schedule with 11.25-hour shifts in response to research suggesting that this rotation schedule is less disruptive to sleep cycles. The same study found that almost half of officers had reported falling asleep at the wheel, indicating the clear danger sleep deprivation poses to the officers themselves and the communities they serve.

The BPD also employs a unique set of mindfulness and yoga programs to create holistic improvements in officers’ overall wellness. These programs are, without a doubt, somewhat atypical for a law enforcement agency but have seen increasing buy-in from once-skeptical departmental leaders and officers. Daily mindfulness sessions are peer-led and involve meditation designed to facilitate stress reduction. After initial hesitancy, department leadership estimates as many as 75% of officers now participate in these sessions.

“As an officer, you feel like you never have time to shut off. The training helped me learn how to do that, even if it’s just during the ride home from work.” – Corporal Erick Supplee, BPD Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Programs: Eleven Case Studies

BPD’s yoga program focuses on flexibility and stress reduction as its core tenants. Critical to the program’s success, and a key recommendation for departments considering replicating it is finding an instructor able to demonstrate a commitment to understanding the specific needs of law enforcement officers and, most importantly, the culture of BPD and policing in general. Participation is voluntary, and as more officers give the program a chance, they’ve dispelled their preconceived notions about what yoga is about and who it is for. The program is seen as a success, contributing to a 40% reduction in job-related injuries. Owing to that success, yoga instruction has been renewed by the department through 2021.

A Complete Picture

As the understanding of officer wellness grows, aided by scientific research and study, so do departmental leaders’ approaches to supporting programs to enhance officer health. The products of researchers’ work consistently show officer wellness as impacted by a complex set of intersecting stresses, professional and personal needs. No single assistance program will produce dramatic improvements in overall wellness outcomes. Innovative methods like these, working in conjunction with well-established wellness-enhancing programs, show real promise as 21st-century solutions to persistent challenges to officer wellness.

 

 

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

Risk Management Basics

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

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

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

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

Municipal Risk Pools

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

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

Commercial Insurance

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

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

Self-Insurance

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

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

Risk Solutions

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

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

 

 

Reference

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

In our previous article, we explored how researchers studying officer wellness are responding to a more urgent need to understand the psychological and physiological factors that impact an officer’s health and job performance. As research expands and the body of knowledge concerning officer wellness evolves, this newly gathered data is being put into practice. Departmental leaders are basing their decisions on this research when crafting policies and creating programs designed to support and enhance officer wellness.

The Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act of 2017 was passed to give policymakers and police leaders more information to make these decisions. A significant component of the act was the mandate that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) make recommendations to Congress for ways to boost officer wellness. This multifaceted mandate focused on providing recommendations in three areas to improve officer wellness: how to best support agencies, their officers, and mental health providers working with law enforcement agencies.

Officer Wellness in PracticeTo understand the broader picture of best practices in officer wellness, the DOJ produced case studies of several departments throughout the country. The resulting report, Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Programs: Eleven Case Studies, utilized field interviews and site visits to document programs and support services currently in use. It emphasized a “continuum of mental health and wellness strategies, programs, and methodologies” that begin with the recruit and last through retirement. The strategies that the researchers investigated suggested significant efficacy in the departments that implemented them and have been held up as positive examples meriting further research.

The report looked at both common elements of these departments’ approaches to wellness and unique aspects of their efforts. Below are some notable examples from the case studies.

Indianapolis, IN

Leaders at the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department created what is now known as the Office of Professional Development and Wellness (OPDW) in 2010. The program emphasizes intensive peer-mentoring — provided by more than 100 experienced officers trained in peer support — that begins before an officer is sworn and lasts up to two years into their service. OPDW programs are specifically designed to help officers adapt to both the physical and mental demands of the job as well as provide ongoing support, connecting officers with mental health and counseling services. Leaders in the department credit the program with helping to change the agency’s culture by making it acceptable to talk about one’s personal and professional life and giving the mentor officers a sense of ownership of the department and in shaping its culture.

Bend, OR

The Bend Police Department began focusing resources on officer health and wellness in the early 2000s. The first major initiative was altering the shift schedule with sufficient overlap in shifts to give officers one hour a week of on-duty physical fitness programs. This early wellness effort eventually expanded into more comprehensive physical wellness programs for officers that, over time, correlated with a 40% decrease in on-the-job injuries. The department has employed an on-site psychologist since 2015 who is “embedded” with officers and engages in ride-alongs to build officer rapport and trust in an effort to “change the culture” around mental health in the department.

Dallas, TX

After a 2016 mass-casualty event affecting 14 officers, the Dallas Police Department greatly expanded its mental health services. It created the DPD Employee Support Program (ESP), which uses officer self-referrals and leaders’ referrals based on early intervention tactics. Referrals are confidential, regardless of source, and do not appear on an officer’s record with the goal of reducing the stigma of seeking support. Three staff psychologists provide services to support the research-based wellness needs of police officers and departments. These include pre-employment screening, family and marriage counseling, debriefing after critical incidents, and fostering peer-support networks. In 2018 DPD partnered with the Brain Health Brain Performance Institute at the University of Texas in Dallas to create a data-driven 12-hour mindfulness course to reduce stress, promote cognitive resilience, and improve focus.

Milwaukee, WI

In 2014 the Milwaukee Police Department began steps towards a substantial shift in the way they approached early intervention. Conducting focus groups with officers and drawing on research from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), they moved their early intervention program out of Internal Affairs to its Training Division and changed its focus to officer wellness. This was complemented by hiring a full-time psychologist to assist officers in general referrals and work-related trauma cases. Along with the shift in early intervention strategy and a staff psychologist, the department’s non-denominational chaplains are a key element of a three-pronged approach to officer wellness. The lead chaplain is a retired MPD officer, sits on the POST board, and has a stellar reputation among the officers. The chaplains are covered by laws similar to attorney-client privilege, therefore providing a highly trusted source of peer and trauma support that is, in many ways, unique to the MPD.

Tucson, AZ

The Tucson Police Department was one of the first departments in the country to have a unit devoted to officer wellness in mental health when it created the Behavioral Sciences Unit (BSU) in the early 1980s. It presently consists of a psychologist and two sergeants acting as peer support supervisors. Owing to the unit’s importance in the department, its funding has been protected even during major budget cutbacks. The BSU provides a very comprehensive line-up of services to officers that are proactive, focusing on resilience and coping strategies to mitigate stress. The BSU hosts “Family Day” as part of a recruit’s training, taking this focus a step forward by recognizing the demonstrated importance that family support plays. In these sessions, BSU staff members help families understand the potential effects of a career in law enforcement and, most importantly, the confidential support services available to them.

Officer Wellness and Early Intervention

All of these departments are united in emphasizing a proactive approach to monitoring and improving officer wellness. Early intervention, especially in the case of trauma and work-related stress, shows up in many examples as a critical strategy in this approach. Benchmark Analytics’ First Sign® stands alone in its capacity to comprehensively analyze officer performance data for off-track behavior, which can be an important indicator of mental or physical health challenges, family issues, or workplace stress.

These distinct examples show that by following the research, encouraging top-down buy-in, and a willingness to try new methods, departmental leaders have the potential to make a real impact on their officers’ wellness.

Our next article will focus on some of the more innovative ways departments are promoting officer wellness.

Research Insights into Officer WellnessOfficer wellness is a perennial top-tier focus for law enforcement leaders as well as researchers and scientists. It is well understood that when one enters the profession, they will likely be exposed to an exceptional level of mental stress and physical danger — unmatched by almost any private-sector job. Although this danger is most frequently thought of by observers from outside the world of law enforcement in terms of vehicle pursuits, armed encounters, and the kind of tense, dramatic situations that make for headlines — this isn’t always typically reflective of an officer’s day-to-day experience on the job. Policymakers, the public, and officers themselves are increasingly recognizing that the psychological challenges of the profession are just as real as the physical risks and, in many cases, potentially more challenging to find solutions to address.

21st Century Solutions

As a result of this awareness, a new approach to officer wellness is now being discussed to protect officers in the same way their gear, equipment, and even community support can. Recognition of its importance reaches the highest levels, being discussed as one of the six pillars of policy recommendations the President’s Task Force made on 21st Century Policing in its 2015 report.

“The wellness and safety of law enforcement officers is critical not only to themselves, their colleagues, and the agencies but also to public safety,” Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, 2015.

This section of the report offers several research-based recommendations for holistically addressing officer wellness to meet the challenges of a new era of policing. Action items address tangible needs, with calls for every officer to be provided with anti-ballistic vests and tactical first aid kits, smart car technology to reduce vehicle collisions, and reforms to pension plans to cover both duty and non-duty disability events. Notably, it also prioritizes calls for funding for accelerated research into all facets of officer wellness, specifically the study of officers’ mental health challenges.

The urgency to better understand the needs of officers and how policy recommendations can improve their sense of wellness has only increased with the added stress of recent high-profile incidents as well as a global pandemic that has created unforeseen demands on police departments. The effects of occupational stress and mental health are well documented, and new research aims to grow the understanding of how that impacts the bigger picture of officer well-being. In recent years there have been many studies and surveys that have created much-needed data to not only help law enforcement leaders anticipate officers’ needs, but also to create new and far-reaching policies that will make meaningful differences in the way they do their jobs.

Research into Officer Wellness

An officer’s work can often involve traumatic and intense situations during a shift. Although it is difficult to know a precise figure, the Department of Justice estimates in a recent publication that roughly 15% of officers nationwide experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms, which have the potential to impair decision-making and officer’s ability to do their job. The paper highlights scientific research looking at the effects of PTSD on brain function, notably studying police officers themselves and not a general population sample group.

Another manifestation of trauma-induced stress is burnout, which is defined by chronic exposure to these stresses. It can manifest as excessive cynicism, detachment from one’s work, emotional exhaustion, and feelings of low professional achievement, to name just a few of the most prominent examples. A newly conducted review from 2020 analyzed 108 research studies to better understand operational stress and burnout among officers. The need to increase understanding of officer burnout is evident, with 56% of officers reporting in Pew Research Center’s 2017 Behind the Badge survey that they have become “more callous” since taking the job. The same study found that the feeling of burnout is linked to generally negative feelings toward the job.

The stresses of policing have historically been challenging to address due to a workplace culture that does not always prioritize, or conversely can even tacitly penalize, an officer needing help. It is often said that no one understands a police officer’s work like other police officers, and when a network of peer-support is suppressed due to cultural norms, it can compound the stress officers are feeling. To help research a body of work to understand how officers and their departments can support stress reduction, the National Institute of Justice is funding a strategic research agenda, taking a multifaceted approach to fighting stress among law enforcement officers.

Building and Using a Body of Research

Common in the new studies, surveys, and literature reviews are calls for further academic research. Ramped-up funding for research, spurred in part by the President’s Task Force on 21st Policing, is creating new data, which allows researchers to contribute to the body of knowledge and ask new questions that will shed more light onto the conditions that impact officer wellness, but will also aid policing leaders in crafting solutions that address the issue.

Implementation of research findings is seen in projects like Northeastern University’s Institute on Urban Health Research and Practice’s Vicarious Trauma Toolkit (VTT). This multidisciplinary project, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), and many other institutional partners, refocuses responses to officer wellness from individual actions and “self-help” to address the issue to a systemic approach leveraging agency resources to assist officers in need.

Policing will likely always carry specific risks not seen in most other professions. With the physical and mental hazards that officers face on the job, the need for more research into how organizations and leaders can best support their officers is clear. Through continuing research, data analysis, and recommendations based on this expanding body of knowledge, academics and police leaders are at the forefront of advancing officer wellness as a vital issue in policing.

Look for our next blog exploring how agencies are putting this research into practice. 

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 is 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 steppingstones 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.

Law enforcement agency officers and leaders know that recruiting new police officers is an urgent need. According to Pew Research’s comprehensive Behind the Badge study, 86% of officers said their agency did not have enough officers to adequately police their community. That figure grew to 95% for officers serving in departments with more than 500 sworn personnel. Agencies across the country are seeing officers leave the profession for a number of reasons at a faster rate than they are being replaced — leading to an “all-hands-on-deck” approach from researchers, industry groups, and most importantly law enforcement leaders, to identify tactics to reverse this trend. In this article, we’ll explore some of the challenges currently being experienced in law enforcement recruitment as well as what agencies and their leaders are doing to address this trend.

A recent survey  on workforce trends from the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) paints a picture that speaks to the weight of the current situation. The topline of this report shows that only 93% of departments have filled all their authorized positions in the 2020-2021 survey period. Perhaps more troubling to agency leaders is the rate at which officers are exiting the profession — with a 45% increase in retirement rate across departments of all sizes and an 18% increase in resignations. These numbers are especially dramatic in larger departments (500+ sworn officers) where hiring has fallen by 36% during this period. While there are a variety of factors influencing these trends that we’ll cover in a later article, the fact persists that more officers are currently leaving the profession than entering it. With this in mind, agency leaders and officers alike recognize the need to ramp up police officer recruitment to meet this challenge.

Only 93% of departments have the officers they need

+45% increase in retirements across agencies
-36% reduction in officers hired in 500+ sworn agencies

Statistics from PERF Workforce Trends Report 2020-2021

The need for more officers is clear and leaders of agencies throughout the country are taking bold steps to boost law enforcement recruitment numbers. These are just a few of the forward-thinking tactics that leaders in the profession are using to drive the change needed to maintain and strengthen their agencies.

Promoting a positive agency culture

Reform efforts are changing the policing landscape at a faster rate than many in the profession have seen during their careers. An open and transparent culture is something that community members and new recruits want from a department. Look for recruits that will not only contribute to this culture but enhance it with diverse experiences and cultural backgrounds.

Law Enforcement Recruitment

Moving with purpose

Labor shortages are affecting just about every corner of the country’s economy right now. Hiring for government positions can take longer than in the private sector. Many candidates are job-shopping and pursuing multiple opportunities. Moving them through the hiring process increases a recruiting agency’s chances of success. On the flip side, don’t move too quickly or avoid doing due diligence on background checks.

Relaxing but not removing hiring standards

It used to be that physical characteristics like visible tattoos, facial hair were non-starters when recruiting in some departments. Many agencies have, when dealing with otherwise very highly qualified candidates, loosened such standards to reflect changing societal norms.

Striving for diversity

Some of the most demonstrably effective recruiting campaigns have involved reaching out to communities that have not historically been well-represented in policing. Over the last year, the NYPD engaged in a recruiting drive in traditionally minority areas of the city using the slogan “Be the Change” and waived the typical test fee for recruits. This netted the department an 11.4% increase in black applicants compared to the previous five years.

Commissioner Shea said that attracting a diverse pool of candidates was “incredibly important” for the NYPD and “…[a] priority from day one” Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2021

Rethinking the old ways

Policing is a profession that values its tradition. For an older generation of officers, overtime was seen as a desirable way to boost take-home pay. There is plenty of evidence to show excessive overtime and inconsistent shifts lead to burnout. Furthermore, the new generation of recruits (and workers in general) place a greater emphasis on work-life balance.  Allowing for some flexibility in scheduling and mandatory overtime goes a long way to making the profession more appealing to millennials and younger generations just entering the workforce.

A different kind of academy

Many departments are redoubling their efforts to attract potential recruits from colleges or universities via internships. Moving beyond the notion of interns as a source of inexpensive labor, agencies that look at internships as a recruiting tool allow potential recruits to experience more facets of the profession than a simple ride-along could hope to achieve. Taking a page from the private sector and military, some agencies are offering stipends or scholarships to interested students in exchange for a commitment to pursue policing as a profession, usually with the agency in question.

Recruitment from within

It is common in the tech world for companies to offer bonuses or “finder’s fees” for successful referrals in high-demand positions. This is a tactic that agencies are using, whether it be cash bonuses or extra time off, to attract “pre-vetted” candidates. Along these same lines, putting highly qualified and motivated officers on a leadership track increases retention rates as well as demonstrates to potential recruits that the agency is committed to opportunities for career advancement.

Law Enforcement Recruitment in the 21st Century

Owing to generational shifts and several other factors, retirements and officer resignations have increased to a level that merits serious study and evaluation. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to recruitment, it is the leaders of agencies that are driving true innovation in police recruitment methodology – discarding practices shown to be ineffective and, instead, employing new tactics to increase their ranks with high-quality applicants. By using the available data and research as well as sharing information through industry groups and gatherings, law enforcement leaders are redefining officer recruitment and building the agencies of the 21st century.

A research-driven data-management suite like Benchmark Management System®, First Sign® Early Intervention, and Case Action Response Engine® enable leaders to make well-informed personnel decisions by collating multiple data streams to produce a holistic view of an officer’s performance as well as highlighting areas of opportunity in coaching and supplementary training for those officers who could benefit from it.

Aside from being helpful in day-to-day operations, comprehensive data analysis tools aid leaders in managing their force strategically by allowing them to bring officers who exemplify departmental culture and performance into positions of influence within the organization. This helps not only with internal issues such as officer retention but also in outward-facing community relations and recruitment efforts.