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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.

As we’ve covered in previous posts, recruitment shortfalls are creating serious headaches for law enforcement leaders. A wave of resignations heightened by a pandemic and challenges with public perceptions combined with a generational trend in retirements is creating a situation for departmental leaders where attrition surpasses recruitment capacity.

Women are substantially underrepresented in law enforcement. While making up more than half of the population, women represent fewer than 13% police officers. Though the number of women in law enforcement agencies has grown since the 1960s, their participation rate has been stagnant at this level for decades. Nearly every agency throughout the country has faced challenges in attracting women to the profession.

Why attract diverse candidates?

recruiting womenThe reasons for making a conscious effort to bring more women into the profession are more than just ethical arguments. For as long as women have been working in the law enforcement field, social scientists and academics have taken a keen interest in designing research to help us better understand what they bring to the job and how they compare to their male counterparts. Studies have confirmed intuitions about unique skills women bring to their agencies and communities as well as cast serious doubts on outdated assumptions surrounding their capabilities and job performance.

Social scientists and researchers have been studying the impacts of a gender-diverse police force since the 1970s. A landmark study in 1987 as well as many subsequent studies have contributed to the strong argument that diverse police forces are beneficial to the communities they serve.

Research suggests female officers are less likely to be involved in incidents involving excessive use of force than their male counterparts. Though a correlation has not been conclusively established, women also tend to show, on average, more advanced interpersonal communication skills, which suggests they may be more likely to practice de-escalation tactics, further reducing the incidence of excessive force.

Women officers are highly skilled at addressing crimes involving violence against women and sex crimes. Sexual assault is a sensitive issue, and it is thought that more significant numbers of female officers may help break down some of the barriers to reporting such crimes. Studies have shown a correlation between increased female representation on police forces and declines in intimate partner murder rates and rates of repeated domestic abuse, as well as higher clearance rates in these cases.

In an era when public trust in the police has eroded to critical levels, law enforcement leaders have an urgent interest in finding ways to rebuild that trust. Writing for the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Police Chief Magazine, Retired Chief of Newark Police Ivonne Roman documented a link between trust in the police to the proportion of women serving in an agency. More advanced interpersonal skills related to conflict resolution, de-escalation, and use of force likely contribute to these observations.

Barriers to Recruiting Women

There is a consensus among policing leaders that women bring valuable skills and experience to the profession and that these abilities enhance an agency’s capacity to fulfill its mission. As referenced earlier in this post, recruitment numbers have, for generations, fallen short of representation targets needed to field a more diverse police force. Like many issues facing police recruiters, there is no simple one-step solution to these problems but rather an interconnected set of strategies policing leaders employ.

Revised physical aptitude standards for entrance into police academies are among the more impactful tactics to increase recruitment.  These standards vary widely from agency to agency, with some considering aspects like differences in upper body muscle mass when creating standards. Other agencies have uniform standards, regardless of gender. Comprehensive data is not readily available, but anecdotal reports suggest these physical fitness requirements have a disparate impact on female applicants.

Within some pockets of policing, there can be lingering doubts and anxiety about female colleagues’ abilities to do the job as well as their male colleagues. These outdated views are often expressed in the form of harassment on the job. Laws dealing with sexual harassment have been strengthened in the last twenty years, which, combined with broader cultural shifts, show promise at improving working conditions.

While women make up only 13% of police officers, their numbers are even smaller in leadership roles. Recent data compiled by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) shows that 9.5% of first-line supervisors are women and only represent 2.7% of executive leadership. It is widely understood that mentorship programs involving senior officers and leaders providing coaching support to junior officers are tied to a wide range of improved outcomes in rank advancement and retention, job performance, and officer and family wellness.

Next Steps

The NIJ’s Women in Policing: Breaking Barriers and Blazing a Path crucially lays out a research agenda designed to create more empirical evidence for crafting policies to improve the recruitment of women officers. Several research questions are categorized under six themes that, broadly, seek to more clearly identify the scope of the problem, look at cultural and performance-based barriers to recruitment, and understand better how retention and advancement figure into the overall picture. The report also outlines questions raised by officers in the field as another means to inform future research.

The 30X30 Initiative is a prominent example of an advocacy coalition bringing together current and former law enforcement leaders with research institutions with the goal of “increase[ing] the representation of women in police recruit classes to 30% by 2030, and to ensure[ing] police policies and culture intentionally support the success of qualified women officers throughout their careers”. This group frames the issue as a matter of both equity and public safety, using evidence to show that agencies with greater representation of women historically show better outcomes for both their communities and their officers.

The 30X30 Initiative…frames efforts to recruit women as a matter of both equity and public safety…

Like all complex social problems, additional research is still needed to understand issues of gender parity in recruiting. There is, however, broad agreement among law enforcement leaders that it needs to be a priority moving forward. In an era of substantial recruiting and public perception challenges, the evidence showing that women make extremely valuable contributions to the communities and agencies they serve can no longer be overlooked.

Moving into 2022, a lot is changing in the world of law enforcement — legislation is reshaping policies and tactics while enhanced data collection and reporting is giving new insight into officer performance metrics and crime statistics. Police recruitment remains an issue facing law enforcement leaders in 2022, changing only because the need is growing as trends in retirement and resignation continue. This article looks at how cultural and employment trends affect staffing levels and recruitment levels in law enforcement with an eye towards the future.

What’s Causing Recruitment and Staffing Shortfalls?

RecruitmentShortfallFor decades, social sciences researchers have been studying police recruitment efforts and documenting the pivot in the profession to a more highly skilled and technically proficient workforce needed for the 21st century. Despite a whole field of research devoted to law enforcement recruitment and retention, the problem persists to such an extent that even mainstream national news outlets are taking note. Both CNN and the Wall Street Journal have covered the topic in recent weeks, highlighting interviews with law enforcement leaders about their experience with staffing shortfalls and speaking to officers about why they left the profession.

It is too soon for comprehensive reporting from 2021 to be available, but the most recent research from the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) speaks to the magnitude of recruitment shortfalls. From April of 2020 to March of 2021, resignations rose at 18%, while retirements jumped an impressive 45%. Adding to the urgency created by staffing shortages, these statistics show how large agencies (500+ sworn officers) are likely feeling the effects more intensely than smaller departments. The report showed that “large” agencies faced a 36% reduction in recruitment numbers over the same period.

Understanding the magnitude of the problem is generally easier than understanding the underlying factors contributing to it. The COVID-19 global pandemic has upended and realigned industries throughout the country, including law enforcement. Making its way into headlines as of late is the notion of a Great Resignation which has seen workers reprioritizing work-life balance and seeking higher wages in a job seeker’s market, the likes of which have not been experienced in at least a generation. Though there’s evidence this wave of resignations may have hit its peak in 2021, the ripple effects are likely to affect staffing levels well into 2022.

The issues driving this wave of resignations – working hours, conditions, and pay – are particularly prevalent in law enforcement. Shiftwork is especially difficult for law enforcement officers where inconsistent scheduling and unpredictable overtime can create acute problems for an officer’s health and wellness. The national average annual pay for law enforcement officers remains above the salary of the average American worker. This is not always true in some parts of the country, especially those with booming technology sectors. The draw of higher-paying and less-dangerous work puts law enforcement at an inherent disadvantage regarding recruitment.

Lastly, public perception of police and policing strategies creates barriers to more robust recruiting across the profession. The Pew Research Center conducts longitudinal research on public perception of law enforcement and has charted notable declines in survey participants’ views on how police treat the public and how effectively investigators pursue misconduct cases. The results of these surveys tend to be most visible along with race and political lines though there’s been some softening of positive views across the board. These broader cultural attitudes create an issue for recruiters where a sociological concept known as social desirability bias — the desire to present one’s attitudes, behaviors, and occupation in a positive light – steers potential recruits away from a profession with a perceived negative social stigma attached to it.

Effects of Staff Shortages

The numbers surrounding staffing shortfalls in law enforcement are easy to understand. However, the effects of the issue are more profound than can be conveyed in spreadsheets of survey results. Staffing shortfalls create real hardships not only for departments struggling to recruit new officers but for the officers themselves who struggle with long hours and difficult working conditions.

Low recruiting numbers create financial challenges for departments that turn to signing bonuses to attract potential recruits. In Washington State, law enforcement leaders offer bonuses of as much as $25,000 to help lure recruits. Other counties in the state, like King County (Seattle), seek outside help from recruiting specialists to boost their numbers. These signing bonuses and recruitment consultants come at a cost when growth in spending on policing is under increased and intense public scrutiny in many areas of the country. Additionally, though municipal and state legislative bodies provide funding for bonuses and contractors, there is no guarantee these funding packages will become permanent parts of the law enforcement budget, with many being framed as one-time expenditures.

When officers resign or retire, their shifts don’t leave the department with them. Though the public perception of crime rates doesn’t always match reality, the facts are that property crimes like carjacking are on the rise. Murder rates are jumping year-over-year while clearance rates are dropping. These trends create a greater need for officers on patrol, but the shortfall requires extra shifts and potentially unwanted overtime. These factors contribute to a cyclical effect of long hours and stressful work driving increased burnout, leading officers to pursue careers in other fields.

A Complex Problem

For generations, law enforcement agencies have experienced shortfalls in their recruitment efforts. The profession, to many, is seen as a higher calling to public service that requires rigorous ethical and performance characteristics of its recruits – qualities not found in just anyone. In recent years, recruitment shortfalls have been compounded by broad, societal trends set into motion by high-profile policing incidents and a global pandemic. While agencies can turn to incentives and outside consultants in the short term, investments in systemic change to the profession are most likely to create lasting change. Leadership development and technical training are shown to move the needle somewhat. Still, most experts agree that the hard work reforming the public perception of policing and the nature of the profession will go a long way to improving recruitment shortfalls.

Calls for reform brought about by high-profile incidents have led to an unprecedented pace of legislation affecting law enforcement over the past two years. New laws and the change they’ve created have reshaped policing since 2020 and will undoubtedly continue to influence law enforcement trends in 2022. This article looks at some of the prominent themes we’re monitoring as the new year gets underway.

Change Management as a Constant

look ahead to 2022A prominent theme in law enforcement policy has been a rapid and profound legislative change in recent years. The pace of reform legislation has been swift, with 453 bills addressing law enforcement passed into law over the last two years. What this means for law enforcement leaders is an urgent need to create strategies to implement sweeping changes to their agencies’ policies and data-gathering practices.

Law enforcement agencies are often seen as organizations where changes come slowly, emphasizing tradition and continuity. This is, in part, due to the nature of the profession. When dealing with the safety of officers and the public they serve, leaders can be reluctant to make broad changes that could be perceived to threaten that stability. Legislative mandates, however, are compelling law enforcement leaders, in most cases, to enact policy changes on defined timelines.

Policing executives are increasingly looking towards the corporate world for guidance on change management strategies. Strategies like McKinsey’s 7-S Framework and Kotter’s Method are often used in the business world to introduce potentially problematic changes to an organization, and most importantly, create the buy-in needed to move towards change as a whole organization.  While there is some variation in the methods to build the momentum for change, they both fundamentally rely on a bottom-up approach that increases buy-in and ultimately successful transition in policies.

Officer Wellness in 2022

The conditions that have been a primary driver of reform legislation have prompted policymakers, citizens, and law enforcement to step back and look at the bigger picture of policing. Individual actions, events, and policies are increasingly viewed in their context as part of larger systems. While much media attention is on aspects of reform measures aimed to add transparency to policing operations, many of those pieces of legislation also have substantial components that address the health and wellness of law enforcement officers.

At the federal level, the Department of Justice, in conjunction with Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), announced $7 million in grants late last year as a part of the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act Program. A total of 65 grants were disbursed in the previous year to state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. These grants are a valuable first step in establishing and maintaining programs like peer support, suicide prevention, and family services to support officer wellness in 2022 and beyond.

Looking to the state level, many of the mandates and programs concerning mental health and wellness coming into effect in 2022 are a more direct result of recent policing reform legislation than federal programs. The state-level initiatives cover a broad range of topics pertaining to mental health and, in many cases, expand upon federally funded programs. A few notable examples include:

  • New Hampshire created a new commission with SB142 to study post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in first responders. The commission’s findings will be delivered on or before November 1, 2022 and will be used to make further recommendations for programmatic funding.
  • S24 in Texas authorized the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement to roll out a peer-support network for law enforcement officers in January of 2022. Peer support networks and associated programs are being formalized throughout the country and are considered to be among the most effective means to promote officer wellness.
  • The Utah state legislature enacted H248, which opened up a half-million dollars in state-funded grants to be awarded before June 30, 2022. These grants will provide funding for mental health resources for law enforcement officers and other first responders.
  • S703 was introduced and moved to committee in New Jersey in January of 2022. The New Jersey First Responders Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Protection Act addresses PTSD among law enforcement officers and first responders by guarding against retaliation or loss of benefits. Another bill introduced in New Jersey in 2022, A1622, seeks to create funding for a PTSD hotline administered jointly by the New Jersey Department of Health and behavioral healthcare specialists from Rutgers University.

Data Analysis and Management

Law enforcement researchers have long used policing data to understand everything from community/police interactions to health outcomes in the policing community. The insights that can be gained from this data can create positive change both for the law enforcement profession and their communities. Unfortunately, many agencies haven’t had the funding or workers to bring their recordkeeping and data management practices into the 21st century.

Much of the recent reform legislation frames data collection mandates as a move towards greater transparency. However, another beneficial effect of these measures is increasing the data researchers use to study law enforcement as well as creating new data sources for agencies to use to make smarter decisions around personnel and allocation of resources.

In North Carolina, SB300 mandated the creation of data capture systems used to inform early intervention systems and a critical incident database tracking use of force. The mandate took effect in December of 2021, and agencies in the state have either begun improving or establishing such systems. Maryland’s SB670 requires that certain officer misconduct records be available for public inspection. In practice, this means agencies must have the capacity to report incident data to publicly accessible portals or databases, requiring the agencies to have procedures to standardize and report this data.

A Busy Year Ahead

The pace of reform legislation and the changes it will create in law enforcement show no sign of slowing down. 2022 promises to be another active year in state legislatures. As new mandates pass, law enforcement leaders will be seeking new solutions to guide their agencies through this period of change for the profession.

Benchmark Analytics’ First Sign® is a first-of-its-kind, research-driven early intervention platform that is custom-tailored to agencies of any size. The Benchmark Management System® captures use-of-force, internal affairs, and other data to help agencies meet the requirements of reporting mandates while providing law enforcement leaders with an analytics-driven and holistic view of their agency.

Much like the year that preceded it, 2021 saw a continuation of the sweeping changes to law enforcement tactics, procedures, and reporting brought about by state-level reform legislation. In the absence of legislation at the federal level, state legislatures continued to pursue changes to use of force policies, more rigorous certification reporting standards, and newly established duty to report requirements. Though states have taken varied approaches to reform and modernizing their law enforcement agencies, the legislations’ goals and themes are broadly consistent – to increase the effectiveness and consistency of law enforcement by improving community trust and making strides towards greater transparency.  With that in mind, we look back on another busy year in law enforcement legislation.

2021 By the Numbers

2021inreviewOf some 2,670 bills introduced into state legislatures across the country, 366 were enacted into law. Most, but not all, of these pieces of legislation are a part of broad reform efforts that began in 2020 in the wake of several high-profile incidents involving law enforcement.

Forty-three pieces of legislation covered certification and decertification of officers. Though many of these bills were relatively routine updates to certification standards, there was a notable trend in reform-oriented bills designed to increase transparency in hiring and certification. Legislation like Colorado’s HB21-1250 aims to close perceived loopholes in reporting complaints against an officer. Many of these new laws call for increased information and data sharing among agencies and POST organizations.

Law enforcement training was addressed in 59 bills, with many of the pieces of legislation requiring (and funding) enhanced training for officers. Mental health awareness was a noteworthy aspect of many of these new training requirements, with seven states mandating training designed to help law enforcement officers recognize and respond to individuals experiencing mental health crises.

It is well understood policing can be a challenging profession even in the best of times.  The health and wellness of law enforcement officers have been a vital concern of policymakers across the country, undoubtedly owing to the increased demands on agencies and officers. A total of 24 states enacted 47 bills that provide funding for comprehensive programs addressing trauma and PTSD that affect first responders by providing crisis counseling and trauma-informed mental health services to agencies.

In 2021, 30 bills enacted into law tackled data, data security, and oversight. A common theme was standardizing the data collected and reported by state POST organizations regarding officer certification and training. New laws like Oregon’s HB 2932 called for creating databases to capture information on use of force incidents for public review and participation in the National Use-of-Force Collection initiative led by the FBI.

Narrowing our focus, we’ll take a closer look at three themes commonly seen in state-level reform legislation. Though the following list is not exhaustive, it represents some of the most notable new legislation of 2021.

Use of Force

Incidents related to policing and use of force in 2020 were a significant driver of reform-oriented legislation carrying into 2021. Before this, a patchwork of often ill-defined laws and local restrictions governed use of force. After substantial public debate and commentary, several states passed sweeping legislation clarifying use of force policy and creating new guidelines on when force can be applied, what kind of force is used, and how it is reported.

The state of Delaware approved significant changes to use of force policies that were previously loosely defined. In 2021 the state established a “reasonableness” standard for instances involving use of force involving law enforcement. Going a step further, many states addressed the specific issue of chokeholds in 2021 law enforcement legislation. Indiana, for example, restricted the use of holds that place pressure on the neck and now defines them as a form of deadly force with the passage of HB 1006. In contrast, the California legislature passed AB 490, which forbids the use of “carotid restraint” with no exceptions for deadly force.  In addition to California, eight other states have banned chokeholds entirely, limiting their use to incidents where deadly force would otherwise be justified.

Centralized Reporting

To confront so-called “wandering officers” who leave a department due to misconduct allegations only to seek employment at other agencies, many state legislatures have addressed the need to create more robust systems to track officer certification at the state level. By monitoring and reporting issues with officer certification, the hope is that officers showing patterns of misconduct complaints will be prevented from resuming employment at another agency. Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Utah, and Washington, among others, set up new requirements concerning reporting officer resignations, terminations, or misconduct.

A National Decertification Index is maintained by the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST). While the database does not preclude anyone from employment as a law enforcement officer, it serves as a national registry for certification revocations that come about as the result of officer misconduct. In 2021, Indiana and Washington joined Massachusetts in reporting to this voluntary database.

Duty to intervene

To further reduce the use of unnecessary force, four states created varying regulations requiring fellow officers to intervene in incidents involving excessive force or official misconduct. In addition to curbing the use of excessive force, these policies aim to strengthen community trust in law enforcement through increased transparency, improve officer safety by ensuring proper procedures are being followed, and diminish the effect of a “code of silence” that permits unlawful or unethical behavior to persist.

Of these four states creating a duty to intervene, three have also enacted an obligation to report misconduct or excessive force to superiors. While there is some variation in the definitions of excessive, prohibited, unreasonable, and unauthorized force, the underlying motivation in preventing unwarranted force incidents remains the same. Five of these states’ new laws do not mandate any specific sanctions for a failure to report, while several others call for discretionary action, usually through Internal Affairs or other agency-specific procedures. For example, Washington created one of the more comprehensive duty-to-intervene laws requiring that officers found to violate these policies face mandatory decertification. In California, a new law creates specific protections for officers that report potential misconduct related to use of force.

Later this month, we’ll be looking forward, exploring how these trends will continue to evolve in 2022.

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

 

 

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

Effects of Fatigue in Law Enforcement

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

Night Fatigue

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

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

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

What is Contributing to Officer Fatigue?

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

SHIFT LENGTH

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

SHIFT POLICIES

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

HOME LIFE

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

COMMUTING

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

SHIFT REGULARITY

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

STAFFING SHORTAGES

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

Compassion Fatigue

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

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

Charting a Course of Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why should agencies support family wellness?

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

Boosts officer performance

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

Improving retention and recruitment

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

Building a workforce that reflects the community it serves

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

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

What law enforcement agencies are doing?

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

Metropolitan Nashville Police Department

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

Milwaukee Police Department

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

The State of New Jersey

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

Policy produces results

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

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

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

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

Financial Wellness

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

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

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

Physical Wellness

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Complete Picture

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

 

 

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

Risk Management Basics

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

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

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

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

Municipal Risk Pools

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

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

Commercial Insurance

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

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

Self-Insurance

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

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

Risk Solutions

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

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

 

 

Reference

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