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.

Old technology and new technology

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.”

old typewriter new computer

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.

Policing has always asked its officers to make difficult decisions about the nature of law enforcement. But three decades of advancements in police technology introduced a new level of complexity to those choices.

Most police executives rose through the ranks fully expecting – perhaps even motivated – to tackle systemic barriers to effective law enforcement. However, few could have anticipated the rapid changes to the public perception of policing’s role in society and the national spotlight that’s been directed at it for most of the 21st century. Law enforcement now requires those in leadership roles to make many of the same technologically complex decisions traditionally reserved for executives in other professions.

Data Centers, cloud technology, cybersecurity, smart cities, chatbots and A.I., virtual reality, IoT, V2X, predictive analytics: a police executive needs to be comfortable with this terminology to make effective decisions about operational and technological investments for their agency.

What Your Officers Think about New Technology

A recent report published by Accenture surveyed hundreds of law enforcement professionals globally to develop a hypothesis for what policing could look like in the future. While the mission hasn’t changed – defined in the report as “protecting the public, preventing crime and keeping the peace, while maintaining the public’s trust” – effective service depends on agencies developing “a more agile workforce and rely[ing] on an increasingly expanded ecosystem of partners.”

Of the officers interviewed, 76% believe the demand for digital skills will increase over the next three to five years. 75% expressed a belief that digital skills will be required and demonstrated an interest in acquiring those skills.

But officers don’t decide what technology they use. That’s up to the supervisors and executives.

Your officers expect their leaders to quickly and accurately assess the implications of new technologies; to understand how and why a technology came to exist, in what ways it’s likely to evolve, and whether your officers will benefit. Additionally, you have to anticipate your community’s perspective as stakeholders impacted by the adoption of new technology.

Sources of Complexity in Law Enforcement

Most readers have more computing power in their pocket or strapped to their wrist than what was available to police through most of the 20th century. It’s relatively easy to point to the upside of new technology, but that upside is often accompanied by higher expectations and increasing operational complexity.

First police vehicle, Akron, Ohio, 1899

According to some researchers, complexity is introduced to policing via six channels. In recent decades, each has gone undergone a rapid evolution, at times through an expanded mission scope or bringing new stakeholders to the law enforcement table.

Tasks

When the average person thinks of police work, they possibly think of deterring petty crime like theft and tagging or solving crimes like homicides and burglary. But the scope has expanded greatly in the 21st century. Now police are asked to account for terrorism, immigration issues, cybercrime, and escalated narcotics work involving deadly opioids.

Instead of reactive deterrence, police are expected to proactively deter crime. This means using tools and methodologies to anticipate crime before it happens and introduce a police presence into the area where it’s projected to occur. Because environment plays such a fundamental role in proactive policing, officers now have to wrestle with social issues that were previously outside their purview.

Public Demands

We cover this topic in depth here and here. Whereas historically law enforcement took their cues from leadership and occasionally politicians, now there is no shortage of perspectives on how police should operate in the 21st century. Communities increasingly want a seat at the table and a say in how they are policed. Which makes Community Engagement a critical part of any police strategy.

Strategies

Until recently, police worked by patrolling in squad cars, responding to calls as needed, and investigating reported crimes. That’s a tight loop of accountability and responsibility. However, that’s expanded to include overlapping strategies like Broken windows, Community-oriented policing, Hot-spots policing, and Intelligence-led policing.

Most agencies will find that a blend of these approaches is the best fit for their community and officers. However, each strategy entails new specializations, new ways of thinking, and often new technology.

Technology

The duty belt used to hold your baton, handcuffs, a firearm, and two-way radio. Now you’ll find TASERS, Mobile Computer Databases (MCDs), body cameras, and pepper spray. Beyond that, new technology is useful at departmental level as well. Leveraging advancements in overall computing power, agencies are able to take advantage of CCT, automatic license plate readers, and social media to keep communities safe.

There are also technology applications to empower managers to better serve their officers. Advanced analytics can help agencies with good data hygiene to identify patterns in officer behavior that could warrant intervention. At Benchmark, we use powerful models developed with the University of Chicago to power police force management, early intervention, and officer support.

Accountability and Resources

According to the research, the U.S. investigated the “patterns and practices” of over 50 law enforcement agencies since the early 90s. Half of these investigations led to consent decrees instituted via judicial supervision.

New requirements and evolved responsibilities bring new demands on already limited resources. They also require new ways of thinking, and new specialized knowledge (e.g., cybersecurity). At the same time, resources aren’t necessarily growing in turn.

It’s a challenge to identify and evaluate the varied ways in which these channels interact with one another to create additional complexity. While technology might be a source of complexity in some situations, technology can also solve it.

Technology as Source and Solution

This is why your technology decisions are so important. Though it’s been identified as a channel that introduces complexity, Police Technology is a broad category. Its spot on the list is partially due to its categorical breadth compared to the days of the truncheon, whistle and lantern.

Source: Walton, H. D. “Some Recent Advances in Police Technology.” (1982)

However, contemporary police technology extends beyond the tools and techniques you use in the field. While the introduction of body-worn cameras, TASERS, Mobile Computer Databases (MCDs), automated license plate readers (ALPRs) and DNA analysis help police manage crime, on their own, they don’t provide much insight into the overall effectiveness of police.

Useful Guides to Navigate New Terrain

Police technology needs to perform for an agency under volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) conditions. Part of fully using new technology is understanding its why. People go on auto-pilot when it comes to upgrading their phone or acquiring some other shiny tech, but a different mindset is needed for evaluating technology for work.

Luckily, choosing technology for your department is not an exercise requiring you to reinvent the wheel. Organizations like IACP and PERF recognized that police executives needed to develop a shared framework for choosing, implementing, and using technology.

IACP’s Technology Policy Framework (2014)

This framework sets out a set of “universal principles” to “be viewed as a guide in the development of effective policies for technologies.” This is useful for agencies concerned with data security, protecting the privacy of their officers, and conserving ever-tight resources.

From the report:

“Agencies should define the purpose, objectives, and requirements for implementing specific technology, and identify the types of data captured, stored, generated, or otherwise produced.”

“Agencies should articulate in writing, educate personnel regarding, and enforce agency policies and procedures governing adoption, deployment, use, and access to the technology and the data it provides. These policies and procedures should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis, and whenever the technology or its use, or use of the data it provides significantly changes.”

The whole framework is worth reviewing whenever you plan to invest in a new technology.

PERF and Lockheed Martin’s Law Enforcement Technology Needs Assessment (2009)

PERF and Lockheed Martin approached the question of police technology from a different perspective. Instead of guidance on policy, they set out to, “explore and document:

  • The operational needs of law enforcement agencies
  • The law enforcement perspective on technology—including beliefs about its effectiveness
  • A prioritized list of technologies to develop for law enforcement
  • Barriers to the introduction of technology in the LEA community”

Ultimately, the study found that adopting new technology depends on police executives who “understand the importance of technology and can link technology to the agency’s overarching strategic goals.”

Simple is No Longer an Option

The technology landscape is not likely to simplify in the coming years. If anything, police executives will have to become comfortable working and delegating within an ecosystem of complex technologies like artificial intelligence, virtual reality, the rapidly expanding Internet of Things, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

There isn’t a single solution to offsetting the complexity introduced through technology, but there are solutions. Finding the right technology partners is a good first step after you’ve gone through the exercises to uncover what your agency needs in the context of its goals. After you’ve made a decision on a technology, you need to introduce it to your officers and champion adoption. We’ll address the typical pain points agency’s experience during an implementation and ways to avoid them.

(Ed. Note – This is the second part of a two-post series. Read the first post here.)

On Oct. 7, 2015, more than 100 of the nation’s leading law enforcement officers and politicians met in Washington D.C. to discuss the recent rise in violence experienced in a number of major U.S. cities. Convened by then U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the purpose of the panel was to not only determine why violent crime was increasing in major cities but also how law enforcement could address it.

Police Use of Force: The YouTube Effect

The discussion took an interesting turn when the head of Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), Chuck Wexler, suggested that “perhaps the most difficult to calibrate, but the most significant, is this notion of a reduction in proactive policing.” Wexler was trying to point out a gap in cause and effect. Was crime a rising wave overpowering law enforcement agencies across the country, or was something else leading to the perceived rise in violent crime? Could it be that police were less proactive than they were? And if so, what was the cause?

Leaders from multiple major cities noted an emerging trend they were calling, “the YouTube Effect.” They’d observed their officers withdrawing from proactive policing following a cluster of high-profile cases where the use of force had been captured on video and distributed on different platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. These videos took split-second decisions and exposed them to an unprecedented level of public scrutiny.

Officers and law enforcement leadership weren’t prepared to manage the speed and amplification of negative sentiment made possible by social media. Seemingly overnight, what once might have been considered the exception became representative of law enforcement in its entirety. Officers found themselves existing in a limbo between law enforcement expectations and fearing that a single misinterpreted encounter could lead to a career-ending media frenzy. Or worse.

Later that month, in an address to several hundred law students, then FBI Director James Comey asked: “In today’s YouTube world, are officers reluctant to get out of their cars and do the work that controls violent crime?” Additionally, Comey said reducing crime requires a strong police presence of officers willing to proactively seek out and stop criminal activity. Increasingly, it seemed, this willingness was offset by the perceived threat of viral videos.

Data Points: What Does Law Enforcement Think?

In 2017, the nonpartisan research group, the Pew Research Center partnered with the National Police Research Platform to conduct an expansive study of 7,917 American police officers, working in departments of 100 or more officers. The purpose of this study was to determine officers’ opinions of the policing profession amid widespread calls for police reform and anti-police protests.

The study, one of the largest of its kind ever conducted, surveyed American police officers on a variety of topics, mostly related to their feelings about their profession, how society views policing and how these things have changed over time. Considering the sample size (7,917), this study presents a statistically accurate representation of law enforcement’s feelings on the topic of policing.

Police on Policing

According to the study, 86% of officer respondents said the policing profession is now harder due to recent high-profile fatal encounters between police and minorities, and these incidents have made policing more dangerous. Additionally, it found 86% of officer respondents from departments with 2,600 officers or more said their fellow officers are more hesitant to stop and question individuals who may appear suspicious.

Furthermore, 85% of officer respondents in the 2,600 officer or more category reported being more reluctant to use force, even when force is warranted.

In regard to actually using force, 56% of officer respondents were concerned their peers would spend too much time diagnosing situations before acting decisively, while 41% were concerned their peers wouldn’t spend enough time diagnosing situations before acting.

That being said, 84% of officer respondents felt officers should be required to intervene when they felt a fellow officer was using excessive force.

When addressing use-of-force policies, 26% of officer respondents felt their department’s use of force guidelines were too restrictive, while 73% sided with the policies striking the right balance between restrictive and too lenient.

Additionally, 34% of officer respondents felt their department’s use-of-force guidelines were very helpful, while 51% felt the policies were somewhat helpful. The remainder of that final group (14%) felt that the guidelines were not helpful in use-of-force situations.
changing-legislation

Resolutions Through Legislation

The State of California chose to take a more official route to addressing police use of force following the March 2018 shooting of Stephen Clark by Sacramento Police Officers. Within days of the shooting, the Sacramento Police released the officer’s body cam footage, which was quickly shared across various social media platforms.

In response to widespread activist support, California legislators introduced Assembly Bill 392, which aimed to re-define when a police officer can use deadly force; recommending a shift from the Supreme Court standard of “reasonable” to a new threshold of “necessary”. Under this bill, an officer must justify why deadly force is necessary, though opponents worry it could subject the officer’s decision to the relatively easier analysis of 20/20 hindsight. Additionally, the bill includes the definition that an officer face an ‘imminent harm’ which “is not merely a fear of future harm, no matter how great the fear and no matter how great the likelihood of the harm, but one that… must be instantly confronted.”

Following initial disagreements about the language of AB 392, law enforcement organizations, the public, and legislators were able to come to a resolution on AB 392, which, as of this writing, is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Decide in Seconds, Revisit for Years

The use of force is undergoing a rapid transformation catalyzed by factors like the “YouTube Effect” and new state legislation. There’s a natural tendency to resist change, but there’s no putting this particular genie back in the bottle. Law enforcement is still a relatively young profession, only formally coming to being in the early 19th century. What feels like change is actually evolution: as the environment introduces new challenges to law enforcement, agencies adapt and become better able to serve their community because of it.

There’s no denying that many use-of-force instances necessarily result from split-second decisions. What police executives can do to offset the frustration and reluctance stemming from the increased scrutiny is put systems and technology in place to ensure officers have the best preparation to make the best decisions in those seconds.

Determining whether to get your agency accredited is probably one of the most important decisions you can make as a law enforcement leader. Yet, when police accreditation is mentioned, it can spark thoughts like – Does your agency have the time or personnel bandwidth to go through the process? Can you afford accreditation? What is the difference between national and state accreditation?

What is accreditation?

Law enforcement accreditation is a self-initiated, voluntary process and is based on standards which are reflective of best practices in law enforcement. Accreditation standards cover roles and responsibilities; relationships with other agencies; organization, management and administration; law enforcement operations, operational support and traffic law enforcement; detainee and court-related services; and auxiliary and technical services.

What is Accreditation?Much like accreditation for hospitals, colleges and schools, police accreditation involves an outside autonomous agency or group that establishes the professional best-practice standards for departments, as well as ensures the agency is following those standards by conducting a comprehensive onsite assessment.

What is national accreditation?

The national accreditation program for law enforcement agencies is the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA). CALEA was created in 1979 with the purpose of improving the delivery of public safety services by maintaining a body of professional standards that support the administration of accreditation programs. The primary benefits of CALEA accreditation are: Controlled liability insurance cost; administrative improvements; greater accountability from supervisors; increased governmental and community support; means for developing or improving upon an agency’s relationship with the community; and facilitation of an agency’s pursuit of professional excellence.

CALEA accreditation is open to all types and sizes of law enforcement agencies, and its program seals are the “Marks of Professional Excellence” for today’s public safety agencies. The program seal reflects the gold standard benchmark associated with CALEA.

Agencies undergoing CALEA accreditation experience a five-phase process:

  1. Enrollment: Agencies enroll in one or more of the CALEA Accreditation programs.
  2. Self-Assessment: Initial self-assessment timeframes can take 24 – 26 months, and according to CALEA, “self-assessment refers to the internal, systematic analysis of an agency’s operations, management and practices to determine if it complies with applicable standards.”
  3. Assessment: The assessment phase ensures standard compliance.
  4. Commission Review Decision: The final credentialing decision is made by the Board of CALEA Commissioners. The Board facilitates a review hearing to discuss the assessment.
  5. Maintaining Accreditation: CALEA accreditation is an on-going quality performance review of an agency. Therefore, reaccreditation is contingent upon the agency’s ability to meet CALEA standards and demonstrate continued compliance.

What is state accreditation?

State accreditation programs are designed to help law enforcement agencies establish and maintain standards that represent current professional law enforcement practices; to increase the effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery of law enforcement services; and to establish standards that address and reduce liability for the agency and its members.

According to the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police Law Enforcement Accreditation Program (MLEAC), Michigan agencies seek accreditation for multiple reasons:

  • Accredited status represents a significant professional achievement.
  • Accreditation acknowledges the implementation of soundly written directives that are conceptually and operational effective.
  • Accreditation requires the agency to ensure the standards and written directives are being followed by provided proofs.

In state accreditation programs such as the one offered by MLEAC, the general process for becoming accredited includes a thorough self-analysis to determine how existing operations can be adopted to meet state standards. When procedures and policies are in place, a team of trained state assessors verify that applicable standards have been successfully implemented.

National vs. State — Key Differences


A key difference between state and national accreditation programs is workload, or what is actually involved in achieving accreditation. State programs often have less standards to meet than national accreditation programs.

Key differences in state and national accreditation

For example, MLEAC has 107 standards and the Texas Police Chiefs Association Foundation Law Enforcement Agency Best Practices Recognition Program (TPCAF Recognition Program) has 166. In comparison, CALEA has approximately 480 standards.

In many cases, state accreditation programs for police believe their standards cover the same important points as CALEA — and are written to be specific to agencies within that state. According to the TPCAF Recognition Program site, the program is similar in nature to the national accreditation program, but easier to administer and is designed specifically for Texas Law Enforcement. Similarly, Neal A. Rossow, Accreditation Program Director at MACP stated, “We designed an accreditation process that any department could afford and could achieve. Our first accredited agency was the Rockford Department of Public Safety with 10 officers.”

Because of these two key differences, many agencies use state accreditation as a stepping stone to CALEA accreditation; simply, it provides the ability to experience the process without getting overwhelmed by cost or the number of standards.

CALEA is an outstanding national accreditation program, as are many state accreditation programs. So whichever accreditation program an agency selects and receives, they are demonstrating to themselves and the community they serve, their commitment to excellence in law enforcement.

To learn more about police accreditation, take a look at our blog post: Agency Accreditation: What to Consider Before Pursuing it for your Department.

 

Sir Robert Peel, the so-called father of modern policing, was early to identify that public trust would be essential to his vision’s success. Both before and after Peel, political theorists have written piles of books and papers on the relationship between people with authority and the people willingly subject to it.

John Locke talked about this relationship using the concept “consent of the governed”, specifically, “no one can be…subjected to the political power of another without his own consent.” His was a revolutionary way of understanding how a free public actually helps to determine the reach and nature of those in authority. Ultimately, theorists and practitioners alike landed on legitimacy as the term of art.

Police legitimacy is the term used when describing whether or not an agency has the trust of its community. Legitimacy is a scalable concept that, depending on the person, can be used to refer to an individual officer or the entire policing profession.

Technology hasn’t been obviously useful in addressing the scenarios and outcomes that affect police legitimacy until recently.  By making it easier to be transparent, tools like body-worn cameras, enterprise-grade police force management software, and early intervention systems have added a new layer to police legitimacy.

Foundations of Police Legitimacy

foundations-of-police-technologyLegitimacy is maintained when the group deciding and enforcing the rules plays by them as well. They must be impartial and objective in upholding the law. If the rule-bound population detects special treatment or bias, especially the self-serving kind, its attitude changes from acceptance to resistance, resentment, and, occasionally, revolution. (Here’s looking at you, King G.)  Peel’s  nine principles of policing is a prescient work that demonstrates the fundamental link between successful policing and police legitimacy.

A Social Institution

Researchers approach police legitimacy as a “riverhead” of social psychology and institutional theory.

Social psychology helps researchers understand how the formation of a person’s perception or outlook might influence their behavior during an encounter with police.

social-institution-normative-empirical-legitimacyPaired with institutional theory, which defines legitimacy as “a generalized perception or assumption that the actions of an entity are desirable, proper, or appropriate within some socially constructed system of norms, values, beliefs, and definitions.”

When legitimacy exists, an institution gets the benefit of the doubt. Remove legitimacy, and that support begins to erode. For police, legitimacy is the difference between compliance and non-compliance, respect and ridicule, support and criticism; the consequences are serious when an agency lacks the support of its community.

Normative and Empirical Legitimacy

Multiple types of legitimacy can exist at the same time. This fact complicates any understanding of police legitimacy, as an agency could be “normatively” legitimate without “empirical” legitimacy.

Researchers distinguish these two forms of legitimacy by their respective source; i.e., whether we’re considering an an agency through the eyes of the government or the public.

Normative legitimacy exists when an agency satisfies an objective criterion determined by an organization higher up the authority food chain.  If an agency lacks any obvious signs of corruption, then they satisfy one condition of normative legitimacy.

The presence of empirical legitimacy, however, depends on the perceptions of citizens.  As you might have guessed, perception is subjective, which means your community might view your agency as illegitimate even if you qualify by normative standards, i.e., a lack of obvious corruption.

Technologies to Improve Community Perception

Just as technology makes it easier for law enforcement to connect with communities, and by extension to better gauge and positively influence empirical legitimacy, it also helps leadership more easily access information they can use to support officers.

Body-Worn Cameras

police-officerThese devices serve a dual purpose: collecting evidence and increasing transparency between law enforcement agencies and their communities. By capturing video of arrests and other interactions, both leadership and civilians can literally see how officers conduct themselves. These devices are impartial by nature – a camera on its own can’t operate with bias towards officers or civilians. BWC’s help move a subjective experience into the realm of objective by opening a contested incident to the oversight of many, diverse reviews.

Early Warning and Intervention Systems

According to CALEA, “the failure of [an] agency to develop a comprehensive [EIS] system can lead to the erosion of public confidence in the agency’s ability to investigate itself, while putting the public and employees in greater risk of danger.”

EIS’s have existed since the 70s. These early solutions existed in agency-specific data silos, though the focus even then was on community perception and uses of force. Having an EIS in place lends itself to both normative and empirical legitimacy. Normative in that it signals your agency is actively monitoring itself, and empirical in that it publicly demonstrates consideration of the public’s experience with your officers.

Recently, advances in data science have allowed agencies to implement research-driven solutions that promote an evidence-based approach to how we configure technology to alert us to officers in need of support, as well as the intervention chosen to help that officer. Agencies can use advanced technologies like machine learning to prevent officers from having an adverse event that could diminish empirical legitimacy and ruin an officer’s career.

Evidence-based practice is not unique to policing. In fact, its proponents belong to a variety of professions, including medicine, management and public policy. For example,  in the late 90’s, medical educators began to advocate for “Best Evidence Medical Education.” The movement emerged to promote medical training developed  through “intellectual rigor” rather than ‘intuition and tradition.’ (Source)

Sound familiar?

Policing’s Recent Hypothesis

In 1998, American criminologist Lawrence Sherman proposed a new approach to advancing law enforcement that would draw inspiration from the sciences. He called it “evidence-based policing.” (Source)

Evidence-based policing is the use of the best available research on the outcomes of police work…it uses the best evidence to shape the best practice. – Lawrence Sherman

As Sherman saw it, evidence-based policing (EBP) could be explained with three T’s: Targeting, Testing, and Tracking. Targeting, as defined by Sherman, is “the systematic analysis of distribution and rank orderings of the frequency, seriousness, and patterns of persistence or desistance of harm known to police around all units of a certain category: offenders, victims, micro-place ‘hot spots,’ neighborhoods, and others.”  Essentially, the success of EBP hinges on data collection.

Data Science for Crime Reduction

Initially, EBP practitioners focused their efforts on crime reduction. Sherman believed information from systematic or scientific research, as well as ebp-gives-officers-directionrigorous crime analysis, should be regularly used and generated by the police to make both strategic and tactical decisions. In partnership with colleagues and agencies, Sherman sought to understand which law enforcement practices and tactics led to the best results. This understanding would allow police executives to better allocate resources, and minimize instances where police officers spin their wheels trying to reduce crime with strategies formed through the gut instinct of previous generations. Today, we’re seeing researchers advocate to push EBP further upstream, to include – and analyze – data produced by officers, from the day they enter the academy.

Closing the Loop with Training

“We know virtually nothing about the short- or long-term effects associated with police training of any type.” (Source).

Throughout life, usually early on, a person develops one of two mindsets about themselves: either fixed or growth.  An individual operating with a fixed mindset believes that who they are in terms of potential – intellectually, physically, emotionally – is a known quantity, set from birth, unchanging over time. Every failure or setback represents an innate boundary. Whereas an individual with a growth mindset sees themself as nothing but potential. Every failure or setback is an opportunity to learn. Feedback data isn’t a wall, it’s a staircase.

Evidence-based policing emerged from researchers who embraced a growth mindset about law enforcement. Police executives can use EBP to uncover and shape best practice in policing. And there’s no better to place to start than with your training. What do you need to align your training with EBP?

Commitment to Transparency

A fixed mindset thrives in the dark.  The first step to learning from less-than-ideal practices is acknowledging they exist. We train to avoid making mistakes when it counts. However, there’s a broader analysis to be done on training, specifically as it relates to performance in the field. If we track an officer’s training, but not their performance throughout their career, then what do we learn about the training they received? Very little, if anything at all.

Investment in Analytics

Which is why investing in analytics and data capture is essential to deriving the benefits of EBP in your training. Crime reduction was realized by longitudinally capturing and comparing the use and efficacy of common police interventions. It became possible to draw conclusions about which interventions had the greatest impact on crime given a certain set of variables. The same method can be applied to police training if the data exists to support it. Which is why the first step in this process is ensuring your agency has systems in place to both capture and manage data through analysis.

Willingness to Experiment

Data is great on its own, but simply having it won’t yield the insights we’ve seen applied so effectively in other areas of policing. Researchers enjoy working with police departments because they represent a wealth of data. As you consider investing in new training, or revising existing programs, it could be worth reaching out to research-oriented companies or organizations to help you set the framework to evaluate them holistically.

Training that Scales with You

Evidence-based policing is a scientific method for finding the best tool in your toolbox, and recognizing when that tool no longer meets the needs of the job. While people tend to stay the same (at least through a behavioral lens), the environment we inhabit, and the ways in which we inhabit it, seems to be changing with more speed and variability than previous generations. EBP is a means to work with that change instead of against it. By adopting an EBP-mindset you’re preparing your officers to succeed today, while sharing an evaluation model that ensures they succeed in the future.

The first step to evidence-based policing is implementing a system that can intelligently collect and analyze all the data your agency produces. The more information you have, the better your decisions will be, which creates a ripple effect of optimization that increases the likelihood your officers will have a long and safe career.

You already know your department produces a lot of data. As we shared in a previous post, researchers from the University of Chicago identified seven areas of data that provide law enforcement leaders with actionable insight:

  • Training and Certifications
  • An Officer’s On-Duty Activity
  • Use-of-Force Incidents
  • Internal Affairs Review and Case Management
  • Community Engagement
  • Performance Evaluations
  • Officer Profile – a LEO’s historic and holistic record

Even if you’re still evaluating systems to manage and track all of this data creation, it’s never too early to start thinking about how this data can help you elevate your agency’s performance.

Strategic Applications of Your People Data

1. Cultivate Future Leaders

police-data-helpTomorrow’s police executives patrol today’s streets. These future leaders look to you and your executive team to define what it means to be a police officer, and they will carry that interpretation with them into future management roles. This is why it’s critical to identify these natural leaders sooner rather than later. People data won’t explicitly pinpoint the officers in your agency who have the makings of a future chief, but a combination of intuition and data-backed insight can guide your focus to high-performing officers with the traits and track records that should be recognized and cultivated.

2. Identify Causes of Low Morale

Gauging employee morale is a common use-case for people data. There are certain morale indicators that are profession-agnostic, meaning it doesn’t matter if you’re an accountant or a police officer, chronic underperformance with a history of satisfactory or exemplary work needs to be examined for underlying issues. Low morale is particularly counter-productive when it affects officers who don’t feel supported by management and city officials. By surfacing trends in performance and attendance, people data can help you identify root causes and pre-empt a trend before it becomes a wide-spread issue.

3. Measure the Impact of Your Training Investments

Whether it’s the result of a mandate or simply best practice, continuous training is essential to the careers of your officers.  An officer who isn’t properly trained isn’t set up to succeed in any department. This is what makes training a two-fold objective: not only do you have to make sure it’s delivered in an effective way, but you also have to track whether it’s been integrated into an officer’s routine.

People data can show you where training is adopted and where it’s failing to take root.

4. Pinpoint Barriers to Your Cultural Expectations

As the public and media increase the scrutiny leveled at police departments, how you evaluate and manage your agency’s culture is more important than ever. Though the “bad apple” theory has long been debunked as insufficient, there’s still weight behind organizational culture.

officer-standing-people-dataWhether we notice it or not, our peers shape the way we perceive the world, and in a police department that can be problematic if that world-view doesn’t align with yours or the public’s expectations for your officers. Using people data, you can evaluate what types of behaviors perpetuate across your agency and determine whether those are in line with values you champion as an agency. If they don’t, the data should give you a head start on correcting these issues before the inertia makes it difficult to intervene.

5. Know When (and How) to Intervene with Off-track Officers

Much like historical crime data can be used to guide your policing strategy, people data can be used to inform how you coach officers with a track record of problematic behavior. Increasingly, early warning systems have been recognized as an effective tool to track officer misconduct and citizen complaints. While these systems represent a step in the right direction, they often fall short at solving the problem as they depend on threshold triggers, leading to a situation where excessive false positives make it difficult to meaningfully use the data.

Focus On Insights with Your Data Analysis

The maturation of people data and its underlying technologies makes a different system possible, one that uses the past to proactively shape the future. If it wasn’t before, it should now be clear that data analysis can be a slippery slope. Which is why it’s critical to put frameworks, and technology, in place that offsets our biases and emotions.

If you’re looking for a place to start, check out Benchmark Analytics’ free self-assessment.

People produce a lot of data. How much is a lot of data? Research company IDC, “estimates that by 2025, approximately 80 billion devices will be connected to the internet and the total amount of digital data generated worldwide will hit 180 zettabytes.”

To put that in context, an officer’s body-worn camera produces about 11.6 gigabytes of data every month. A single zettabyte contains a trillion gigabytes.

Folks in the tech space often refer to data as the “new oil.” This might be a nod to the great quantities of data all around us, unseen; or that all of the software and applications we use would be impossible without it. Another way to interpret the analogy is through data’s valuable byproducts (oil’s go into 6,000 items): instead of the rubber for basketballs, data yields insights we can use to make decisions.

With both internal and external factors driving change in police departments, using data to develop a holistic view of your officers will be crucial to your agency addressing its unique challenges.

What Types of Workforce Data Can Police Departments Capture?

There’s no shortage of technology in police departments but most of it is focused on policing and not the police as employees. Software like Computer Aided Dispatch and Records Management Systems make it easier to help the communities they serve. However, they don’t provide insight into your sworn and civilian personnel.

on-duty-officer-dataYou can’t have the benefits of people analytics without having people data to analyze. Through research conducted by the University of Chicago, seven performance areas have emerged that are both rich in data and critical to effective police force management. If you’re interested in using data to innovate your police department, here’s where to start.

Training and Certifications

Beginning with the academy, officers must continually demonstrate and hone their tactical skills. Training is essential to good policing, but it can be hard to understand holistically across an officer’s entire career. Implementing systems to track the training data generated by officers is a good first step to gathering people data.

An Officer’s On-Duty Activity

This area includes the daily on-duty activities that make up an officer’s career; everything from pedestrian and traffic stops to accolades and administrative notices. This type of people data is essential to police leadership. Without it, front-line supervisors could struggle to understand and evaluate officer activity across the department.

Use-of-Force Incidents

Many departments already track use-of-force incidents but do so in a way that makes analysis incredibly difficult, especially when it comes to understanding connections between your officers’ training, your leadership, and the outcomes your officers produce in the field.

Other important areas to begin tracking:

  • Internal Affairs Command Channel Review and Case Management
  • Community Engagement
  • Performance Evaluations
  • Officer Profile – a LEO’s historic and holistic record

How Can You Use People Data?

Essentially, people data, sometimes called workforce data, is any of the information you can capture about your employees. Certifications, absences, complaints, accolades, performance reviews, etc. Tracking these areas across all of your employees yields a mountain of information.

Unless you’re secretly a computer, that massive amount of data won’t yield much, especially if you’re trying to derive insights from years of workforce activity. This gap between data capture and data insight is bridged by analytics, which is the process of running raw people data through software designed to find signals in the noise. These signals are what we refer to as insights, patterns in the data that can be used to make informed predictions about future results.

For example, a company might use people data to measure overall employee sentiment or the internal net-promoter score (i.e., how many people would recommend working there versus not), where before they might have had an outdated spreadsheet and some water-cooler talk to inform its solution to high turnover. People analytics can be used to predict overall productivity or perhaps a surge in turnover; it can also be used to intervene ahead of negative consequences.

Executives view people data as a strategic advantage in an age where high expectations and high employee churn are rules rather than exceptions. Police leadership is facing similar stressors when it comes to recruiting, training, retaining, and developing their officers.

In our next post, we’ll further explore how police leadership can use people data. If you’re wondering whether your agency could benefit from a better understanding of people data, let us know and we’d be happy to discuss it with you.