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.