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Law enforcement personnel management is hard to get right – and a new era of police reform has amplified those challenges with increased attention from lawmakers and the public demanding accountability. Benchmark Analytics is a specialist in police personnel management technology with a proven track record of advancing Professional Standards, Accountability, and Transparency for law enforcement agencies.

When confronting these challenges, don’t trust your critical data management to companies that specialize in weapons, cameras, CAD or RMS systems. At Benchmark, we understand that the crime side of the profession is completely different from the personnel management side. Specialization in professional standards matters – and requires a focused approach.

Our Specialized and Unique Legacy

Benchmark Analytics was founded by a group of dedicated professionals with decades of experience in law enforcement professional standards. We know how to harness the power of data and analytics in advancing officer management and administration – and we’ve built a blueprint for meeting the needs of leadership stakeholders.

Our personnel management software:

  • Supports agencies that are seeking accreditation through CALEA and state accreditation bodies.
  • Incorporates IACP best practices and ethics tool kit recommendations.
  • Aligns with Department of Justice officer conduct guidelines.

We care about officer well-being, and our systems are centered on improving officer performance. To do so takes research, time, and focus. Our ongoing commitment to research that supports officer performance and wellness is reflected in our Research Consortium, which contributes to the body of knowledge that supports officers.

With this focus on officer performance and well-being as a guiding principle of our work, we would never house offender or criminal data in the same systems as police personnel information and possibly career-altering Internal Affairs data. They are not the same and should never be treated as such. As specialists in law enforcement personnel management, we understand the distinction.

The Difference is Clear

Don’t risk trusting someone to deliver on your personnel management needs when it falls outside their area of expertise. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • They sell non-lethal weapons, body-worn cameras, CAD and RMS systems, and VR training; we specialize in IA, UoF, and other personnel data capture and tracking
  • They overpromise in diverse offerings; we deliver a singular focus
  • Personnel management software is simply ancillary for them, just another pursuit – for us, it is a mission and a calling.

Why It Matters to Partner with a Personnel Management Specialist 

We Get Internal Affairs

Internal Affairs case management is often a layered, lengthy, and complex process – plenty can go wrong with severe consequences for your officers and the public’s trust in your agency’s accountability and transparency.

Internal Affairs management involves the diverse needs of personnel, leadership, policymakers, and public stakeholders – and the decisions made about Internal Affairs can profoundly impact public and internal trust. The right Internal Affairs system promotes transparency and provides for a fair process for all involved. Simply, we know the difference a good Internal Affairs system can make.

Our IA Case management platform within the Benchmark Management System® (BMS):

  • Facilitates allegation intake, investigation, and evidence management
  • Streamlines and manages chain of command review, approvals, and reporting
  • Ensures officers under allegation receive timely notification of findings and recommended actions
  • Supports an unlimited amount of roles and permissions
  • AND, importantly, is a platform protected and separated from offender and other data that does not belong in a system focused on improving the performance of those officers in your trust

We Understand the Importance of Use of Force Data Analysis

Use of Force incidents were the catalyst for this modern era of police reform. For departments to effectively track these incidents, they need a system that is easy to use, intuitive, and comprehensive. For the data collected to be actionable, from a policy or personnel perspective, it must be accurate with sophisticated reporting tools.

Good data capture means the difference between success and failure in meeting reform mandates – don’t leave such a critical element of personnel management to a company that’s out of its depth. Through our extensive experience, we know failure is not an option.

Our Use of Force platform within BMS:

  • Documents all Use of Force incidents, including vehicle pursuits and traffic crashes
  • Guides an officer through all important issues necessary for thorough documentation
  • Creates a detailed description of an incident, with narrative reports and subject statements
  • Supports an unlimited amount of roles and permissions
  • AND, unlike with other providers, is an independent, verifiable report that may be integrated with – but is not comingled with – other criminal data or evidence

We Consider the Impact of Collective Bargaining Agreements

An agency’s collective bargaining agreement can drive certain types of data collection and personnel policies – from consistency and objectivity of review to recommended courses of action for misconduct.

When policies change due to a collective bargaining agreement, law enforcement leaders are accountable for implementing those changes. Policy changes require verifiable proof that they’re working – the outcome is critical.

At Benchmark, we have direct experience with CBAs from both the personnel and leadership perspectives – and we’ve seen firsthand and up close their impact on policies and procedures.

That’s why our solutions are customizable and configurable to existing agreements – and adaptable to changing conditions and CBA requirements. We care to get this right.

We Accommodate Changing Policies and Desired Outcomes

Data is the measure of outcomes – the proof that new policies as a result of local, state, and federal legislation are being implemented. Our data-driven platforms are scalable and configurable to address your agency’s specific requirements, policies, and goals.

When policies change, leaders are accountable for implementing those changes. Demonstrable proof is required to show that they’re working and that critical outcomes are being achieved. The public demands transparency – evidence that new policies are being successfully implemented.

At the state and federal level, access to grants is expanding, provided much-needed resources to law enforcement agencies. However, to fulfill the requirements of these grants, careful and accurate reporting of outcomes is critical to measure success. Accurate data also informs public policy that impacts policing – and the availability of future grant funding.

We’re data scientists with law enforcement experience. We have the background and expertise to help your organization evolve – we’ve built our systems with that rigorous approach to data in mind.

A Difference that Matters

We are in a transformational era of policing – and our experience in law enforcement gives us an innate understanding of the moment. Though data is driving some of this change, people with the right experience and vision ultimately make the difference. Do you want to leave all this in the hands of a company whose specialty is weapons, body cams, and CAD systems?

Among our peers, we specialize in law enforcement personnel management with a uniquely intense focus. Through our research consortium, we bring new research that matters in supporting officer wellness. We know how vital that is to achieve the goals of transparency and accountability.

At Benchmark, we’re making an impactful difference with agencies of all sizes across the U.S. at the municipal, county, and state levels — we’re prepared to help you, too.

 

 

On May 25, 2022, President Joe Biden issued an executive order to address many of the issues that have been a part of the national police reform discourse over the past two years. The order, formally titled Executive Order on Advancing Effective, Accountable Policing, and Criminal Justice Practices to Enhance Public Trust and Public Safety, takes action on reform measures at the federal level, where attempts at more sweeping legislation have been paused since late last year.

Executive OrderWhile the text of the order is lengthy, the subject matter and policy priorities reflected in it should not surprise those following the progress of police reform legislation across the country. Much like state-level reform efforts, the order seeks to build public trust through transparency and accountability while acknowledging that law enforcement officers are “frequently call[ed] upon… to respond to social problems outside their expertise and beyond their intended role, diverting attention from their critical public safety mission and increasing the risks of an already dangerous job”.

At Benchmark Analytics, we carefully track executive orders and law enforcement legislation at all levels of government. What follows is a breakdown of what is in the executive order, what’s not, and, most importantly, what the executive order on police reform means for law enforcement leaders and officers.

Federal Policy Changes

Executive orders are a powerful tool for a president, allowing them to bypass the legislative process to enact policy quickly. However, they are also, by definition, limited in scope. The more immediate policy changes required by the executive order primarily affect federal law enforcement agencies. These policy changes impact the following areas:

  • Use of Force: By November of 2022, the heads of federal law enforcement agencies will be required to submit use of force data to the FBI National Use-of-Force Data Collection database on a monthly basis. Furthermore, federal law enforcement agencies under the Department of Justice (DOJ) are required to align policies and training to a 2021 DOJ policy that generally prohibits the use of neck restraint.
  • No-Knock Entry: The order addresses unannounced entries by limiting the instances in which federal law enforcement agencies can execute such a warrant. Additionally, these entries are to be tracked in a national database. While not an outright ban on the tactic, the order limits the circumstances in which it can be used.
  • Training: The Director of the Office of Personnel Management and the Attorney General is tasked with developing an anti-bias training module for federal law enforcement agencies, covering “implicit bias and avoiding improper profiling based on the actual or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, limited English proficiency, religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), or disability of individuals.”
  • Federal Database: The Attorney General will establish a National Law Enforcement Accountability Database in early 2023. Disciplinary data, citizen complaints, and decertification data will be included. Federal agencies will be required to report to this database, while state, local, tribal, and territorial agencies will be strongly encouraged to report relevant data.

Local Impacts

Though the immediate policy implications of this executive are, by nature, primarily at the federal level, the order does make efforts to apply these changes to law enforcement as a whole. Limited by the power of executive action, the order seeks to affect these changes through best practice and policy recommendations and use grant funding to encourage state and local departments to adopt the changes outlined in the document. A few key elements of the policy recommendations include:

  • Developing guidance and best practices to strengthen officer recruitment and retention.
  • Identifying needed resources to enact the officer wellness work contained in the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act of 2017.
  • Supporting state and local agencies seeking accreditation.
  • Clarifying regulations on agencies seeking military surplus distribution programs.
  • Generally supporting, though grant funding incentives, the adoption of the federal law enforcement standards

A Blueprint for the Future

In the absence of federal reform legislation, this executive order has generally been received as a step in the right direction in addressing issues of transparency and accountability in policing. A press release from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) characterizes the order as “a good faith effort by all involved to reach accord without compromising any core values or issues” while also stating “A broader approach to overall systemic issues needs to be a priority of all elected officials.”

With its input from professional organizations representing officers as well as police chiefs, there’s reason to believe that the action items contained in this executive order have the potential to make an impact on both law enforcement and the communities that depend on effective and transparent policing.

 

As we approach the mid-way point of 2022, we decided to look back at the year – unpacking some of the reform trends we’ve seen so far and exploring what they may indicate about the future of legislative police reform efforts.

This year’s legislation concerning police reform has, so far, been something of a departure from the previous two years – both in terms of pace and the subject of enacted bills. We’re seeing legislation take a more deliberate path forward after an initial flurry of legislation in 2020 and 2021 tackling hot-button issues like restraint tactics and duty to report. This more deliberate approach is reflected in legislation and funding priorities that emphasize mental health, both in law enforcement and in the larger communities they serve. Additionally, a waning “defund” movement has ceded ground to the notion that police need more resources, not fewer, to fulfill their duty to their communities amid rising crime and greater need.

Deliberate Reform Trends

The pace of reform-oriented legislation has noticeably slowed in 2022. As of this writing, 125 bills have passed in 2022 – compared with 366 In all of 2021. Notably, policy changes required by many of these new laws are comparatively minor as opposed to the sweeping changes seen in policing operations in late 2020 and 2021. With the most urgent public concerns largely addressed in previous legislative sessions, policymakers are turning their focus to some of the more fundamental issues in policing.

A significant portion of state-level legislation enacted in 2022 expands mental health resources for officers and agencies, both in direct support to officers and setting funding priorities for community mental health resources like crisis intervention teams. To replicate the demonstrated success of department-based peer support programs, South Dakota, Louisiana, Texas, and Indiana have passed laws in 2022 that provide funding for these programs. Research shows that peer support is consistently among the most effective tools to help officers with the daily stresses of their work and in processing traumatic incidents that may occur while on patrol.

The ‘Defund’ Question

Many in law enforcement have been closely following the political and cultural debate around “defunding police” that emerged immediately following several high-profile incidents in 2020. The notion that outcomes related to crime and policing could be improved with less funding seems to be on the wane in 2022 amid a rise in crime rates seen in many parts of the country. In fact, in many cases, elected representatives and municipal officials are requesting and approving increased budgets to confront an uptick in crime rates.

Public opinion is certainly a factor in the pushback against reducing law enforcement budgets. A survey from the Pew Research Center showed a swing in public sentiment around police funding in 2020, with a majority of respondents stating police budgets should either remain the same or be reduced. When posing the same question a year later, researchers noted another swing in public opinion, this time with survey results indicating across-the-board increases, in some cases double-digit increases among certain demographic groups, in support of increased police funding.

Adding to the urgency for increasing police budgets to tackle rising crime is a consensus forming around a school of thought that believes reversing rising crime rates is a crucial component in the “return to normal” from the pandemic’s peak. Increased crime rates, especially in urban public transit systems, are thought to be a significant barrier to returning to a pre-pandemic way of life in cities. At the federal level, policymakers are urging state and local governments to devote federal pandemic relief funds to law enforcement.

Revisiting Enacted Laws

Roughly two years from the rush to pass reform legislation, especially laws addressing restraint tactics and reporting, there is an early indication that some of these laws may yet be subject to reconsideration or revision. In March of 2022, the governor of Washington state signed HB 2037, which clarifies that police can use force to stop a subject from fleeing temporary investigative detention. Elsewhere, changing political realities are leading to the expectation that new administrations may revisit other state-level police reform laws. Lastly, legal challenges to state-level police reform levels, such as one recently filed in Colorado. Indicate further challenges to these laws may lay ahead.

While it is difficult to “read the tea leaves” of political change and legal challenges, there is evidence that the push for reform over the last two years will continue to be revisited as experience and research add to the understanding of the effectiveness of these legislative efforts.

Though the pace of reform legislation has slowed compared to previous years, it is a mistake to believe that the reform trends are becoming less impactful. On the contrary, efforts to provide mental health and peer support funding are vital to addressing the root causes of burnout and fatigue among law enforcement officers, contributing to adverse events. Furthermore, there seems to be an early indication that legislators are interested in revisiting previously passed laws to improve them by balancing the need for public safety and trust with officer readiness and effectiveness.

Law enforcement leaders frequently encounter important questions around police accreditation – do we have the time and, importantly, bandwidth to tackle accreditation? Can our agency afford the accreditation process? What are the differences between state and national accreditation?

A new era of police reform has ushered in the return of federal consent decrees and hundreds of legislative and regulatory changes at the state level. Transparency and public accountability drive the narrative around policing and have a substantial influence on the public’s perception of police.  These factors contribute to a new emphasis and add to the urgency for law enforcement leaders to weigh the benefits of accreditation.

What is accreditation?

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

What is Accreditation?

Much like accreditation for hospitals and educational institutions, law enforcement accreditation is a self-initiated, voluntary process. It is based on standards reflective of best practices in law enforcement. Accreditation standards cover a department’s roles and responsibilities; relationships with other agencies; organization, management, administration; law enforcement operations, operational support, traffic law enforcement; detainee and court-related services; and auxiliary and technical services.

What is national accreditation?

At the national level, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) administers accreditation for law enforcement agencies. In 1979, a group of the nation’s major law enforcement executive associations created CALEA as the national accreditation authority. CALEA improves public safety services delivery and maintains 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 of law enforcement agencies. They are widely considered “Marks of Professional Excellence,” and case studies have demonstrated benefits for large and small public safety agencies. CALEA accreditation is also available for tribal law enforcement agencies and corrections departments.

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 – a ‘stamp of approval.’
  • Decreased exposure to liability risk and costs
  • Enhanced knowledge of written directives.
  • Broadens officer perspective and experience with nationally accepted best practices.
  • Accreditation requires the agency to ensure provided proofs follow standards and written directives.
  • Supports public confidence in policing

The last item is essential. Efforts at increasing the transparency of operations and policy through accreditation can make a meaningful impact in improving the public’s trust in policing. Maintaining public support is crucial in this contemporary era of rapid movement on reform measures and significant policy changes.

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

National vs. State Accreditation — Key Differences

A significant difference between state and national accreditation programs is in the “lift” necessary at the agency level or the work involved in achieving accreditation. Typically, state programs have fewer defined criteria than national accreditation programs.

Key differences in state and national accreditation

For example, as of 2022, MLEAC has 108 standards, while the Texas Police Chiefs Association Foundation Law Enforcement Agency Best Practices Recognition Program (TPCAF Recognition Program) has 170. In comparison, CALEA has approximately 458 standards. Though the standards vary from state to state, it is generally true that accreditation at the national level is a more rigorous and time-intensive process.

In many cases, state accreditation programs for police have a lot of similar themes and overlap with CALEA’s national accreditation requirements — and are written to address issues specific to their state’s regulations. According to the TPCAF Recognition Program site, the program is similar to the national accreditation program but easier to administer and designed with Texas law enforcement agencies in mind. Similarly, Neal A. Rossow, Director of Professional Development/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 ten 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 engage in the process without getting overwhelmed by cost or the number of standards present at the national level.

CALEA is an outstanding national accreditation program, as are many state accreditation programs. Whichever accreditation program an agency undertakes, they demonstrate to themselves and the community they serve their commitment to transparency and 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.

 

Recently, Benchmark CEO Ron Huberman and Steve Brewer of Benchmark Risk Solutions discussed the impacts of reform legislation on the risk in law enforcement. The conversation follows the historical arc of law enforcement in the US, public perception of police, and how risk managers and law enforcement leaders confront these issues. Through the lens of risk management, they explored the efficacy of current policy and procedure changes driven by reform legislation and regulatory changes and their intersection with risk management practices like early intervention, officer wellness initiatives, and their impact on public trust.

This post highlights some of the key themes of the webinar and provides additional context and research findings referenced in the discussion. The entire presentation is available in our Resource Center, a free library of research data and analysis available to the public safety and risk management audience.

Disparities in Perception

Ron Huberman: “In the 1990s, the first well-known police misconduct video of the modern era came to be with Rodney King. All of us likely recall that video and its aftermath. Since the advent of video being readily available [via consumer electronics], these videos have continued to shape public opinion as never before.

Trust in policing has always been massively differentiated among different demographic groups, and there are signs those disparities are growing.”

The reference to the Rodney King incident is especially illuminating and revealed a turning point in public perceptions of policing. The proliferation of handheld recording devices, first portable video cameras and later smartphones, has made it easier for bystanders to record interactions between police and citizens. Coinciding with the rise of cable news earlier and now with social media, millions can see these videos within hours of the incident.

A study at the time showed that, within 30 days of the Rodney King incident, as many as 93% of Los Angeles residents had seen the video on television news. The footage quickly impacted public perception, with groups of white, black, and Latino residents all responding at more than 90% that “police officers used too much force in dealing with King.” When similar survey groups were questioned three years later on their perception of police, a demographic disparity reappeared. Trust in the police rose to levels last noted in 1988, showing a more than ten percentage point gap between white and black respondents.

Evidence suggests this disparity has grown over time. A report from the Pew Research Center points to a correlation between personal experience with police and demographic disparities in perception. Black adults are five times more likely to report being stopped due to their race than white respondents at a rate of 44% versus 9%. Further research has shown past encounters with police as a substantial predictor of perception of police.

Punitive Settlements

Ron Huberman: “One of two fundamental arguments [from plaintiffs’ attorneys] are occurring. One is the ‘wanton and indifferent’, or ‘you weren’t competent and responsible in your governance and didn’t take action where you should have known to do so’. The second is that the police department didn’t know there was this problem or pattern of conduct and – very importantly – that they should have known.

When they’re successful in either of those arguments, we see the general trend in the [risk management marketplace] is that jurors are trying to be highly punitive – given their new societal view of policing.”

The previous section showed that public perception of policing is impacted by media and the availability of videos of alleged or sustained misconduct. In misconduct litigation, the plaintiffs’ attorneys may seek to leverage these shifting perceptions to produce more favorable outcomes and larger settlements for their clients. However, it is essential to note that perception does not always track with reality.

There is indeed observed growth in the cost of misconduct settlements, especially in larger cities. This growth in settlement costs creates strain on municipal budgets and insurance and reinsurance markets. However, the ever-rising costs of settlements do not necessarily indicate that misconduct is more prevalent, despite public perceptions that it is. Data from the University of Chicago revealed that there has been “no apparent increase in the frequency of law enforcement claims, [since 2014]” but that settlement costs have multiplied in the same period. While a causal relationship has not been determined, it is thought that diminished public perception of police likely contributes to these growing settlement amounts despite the number of claims staying relatively flat or even lessening over time.

Mental Health and Wellness

Steve Brewer: “The awareness of the impacts of mental health has led to a lot of programs taking shape and resources being made available, either at the agency level or through third parties. These programs are critical because a growing body of research shows that officers operating at their full capacity – mental, physical, emotional – and as they are trained to do, generally perform well and have a lower risk. Often, where there is a lot of overtime, a lack of sleep, and mental trauma from issues like PTSD that are untreated, it can lead to the escalation of a lot of adverse outcomes.”

Agencies have an ethical obligation to support and enhance their officer’s mental, emotional, and physical wellness. Beyond that, an officer experiencing issues with their health and readiness is a knowable risk factor in policing. In one study, 56% of officers surveyed experienced burnout with their job, which contributed to feelings of callousness towards their work and the public. Other studies have shown that as many as 15% of officers experience post-traumatic stress disorder in their careers, which affects decision-making, sleep patterns, susceptibility to drug and alcohol abuse, and emotional responses. These factors potentially contribute to the likelihood of an officer engaging in behavior that could harm themselves, their career, and their agency’s standing in the community.

Evidence-based wellness programming is the right thing to do for officers’ health, but it can also improve outcomes and help curb the risk of claims and litigation. Case studies have shown the efficacy of wellness programming and intervention in law enforcement. Peer support has been an incredibly effective means of enhancing wellness and boosting officer performance, with approximately 90% of officers surveyed reporting they would recommend peer support to a colleague.

The focus on wellness needs to be holistic, incorporating many intersecting facets of wellness. For instance, a lack of sleep can contribute to higher instances of vehicle collisions, which carry both risks of injury and claims, and compassion fatigue, which can accelerate symptoms of burnout. Programs promoting physical fitness are shown to reduce on-the-job injuries by as much as 40%, which has the potential to reduce compensable injuries and short-staffing due to recovery and rehabilitation after such injuries. Furthermore, in encounters requiring the use of force, a higher level of physical fitness among officers may reduce the probability of excessive force leading to death or injury and subsequent litigation involving both the subject and the officer.

What is knowable?

Steve Brewer: “I’m going to pose a question: what percentage of adverse events in policing are predictable? Take a guess.

Our research finds that the number is between 50% and 65%. Between a half and two-thirds of events in policing today follow a pattern of observable behavior. The research showed and validated that it is incredibly knowable.”

The keyword here is “knowable.” Early intervention can help guard against claims that arise when the plaintiff’s attorney can show that an agency should have known there was a problem and failed to act. State-of-the-art data aggregation and analysis are necessary to attain this high level of predictability in a data model. Less effective analysis, typically seen in informal or threshold-based early intervention, is unlikely to achieve the level of predictive performance that First Sign® Early Intervention delivers. Studies looking at the method of predictive analysis used in First Sign “found high-risk officers identified by prediction models experienced adverse events at a rate 1.7 times higher than those identified by a rule-based EIS” and that rate of accuracy in identifying high-risk officers increased by 75% while false identifications dropped by 20%.

Mitigating knowable risk is the bedrock of highly effective practices in both early intervention and risk management. The two are inextricably linked and are essential to promoting better policing outcomes for agencies and the public they serve. Benchmark Risk Solutions™ and First Sign operate on this fundamental premise and work in tandem to help law enforcement leaders and risk managers know these risks and understand the tools they have to address potential issues before they escalate.

To see the presentation in its entirety, visit our Resource Center.

Efforts to increase transparency are arguably the most prominent aspect of police reform efforts. Legislatures are creating regulatory changes that require the disclosure of police data to contribute to a better-informed public and shed light on police operations and tactics. A central component of these efforts involves leveraging a still-developing technology: body-worn cameras (BWC).

How we got here

Body Worn Camera

From a tech perspective, the development of BWCs essentially tracks with broader trends in consumer electronics towards miniaturization and reduced production costs. Experimentation with primitive BWCs began in the 1990s, following the relatively widespread adoption of dash cams in radio cars. BWCs did not become commonplace until the late 2000s, coinciding with the popularization of smartphone technology which also allowed the public to record video and audio from a handheld device. Now it is common for BWCs to be able to record in high definition with audio and, in many cases, in low-light conditions.

This tech comes with a cost. The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) published a research paper that estimates one camera costs between approximately $1,200 and $3,200 per year. The reason for calculating the expense as a yearly cost is that the upfront purchase price of a camera is often relatively modest compared to the ongoing costs of training, maintenance, and data management associated with deploying a BWC over the course of a year. The variation in these figures is influenced by an agency’s policy regarding how long data is kept, whether it is stored locally or in a cloud system, and who is able to access it.

As the tech has become more accessible, the prevalence of BWCs has exploded. Approximately 32% of departments were using them in 2013. Just five years later that figure had risen to 47% across all agencies. Notably, 80% of large departments, typically with greater access to resources than smaller agencies, have now deployed BWCs.

Grants have helped offset costs for departments adopting body-worn cameras. Typically, when they are mandated by state or local laws, those governing bodies also provide funding in the form of grants or budget line items for purchase and upkeep. This year, the Department of Justice is accepting grant applications from law enforcement and corrections agencies through May. Additionally, recognizing the limited budgets of agencies with fewer sworn staff, the DOJ has specially designated additional resources of approximately $7.5M for smaller, rural agencies.

What body-worn cameras promise

The arguments for deploying BWCs fall into several categories:

Increased transparency: This notion relies on the fundamental understanding of BWCs as essential to creating an unbiased record of a police/civilian interaction or other policing operation. This is, of course, only the case when the cameras are switched on during an encounter and even then they can only capture events from the vantage point of the officer wearing the camera, leading to debate over a bias in the footage.

The “Civilizing Effect”: One study showed that when both parties to a police/civilian interaction knew they were being recorded that those involved tended to act more civil to one another. Generally, officers are thought to be more polite and less terse with citizens while those citizens are also less likely to act aggressively or flee an encounter. Early studies showed some positive movement on the number of complaints after BWCs were introduced.

Evidence: The scene of a traffic collision or crime often puts a lot of demands on an officer – from securing the scene itself and gathering statements to possibly detaining a suspect or rendering aid. Even those with the sharpest memories can forget the details of an incident in a hectic situation. Video of an entire encounter used as evidence can provide meaningful context and background at trial that written reports and statements cannot.

Training resource: Beyond transparency efforts and as evidence, BWC footage has been shown to be quite useful to departments as a training aid. As many as 94% of agencies currently engage in the practice, leveraging the footage for scenario-based training, performance review (especially with new officers), and for gap-analysis to determine where additional training is necessary.

What the research shows

On the surface, the reasons to deploy BWCs seem as obvious as they are abundant, representing a win/win scenario for both officers and the communities they serve. As research creates new evidence to guide decision-making on BWCs, however, a more complex and nuanced picture is emerging.

Early studies have shown dramatic reductions in use-of-force incidents and citizen complaints, as much as 88% in the landmark Rialto Study. Research published by the University of Chicago in 2021 shows that, among the departments surveyed, citizen complaints dropped by 17% and that use-of-force incidents saw a nearly 10% decline across the fatal and non-fatal categories.

The complexity arrives in the disparity between complaints and actual officer behavior. Researchers published a meta-analysis of available research in 2021, aggregating and analyzing the findings of 70 studies examining the effectiveness of BWCs. While calling for additional research, the topline of this analysis suggests there is not yet conclusive evidence that BWCs improve officer safety. Additionally, BWCs have not been shown to have a statistically significant effect on arrests, traffic stops, assaults on officers, or other types of citizen/officer interactions.

Why the difference in research findings? Broadly speaking, for every study finding a decrease in citizen complaints there may be another one, studying another department as a research sample, finding that complaints did not significantly change. What’s more, complaints are not necessarily a conclusive indicator of behavior in the field. Furthermore, with recent high-profile events in policing, changes in officer behavior and citizen reactions may be driven by factors unrelated to the use of BWCs.

The debate over and study of the efficacy of BWCs shows no signs of slowing down. Further research is needed to identify why some agencies are able to deploy BWCs and see dramatic and positive results whereas others don’t see as much change in their outcomes. One possible explanation for these disparities has do with other risk management and accountability practices like early intervention, data transparency efforts, and duty to intervene policies. Though there will always be a need for more data to base these decisions on, there is a developing consensus that BWCs still represent a net benefit to both officers and citizens.

Data transparency in law enforcement may seem straightforward, but, as we explored in our last blog post, the issue is a lot more complex than simply opening up public-facing data portals and expecting those actions alone will build public trust. The relationships between transparency, accountability and public trust are nuanced and complex — and require intentional study and planning to incorporate into effective data transparency policies. Many of the primary stakeholders in data transparency efforts – the public, researchers, and police leaders – have distinctly different needs from data transparency efforts. This post will look at how those stakeholders interact with open data initiatives and where those needs overlap.

Leaders in the Field

Data Transparency in PolicingUntil recently, there were few attempts to rigorously document the attitudes policing leaders held about transparency initiatives and data sharing. Policymakers and the general public assumed that law enforcement executives were, at best, skeptical of data-sharing and public transparency tools. While more research is certainly needed, a 2015 paper was among the first to shed light on how these leaders approach transparency, and, to many, the findings were surprising.

For generations, the standard way police leaders approached transparency was as a function of public relations – a way to guide the narrative and assuage public concerns. As we entered the era of internet saturation at the turn of the 21st century and the subsequent proliferation of social media, thinking changed. New tech tools and web-based portals made it less labor-intensive to distribute policing data. This transformation happened at about the same time as a growing consensus among leaders showed that data transparency could be used to build public trust proactively rather than as a reactive tool.  

Through sophisticated and careful data coding, that 2015 study showed that police leaders have a remarkably nuanced set of views on transparency and data dissemination. Most leaders don’t view these efforts as a waste of resources or a distraction from the mission. Instead, they view these efforts as necessary to educate and communicate directly with the public and enhance their department’s reputation. Another striking element of the study was the high degree to which police leaders felt it was “personally important” to share data with the public, indicating a meaningful and lasting sense of buy-in.

Asking the Experts

The massive amount of policing data available to researchers is generally welcomed as a positive development. The continuing trend of moving from paper to electronic records reduces some of the legwork once required for extensive research. However, such vast troves of data are not without their problems, as detailed in a 2020 research paper published in Frontiers in Psychology.  

One of the most substantial issues in collecting and analyzing data is the difficulty of standardizing how it is reported. Efforts at creating a national database with uniform standards have largely stalled, leaving researchers to navigate a patchwork of state and local data sources. These disparities can create inaccurate data, such as in the case of hate crimes reporting where, in the past, if agencies didn’t have any hate crimes to report in a period, it was mistakenly classified as a failure to report as opposed to simply having no relevant data to report – a substantial and very meaningful difference to researchers.   

This inconsistency in the way data is reported potentially makes it difficult for researchers to “code” data – that is, uniformly classifying data points to draw insight or conclusions from the sets. Examples of this are differences in language describing the use of force incidents to variations in state laws that classify similar crimes under different categories. Furthermore, missing data, especially demographic data, in police reports and other data sources can present an incomplete picture of an encounter, making it difficult — if not impossible — to establish consistency and correlation.  

Public Sentiment

Professionals generally recognize the multifaceted value of data transparency in policing, but where does this leave the general public? In our previous post, we looked at how, in the public’s perception, transparency and accountability in policing are often linked with the underlying philosophy behind transparency efforts supporting the stated goal of improving public confidence in policing. With this, it stands that research studying public feelings on law enforcement can offer some insight into the efficacy of these efforts.

Gallup has conducted longitudinal survey research into public confidence in policing for the past 27 years, making it one of the longest-running surveys of its type in the country. The most recent figures show a dip corresponding with several high-profile incidents of recent years. While these figures represent a low over the course of the survey, there is reason to think these numbers may trend upward in the coming years.

Highly visible yet typically isolated incidents of police misconduct are often followed by periods of broad legislative and regulatory changes in policing. In the past two years, dozens of states and even more local governments have passed new laws requiring greater transparency and reporting of police data. Many of these laws are centered around use of force reporting, mandating that departments track use of force and other data points and that officers report and even intervene in alleged misconduct 

The Long View 

Though it is too soon to say conclusively, some early indicators suggest there may be shifts in public confidence on the horizon. Newly published survey data from Pew Research shows that there’s been a substantial swing in respondents from diverse demographic backgrounds saying they want increased spending on policing in their area. It is important to note that these responses don’t directly indicate growing confidence in policing as a whole. However, on the other hand, the survey respondents seem to have enough faith in law enforcement agencies to trust them with more public dollars.  

The discussion around data transparency in policing will undoubtedly evolve, reacting to current events and new frames of analysis. Time has shown researchers, law enforcement leaders, and the public all value transparency in policing but often with different motivations. By understanding these differences, law enforcement leaders and policymakers will be able to better craft policies and open data practices that serve the needs of the diverse group of stakeholders.  

Central to this contemporary era of policing are calls for transparency and accountability. A common assumption is that transparency and accountability are inherently linked and that by simply increasing the amount of data available to the public, accountability and public trust will trend in a positive direction. As is often the case, the reality is that the issue is far more complex – more resembling a complex set of interconnected factors rather than a “point A to point B” linear system.

This article will explore where the notions of transparency and accountability in law enforcement come from, why they’re important, and a few of the resources available to agencies seeking to implement data disclosure systems.

Transparency and Democracy: An Ethical Framework

data transparency Accountability through transparency is fundamental to police reform efforts. This is all but a given now, but the idea that transparency is needed to ensure the legitimacy of law enforcement is a relatively recent development in understanding the role of government. A brief look at some basic political theory provides transparency’s philosophical and ethical underpinnings as a moral construct.

Early 20th century sociologists and political scientists, particularly German sociologist Max Weber, argued that the authority of governmental officials, such as police officers, is legal and rational in that police derive the authority to enforce the law through law and regulations established by a democratic state or government. This stands in contrast to law enforcement that, for example in the Middle Ages, derived its authority from what philosophers would describe as charisma, like that of an autocrat or dictator, or by traditional means such as in the case of inherited royalty or title. Weber’s theories are now considered foundational in the way social scientists understand the sources of authority.

In a democracy, the government’s authority comes from the citizenry’s consent, it follows that the citizens influencing policy decisions through their elected representatives are interested in being well-informed so that they make wise decisions about their governance. The transparency that invited scrutiny then is essential to maintaining law enforcement’s legitimacy among the public in a democracy.

 Promoting Community Trust

“People are more likely to obey the law when they believe that those enforcing it have the legitimate authority to tell them what to do … The public confers legitimacy only on those they believe are acting in procedurally just ways” – President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, 2015

The Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing identifies building trust and legitimacy as its first pillar in a six-point plan to transform policing for the 21st century. The report calls for several concrete steps designed to improve the public trust in policing by regularly making public data regarding stops, summonses, and arrests and collecting survey data from community members and officers to assess the effects of policy changes and initiatives holistically.

The greater availability of data creates more knowable information for the members of the public. The general population, especially those with programming and analytical skills, are able to digest and react to more data than ever before. While this certainly increases transparency in policing, studies published by the Department of Justice and RAND Corporation point out that, to increase public confidence, there has to be a broad perception that this transparency leads to accountability – whether that’s the termination of officers engaged in misconduct or broader policy changes. Simply disclosing data without the “follow up” of meaningful accountability can unintentionally draw attention to wrongdoing and give the impression it is more widespread than it is.

Setting the Agenda, Delivering the Funding

Data made available through transparency efforts have the potential to be a key element in growing community trust in police. That same data is also critical to informing future research, which, in turn, will be used to build policies that can contribute to a more positive public perception of law enforcement. There are two basic components to the research and funding cycle:

Creating research priorities: Research proposals center around research questions – essentially what a study or review hopes to answer. When an academic or research team seeks funding for a study, that research question is supported by data from previous research as new findings typically pose further questions. Though this may appear to be a cycle, it is more accurate to view it as the evolution of the knowledge surrounding a subject. With greater access to law enforcement data, whether by mandate or voluntary reporting, researchers can ask better questions and have greater confidence in their findings.

Setting funding priorities: Policymakers, charged with strategically administering grants and appropriations, typically set a high bar when deploying public funds. They look for evidence derived from research that their funds will be impactful. Sufficiently representative data, both in quantity and quality, guide this decision-making process which can mean additional funding for law enforcement programs and operations.

Building Systems for Transparency

As data reporting technology changes and regulatory mandates require additional types of data transparency, think tanks and professional organizations have been at the forefront of creating best practices recommendations for agencies. The Police Foundation created a five-part guide to help agencies draft policies for making their data public. These recommendations center around generating awareness using tools like social media, outreach to community groups, and creating easy-to-use, public-facing portals. Case studies in the guide take these ideas out of the world of theory and into the real world, illustrating practical examples of how agencies have successfully met data reporting requirements

The International Association of Chiefs of Police published a guide on reporting use of force that goes into even greater detail, specifying discrete data points agencies might consider including as a part of a broader data transparency strategy. The model policies in the document suggest what types of reports should be included, the data parameters of use of force reports, and procedural workflows that simplify the reporting process for agencies.

Benchmark Analytics routinely partners with agencies tasked with expanding their data reporting capabilities. Using the Benchmark Management System®, agencies can streamline the task of reporting myriad and complex data to public police data portals. By doing so, agencies can play an important role in increasing public trust, which, in turn, can help increase resources available to law enforcement, ultimately increasing police effectiveness.

A frequent point of debate surrounding alleged misconduct caught on video is the nature and extent of a fellow officer’s duty to intervene. To a member of the public viewing a news report or social media video of these types of events, the perceived lack of intervention in what appears to be clear misconduct can create confusion and further an emotional response to videos of these events. Despite common public perception, rarely are these instances of indifference on the part of multiple officers but rather part of a complex ecosystem of factors including but not limited to inadequate training, culture, and seniority.

This article takes a high-level look at the duty to intervene in law enforcement: how we got here, what the current state of mandates are, and how agencies are responding. Future articles will look at the facets of this issue in greater detail.

What is duty to intervene?

Duty to intervene regulations require an officer who witnesses misconduct or excessive use to “interrupt” the event using words. Laws vary between states, municipalities, and jurisdictions but generally, they require that an officer intercedes in circumstances where misconduct or excessive force might cause harm to a suspect or member of the public. In many cases, these regulations complement duty to report regulations requiring officers to report excessive force or misconduct to superior officers, internal affairs, or other relevant bodies.

From mid-2020 to the present day, there’s been a wave of state-level legislative efforts crafted in reaction to public calls for increased transparency and accountability in the wake of high-profile policing incidents. Duty to intervene requirements have been visible and prevalent aspects of these efforts. The perception that officers witnessed excessive force and did not intervene was a significant driver of the public outrage that sparked protests around the country and world which, in many cases, led to legislation altering or enhancing duty to intervene requirements. Since 2020, 13 states have passed legislation mandating a duty to intervene – in addition to countless municipalities and agencies creating their standards for intervention.

A Complex Issue

While legislative fixes satisfy public demand for movement on accountability, they leave much of the issue’s complexity to agencies and regulators to tackle. Often intervening in instances of misconduct isn’t an easy task and there are barriers to officers simply “stepping in” when the need arises. Recent media analysis coupled with a paper from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) identifies some of these barriers:

Chain of command: Many departments operate with a chain of command structure similar to that of the military. These structures can often implicitly or tacitly discourage questioning a superior officer, making it potentially challenging to step in to interrupt actions covered under duty to intervene mandates.

Fear of retaliation: There is a perception that doing something that may cause another officer trouble, whether with internal affairs or another outside regulatory body, can lead to retaliation. This can look like being passed over for promotion or a desired assignment or being ostracized within an agency.

Insufficient training: Intervening usually isn’t as simple as putting oneself “in the middle” of an instance of potential misconduct or excessive use of force. In many of these instances, emotions are running high, and direct appeals to reason or physical restraint may not be the most effective tactics. A growing area of law enforcement training is seeking to address this knowledge gap and build an understanding of what effective intervention looks like.

Training to Intervene

Training for intervention, like other training seeking to address structural issues, is more than just imparting a set of procedures – it instead seeks to build on already present and positive cultural elements within an agency. In 2014, The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) developed and deployed the Ethical Policing is Courageous (EPIC) peer intervention training program. According to former Commissioner Michael S. Harrison, the program emphasizes a cultural shift away from intervention being viewed as disloyal and instead of being considered as loyalty “on the front end,” characterizing the approach as “let’s let me help you not make this mistake in the first place.

Since the program was enacted, NOPD has shown a decline in use-of-force complaints. While it is likely multiple factors have contributed to these declines in adverse events, the signs are encouraging. Building off the EPIC Model’s effectiveness, leaders at Georgetown University Law Center’s Program on Innovative Policing have developed the Active Bystander for Law Enforcement (ABLE) training program. ABLE utilizes a top-down “train the trainer” model. The training method seeks to promote buy-in by engaging the skills of high-performing officers who have earned the respect of their peers and tasking them to lead training sessions rather than relying on resources outside the department for training.

The ABLE program takes a holistic approach to intervention, emphasizing ten standards that emphasize accountability, community support, moral courage, and officer wellness. As of late 2021, the program has been adopted by more than 140 law enforcement agencies and is shown to lead to fewer disciplinary actions and job losses among officers and improvements in community/police relations and officer job satisfaction. New modules for non-sworn civilian staff and corrections officers are currently under development.

The duty to intervene often isn’t as simple as it sounds and there are no quick fixes. Research-based training programs point to shifting the culture around intervention – reframing the practice as not punitive or disloyal but as one rooted in accountability and the notion of looking out for one’s colleagues and their best interests. Successful implementation of duty to intervene mandates serves both the public interest in transparency and accountability while reducing misconduct claims and contributing to officer wellness.

Benchmark Management System® (BMS) offers comprehensive top-to-bottom management modules that capture all of an agency’s day-to-day operational data points in one location. Capturing training data with this tool can help agency leaders track which officers are due for training courses and assist in identifying candidates for “train the trainer” methodologies.

In our previous article, we explored the underrepresentation of women in policing and why it is important for law enforcement leaders to address this shortfall. The article looked at what groups like the 30×30 Initiative are doing to increase the number of women as sworn officers. Today’s article takes a closer look at the group’s methodology and efforts to improve the representation of women in the profession.

An often-cited statistic shows that, while women make up more than half of the population, they represent fewer than 12% of sworn officers in the United States. When examining the number of women in law enforcement leadership roles, that figure shrinks to a paltry 3% — a number that is almost universally seen as a significant problem. While research dating back to the 1970s has documented the issue and made a strong argument for increasing the representation of women in law enforcement, these figures have remained effectively stagnant in most departments in the decades since.

representation in policingThere is an increased urgency among law enforcement leaders that recruiting and retaining women officers matters, with efforts to do so showing demonstrably positive outcomes for both law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Guided in part by these facts, Chief Ivonne Roman (ret.) of the Newark Police Department and Maureen McGough of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) led a national research summit on women in policing in 2018 with more than 100 women representing researchers, law enforcement leadership, and professional organizations in attendance. The work from the meeting would be instrumental in propelling research and strategy on women in policing through the present day.

The 30×30 Initiative is one such effort guided by that summit. The group’s name is directly tied to its mission: to increase the representation of women in policing from 12% to 30% by 2030. Partnered with the Policing Project at the NYU School of Law and the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, the 30×30 Initiative seeks to understand the issue by gathering vital data into the conditions affecting the number of women in law enforcement and using that data to make actionable, real-world recommendations for policy shifts and strategic plans to help improve these numbers. The organization uses a pledge already signed by hundreds of agencies large and small across the country to gather data and secure a long-term commitment to improving the number of women in law enforcement.

The 30×30 Pledge

Understanding that agencies have differing capacities, resources, and needs, the 30×30 Pledge that agencies and their leaders commit to is more akin to a “flexible framework” than a rigid list of actions and policies that require agencies’ strict compliance. Ideally, this flexibility is built into the pledge to give agencies the latitude to base their strategic decisions on evidence and analysis unique to their departments. The pledge itself is made of two primary phases that encompass both assessment actions and decision-making based on that analysis of the accrued data.

Crucially these are low- to no-cost actions that can be taken to improve the representation of women across ranks in law enforcement and improve their experience while on the job. The pledge first asks that departments commit to understanding gender equity, by unpacking the factors driving disparities, and developing plans to implement strategies to advance women in policing.

The first phase of the pledge comprises essential data gathering and implementing policies related to the hiring and retention of women in the department. The data gathering is relatively straightforward: collecting the number of sworn officers in an agency as well as demographic information across rank and assignment categories. It also requires that departments formally make hiring, retaining, and promoting women a strategic priority and affirm a zero-tolerance policy for discriminatory practices or harassment in the workplace. Going a step further, departments are asked to commit to providing adequate scheduling accommodation and physical space for nursing mothers. The last component of this first phase of the pledge addresses the equipment and gear issued by departments – specifically, that equipment is appropriate to the fit and proportions of women.

Translating Data into Action

The second reporting phase takes a deeper dive into diagnostic data and demographics, asking agencies to more rigorously classify and report their demographic data – including gender, race/ethnicity, and age – where possible. This phase of the pledge splits the data into four “lanes,” looking into hiring, promotion, retention and culture, and recruitment.

Generally speaking, the data gathering and reporting exercises focus on creating greater clarity on which sworn officers are applying for promotions, seeking voluntary training, leaving the agency, and generating data to assess the efficacy of recruitment programs. Looking at this in a larger context, this demographic and department-level information intersects with many of the research priorities outlined in the NIJ’s 2017-2022 Strategic Research Plan for policing.

In the long term, this data will help inform theory and research questions about policing but, in the near term, it is beneficial in providing the basis for best-practice recommendations. Taking things a step beyond data collections and analysis, a critical component of the 30×30 Pledge is translating these data-driven insights into an action plan. The same four lanes (hiring, promotion, retention and culture, and recruitment) categorize the actions areas.

The framework consists of essential, strongly recommended, and recommended areas of action. Essential action areas more often involve using aggregated data to recognize where biases exist and taking the necessary steps to address those biases with measures like ensuring voluntary training and promotion notifications are posted internally and that officers are up to date with bias and harassment training. Generally, steps both of the “recommended” categories seek to unpack the issues further, delving into structural issues that create barriers to women in policing.

Moving Forward with Intersectionality

While the 30×30 Initiative focuses on issues affecting women in law enforcement, the group makes a distinct nod towards intersectionality when describing their background and mission. Intersectionality is an analytical framework originating from the field of sociology that “acknowledges the ways in which people’s multiple identities—race and ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability, and more—magnify or transform their exposure to discrimination.” People at different intersections of these elements of identity have their experiences shaped in different ways.

In a practical sense, this means that the data and insights generated by the 30×30 Initiative can serve as a blueprint for other such efforts. The organization’s work is not siloed and geared only towards improving conditions for women but, in effect, can be used to benefit all officers who have struggled to find representation in policing. Using intersectionality as a bedrock of the 30×30 Initiative’s methodology means that the group’s work will be transferrable to other areas of research into law enforcement equity and efforts to create real-world strategies to help improve representation in law enforcement.