Government organizations – including law enforcement agencies – often grapple with the responsibility of managing highly sensitive data digitally. A resilient, secure, and compliant cloud infrastructure is critical for data agility, efficiency, and effectiveness. AWS GovCloud, launched in 2011, was developed as a specialized system to meet these distinctive security and compliance requirements of the public sector.

Benchmark and AWS

AWS GovCloud is transforming local and state government operations and how they engage with data, by incorporating extra safeguards to protect sensitive information. AWS GovCloud adheres to rigorous compliance standards, including FedRAMP High, ITAR, DoD SRG, CJIS, and HIPAA, ensuring an unparalleled level of security and regulatory adherence.

Becoming an AWS Public Sector Partner

As a data and analytics company focused on personnel management within law enforcement, Benchmark is proud to host our suite of platforms on AWS GovCloud. The advantages of choosing a solution hosted on AWS GovCloud are numerous, and include:

  1. Enhanced Security: AWS GovCloud was built to manage sensitive data and regulated workloads with an additional layer of protection for heightened security assurance.
  2. Compliance: AWS GovCloud meticulously aligns with an extensive array of stringent compliance standards, including but not limited to FedRAMP High, ITAR, DoD SRG, CJIS, and HIPAA.
  3. Data Sovereignty: GovCloud provides an unyielding commitment to data sovereignty, alleviating concerns regarding the geographical location of data.
  4. Tailored Services: AWS GovCloud presents a suite of specialized services meticulously designed to cater to the unique demands of government agencies and organizations.
  5. Seamless Integration: AWS GovCloud seamlessly integrates with other AWS partners, ensuring a harmonious synergy. This strategic integration empowers organizations to harness the full spectrum of AWS capabilities while upholding compliance standards.
  6. Scalability and Flexibility: GovCloud seamlessly delivers unparalleled scalability and flexibility. This emboldens government agencies and organizations with the capacity to innovate, expand, and modernize their IT infrastructure with utmost efficiency.

Over the years, Benchmark and AWS have achieved remarkable milestones together — including in 2022 when Benchmark graduated from the AWS Accelerated Partner Program and gained acceptance into the AWS Public Sector Partner initiative. This accomplishment was the result of combined efforts from Benchmark’s sales, marketing, and technical teams, including completing the AWS Foundational Technical Review (FTR).

The AWS FTR enables AWS Partners to demonstrate that their software solutions meet industry best-practices based on the AWS Well-Architected Framework as well as standards for evaluating systems architecture and operational practices. The AWS Well-Architected Framework is built around six pillars:

  1. Operational excellence
  2. Security
  3. Reliability
  4. Performance efficiency
  5. Cost optimization
  6. Sustainability

These pillars focus on technical design principles and best practices, including running and monitoring systems and protecting data and information.

Acceptance in AWS ISV Accelerate and AWS Marketplace

In 2023, Benchmark continued its dedication to growing its collaboration with AWS, with acceptance into AWS ISV Accelerate and a position on the AWS Marketplace.

The AWS ISV Accelerate Program is a co-sell initiative designed for organizations offering software solutions that run on or integrate with AWS. This program not only accelerates the sales cycle but also fosters new business opportunities, demonstrating a mutual commitment between AWS and Benchmark.

In addition to joining ISV Accelerate, Benchmark’s inclusion in the AWS Marketplace represents another significant milestone. This digital catalog simplifies the discovery, testing, purchasing, and deployment of software on Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS customers can now access and acquire Benchmark Management System® (BMS), First Sign® Early Intervention, and Case Action Response Engine® (C.A.R.E.) directly through their Marketplace accounts.

“We have entered a new era of policing as cities can take advantage of methodical, data-driven systems to systemize and engage officers who are engaged in problematic conduct, while simultaneously identifying and supporting officers who are successfully on track,” said Chris Casula, Chief Partnerships Officer, Benchmark Analytics. “By accessing BMS, First Sign and C.A.R.E. on AWS Marketplace, customers can now take the first step in capturing important people data all in one place.”

To learn more about Benchmark’s collaboration with AWS Marketplace, read our press release here.

A crucial element of the police reform discourse is the rising cost of police misconduct settlements and the impact they have on municipal budgets. Elected and agency officials must contend with these costs though taxpayers in most instances are subsidizing the funding used in settlements. There is ample reason for law enforcement personnel, lawmakers, and taxpayers to all be keenly interested in the cost of these settlements. What do misconduct settlements look like? What is being done to mitigate the costs of misconduct settlements? These are questions this article endeavors to answer.

Misconduct Settlements: A Nationwide Concern

Even tracking the overall costs of police misconduct settlements has proven a significant challenge for researchers. There is currently no national reporting database and municipalities’ approach to record-keeping can vary widely. On a national level, the data just doesn’t exist to present a broader picture of how much misconduct settlements cost taxpayers. In an effort to address this lack of data, in March of 2021, the Cost of Police Misconduct Act was introduced into Congress, which seeks to compel reporting to federal authorities. Whether or not this bill will be passed into law is presently unclear, but it does represent one of the most high-profile efforts to explicitly tie the costs of settlements with the pushes for reform.

Despite the lack of specific data, it is well-understood that the costs of misconduct settlements are quite substantial and create strain on city budgets. In a recent survey of 31 of the 50 cities with the highest police-to-civilian ratios in the country, available data shows settlements cost these municipalities more than $3 billion over the last decade. Though the dataset is incomplete, it illustrates the substantial figures municipalities are contending with in settling misconduct allegations. Until recently, these costs were not typically figured into municipal budgets for policing and related costs.

City Budgets Misconduct SettlementsFurther complicating matters is how municipalities pay for misconduct settlements. In general, many small to medium-sized cities carry some form of liability insurance or risk-pool while the largest cities are either self-insured or will issue bonds to cover settlements and their related costs. Both approaches have their drawbacks. Bonds accumulate interest and servicing fees while insurance typically is funded via property taxes or other public user fees. In either model, it is once again taxpayers that ultimately bear the cost.

These settlement costs appear to be trending upwards too. In a survey of ten cities, the Wall Street Journal found misconduct settlement amounts rose from $1 billion between 2010 and 2014 to $1.6 billion from 2015 to 2019. There is no one reason for this rise but it is generally thought that things like increasing public pressure in favor of reform efforts and the widespread use of smart phone cameras have contributed to this rise. Additionally, some agencies and municipal governments look towards a settlement as a way to avoid a drawn out and expensive court battle.

Agencies Respond

Law enforcement leaders, elected officials, and taxpayers all have an obvious interest in controlling misconduct settlement costs. These unplanned expenses can significantly impact municipal budgets and can force unexpected reallocation of funds. Agencies and municipal governments are employing a number of different methods to control these costs. Here are some of the most common and effective examples:

  • Additional training is a strategy agencies and municipalities are using to reduce the likelihood of an adverse event leading to a settlement. Training requirements are frequently a component of new reform legislation being passed at the state level. De-escalation training and coursework related to identifying and responding to mental health crises are becoming more prevalent as are new standards in use-of-force training. Effectively managing and tracking officer training is seen as a proactive tool aimed at preventing law enforcement encounters that end up in settlements.
  • In recent years, the companies that insure small to medium municipalities are responding to the growing cost of settlements by exerting more control over agencies’ operations. This insurance risk management oversight takes on many forms such as policy audits, use-of-force simulators, and even ride-alongs to observe officer behavior. In some cases, insurers can even influence staffing decisions. Other municipalities participate in risk pools in which they “share” risk. The Association of Government Risk Pools connects member cities and facilitates collaboration while providing best standards and education.
  • Improvements to data collection are furthering policymakers’ and agency leadership’s ability to base decisions on rigorous analysis of data. This encompasses everything from body-worn cameras and audio recording devices to Internal Affairs and Use-of-Force metrics that are tracked and monitored via software. With more comprehensive and smarter data collection, policymakers and agency heads can be more confident in their decision-making, knowing it is based on a holistic view of performance and personnel data.
  • Early Intervention Systems (EIS), are software suites designed to help agency leaders monitor officer behavior and, ideally, intervene before any issues arise. Benchmark Analytics’ First Sign® Early Intervention System is preventative by design and more sophisticated than other, trigger or threshold-based systems, allowing leaders to identify off-track officer behavior before it rises to a level of seriousness that could involve an out-of-policy incident.
  • Once an EIS has alerted an agency’s leadership to the potential for performance issues, it is up to them to implement corrective measures to get that officer back on track. This often involves additional support like further training and mentorship. Benchmark’s Case Action Response Engine® (C.A.R.E.) helps track not only that assigned interventions are being completed but that officer performance is in fact on a path to improvement.

Elected officials, taxpayers, and agency leaders all have a vested interest in seeing the costs of misconduct settlements minimized. Data collection and analysis pertaining to officer performance are vital parts of the conversation around reducing the overall costs of misconduct settlements. By using new research-based software tools to better understand this wealth of data, agency leaders are empowering themselves to make the decisions necessary to ensure police funding is wisely spent on things like agency growth and training — and ultimately reducing the likelihood of problematic behavior that can potentially contribute to the rising cost of misconduct.

Law enforcement software has changed immensely over the past decade. We have seen software innovations that help improve administrative workflows, such as use of force or internal affairs reports, as well as software that captures and utilizes data to help police chiefs make decisions on how to best serve their communities. More often than not, these innovations are presented as single-point solutions — versus as part of an integrated, holistic suite of offerings.

These standalone software applications are designed to address one specific agency need, such as training management, performance evaluations, or Covid-19 personnel tracking. While these systems capture and track information for the task they were built for, in the end they are disparate cogs in a machine that requires seamless integration and connectivity.

The Complexities of Standalone Software Applications
Until recently, the market has driven how agencies are able to purchase software solutions for their myriad of needs. And by that we mean, one by one: one platform for early warning and intervention . . . one platform for training . . . one for Covid-19 tracking . . . and so on and so on. And while these single-point purchases solve individual challenges in the short-term, over time they can lead to increased complexities within the agency and its administrative process.

The Benefits of a Single-Provider Software Suite

For example, agencies that utilize multiple software applications can experience integration challenges and find it difficult to compare and correlate data across applications. As a result, many administrative hours are spent on manual processes or even spreadsheets, in order to link information together from these different standalone systems. This takes valuable team time away from conducting more important core duties. And on top of all that, by the time all the information is integrated as needed, it may already be outdated and inaccurate. The unintended consequences? Agencies possibly making critical decisions based on inaccurate information . . . or making a hasty and potentially risky decision without benefit of the full information picture . . . OR, in lieu of that complete picture, taking no action at all.

Additionally, IT departments spend time and money maintaining, upgrading or acquiring new versions of each standalone application. When one application has a new version, it may require additional integration and maintenance with the other standalone systems in order for it to work, which in the end leads to an increase in hours and costs to maintain. All this, and we still see some agencies “make do” with multiple software applications, even if that strategy may not serve their various stakeholders in the most efficient and effective way possible.

The Benefits of a Single-Provider Software Suite
A single-provider software suite is a collection of software applications that have correlative features and functionality for law enforcement agencies. These suites also share a similar user interface and have the ability to easily exchange data with each other. Agencies who utilize a single-provider software suite experience numerous benefits. Here are a few below:

  • Data in one place.
    The key to avoiding manual work and time-consuming tasks is to ensure your agency has the ability to create, update, or modify data all in one place. For example, with standalone systems, personnel may need to log into several different applications to complete functions. With a single-provider software suite, individuals can utilize any portion of the system and input data that can be easily shared across other portions of the suite — saving valuable administration time. The Benefits of a Single-Provider Software SuiteAdditionally, the right software suite can seamlessly integrate all data, automate data processes and update information in real-time —  making it is easy to generate reports and compare data. Automating such processes also allows agencies to minimize personnel time spent on data-mining activities.
  • Decreased redundant IT tasks.
    Agencies with several standalone systems consume valuable IT time managing, maintaining and upgrading each individual system. A single, holistic software suite streamlines efficiency and minimizes redundancy in IT tasks.
  • Consistent experience.
    Standalone systems will have their own unique user interface designs. With a single-provider software suite, agencies get a consistent UX, which can minimize confusion, reduce learning time and increase overall usability.

Ultimately, with a single-provider software suite, agencies achieve transparency, streamline data, and manage department functions in one place. For these and other reasons, leading agencies are turning to Benchmark Analytics and its suite of personnel management software, which includes the Benchmark Management System® (BMS), First Sign® Early Intervention and Case Action Response Engine® (C.AR.E.).

BMS is a comprehensive software suite that features seven analytics-driven modules, which include: 1) Training 2) Use of Force 3) Internal Affairs 4) Activity 5) Officer Profile 6) Performance Evaluation and 7) Community Engagement. These seven integrated modules capture critical data and departmental reports that are easy to view in the BMS dashboard.

First Sign then leverages the data in BMS and analyzes it to identify officers who are exhibiting both on-track and off-track behavior. Once off-track behavior has been identified in First Sign, Benchmark expedites thoughtful and effective early intervention with C.A.R.E. — a proactive, targeted support program that features research-based case management modules for officer-specific interventions.

To learn more about the Benchmark Analytics Software Suite, visit:

Or, contact us today at

The annual Midwest Security and Police Conference and Expo (MSPCE) 2019 was recently held at the Tinley Park Convention Center. The conference brought together law enforcement (LE) leaders from across Illinois within a 35,000-foot exhibit hall – and included informational sessions presented by security and LE professionals, professors, psychologists, authors and financial experts.

Benchmark Analytics had the opportunity to exhibit, as well as learn more about the challenges and opportunities in 21st century policing. Here are some of our key takeaways from participating at MSCPE 2019:

Agencies want to track community engagement.

It’s important for law enforcement agencies to establish public trust, and many agencies participate in community engagement activities to support this initiative. Just a few examples of community engagement activities include meeting local business owners, attending meetings and events, or participating in community projects. Many law enforcement leaders at MSCPE were interested to learn more about how they could track these efforts.Community Engagement

Being able to track and manage community interactions provides agencies the data they need to understand what’s contributing to proactive enforcement and community partnerships. It also provides a framework for leveraging that momentum to build sustainable positive engagement with their communities.

As an example, the Benchmark Community Engagement platform tracks and manages the time and effort officers spend engaging with the community, as well as records feedback received. This help agencies collaborate from an informed position and ensure their department is continuously responsive to community-based issues and activities.

Officer wellness goes beyond physical health.

MSPCE 2019 provided an informational session, PTS, Why Cops Experience Traumatic Stress Differently and discussed the importance of building resiliency, managing and treating officers, as well as making positive choices about diet, nutrition and exercise.

Police officers have a wide variety of tasks and duties, which of course can include responding to extreme incidents. So it’s no surprise that these extreme incidents and on-the-job trauma can contribute to higher rates of PTSD, depression and mental illness among officers. In fact, some mental health challenges are more prevalent among the law enforcement population (Statistics are underreported for police):

  • PTSD: 35% for police officers vs 6.8% in general population
  • Depression: 9% – 31% vs 6.7% in general population
  • Suicidal thoughts: 7% of officers have persistent thoughts of suicide

Other associations, such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and Police Executive Research Form (PERF), have symposiums, toolkits and webinars dedicated to supporting the mental wellness of police officers.

Use-of-force data is critical.

Also a prominent topic at MSPCE was the FBI’s launch of its National Use-of-Force Data Collection. According to their official press release, the database is “in an effort to promote more informed conversations regarding law enforcement use of force in the United States.”Use-of-Force Data

This initiative, which has been discussed at many conferences and meetings this year, has prompted agencies to look at how they document incidents, collect and organize information, review use-of-force reports, and access related data and analytics. By utilizing use-of-force data and analytics, agencies have the opportunity to notice any positive or negative trends, which can create a pathway for agencies to recognize and help their officers accordingly.

What to do next.

These are just three of the key takeaways from this year’s MSPCE, but there is so much more to be discussed. Join us in keeping the conversation going by visiting us at the National Internal Affairs Investigators Association Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as well as at the IACP Annual Conference (Booth #4839) in Chicago in October. Benchmark Analytics will be demoing its Officer Management and Early Intervention platforms, as well as providing insight and informational sessions on officer wellness, 21st century policing and other critical topics in law enforcement today.

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

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

Police Use of Force: The YouTube Effect

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

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

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

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

Data Points: What Does Law Enforcement Think?

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

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

Police on Policing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resolutions Through Legislation

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

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

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

Decide in Seconds, Revisit for Years

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

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

How Data, Psychology and Mass Media Can Affect Perception of Law Enforcement Encounters

One of the most challenging issues facing police executives is the impact of use-of-force incidents on the relationship between law enforcement and the public. Law enforcement, due to the nature of its role, is empowered to use reasonable force as defined by municipal and state legislation or policy.

The use-of-force continuum exists to provide officers with an escalating variety of methods to maintain order and encourage adherence to the law. However, the scope of that empowerment has become a national question, and law enforcement is facing escalated scrutiny. While any oversight is generally good for agencies (it provides a relatively accelerated feedback loop, making it quicker and easier to improve), the current trend can seem overwhelming, especially with the ubiquity of smart phone cameras.  use-of-force-incidents-often-recorded

It’s important to remember everyone is operating with a limited set of data.  Most citizens and sworn officers instinctively evaluate available data (personal and professional experience, books, television, websites, social media, actual neighbors) using innate – and learned – analytic models that might not be suited to dissecting the complexity of a critical incident. If you’ve never been exposed to a dataset, regardless whether it confirms or contradicts your perspective, it might as well not exist let alone influence your take on a situation.

In an effort to broaden the view of police executives wanting to address use of force in their agencies, the FBI announced an initiative to collect use-of-force data in 2018. The nationwide scope of this project will enable data analysts in law enforcement to evaluate the use of force at a nationwide level and compare those findings to what they are seeing at their agency. Holistic access like this has rarely been available to police leadership, which isn’t to say information about use of force has been scarce.

Evaluating Law Enforcement Service with a Public Lens

Since the early 20th century, researchers have attempted to measure public perception of law enforcement and the effect it has on officer efficacy. Arthur Bellman, with an assist from August Vollmer, is one the first people to develop a means to quantify police work. In 1935, he published a paper titled “Police Service Rating Scale.”

In it, he suggests an “objective instrument” to measure police performance, “according to certain standards.” (Bellman’s model might resemble some of the policies found in today’s law enforcement accreditation – a much more reasonable application of his framework).

Subsequent papers were quick to point out that the absence or presence of one of Bellman’s variables could not be used to scientifically quantify the service rating of an agency. However, Bellman’s paper shows that an appetite for understanding the public’s role in judging the efficacy of policing is nothing new.

Police-Public Contact Survey

Every three years, the U.S. Department of Justice conducts their Police-Public Contact Survey (PPCS), which attempts to gather data on a variety of metrics associated with police-public interactions, including use of force. The 2015 survey revealed that approximately 53.5 million people aged 16 years or older had contact with the police during the previous 12 months. Of those 53.5 million contacts, approximately 27 million were police-initiated — and approximately 5 million resulted in the individual receiving either the threat of force or the use of force by law enforcement.

Though the data sets seem sound, a 2018 research study published in the Public Library of Science found that the four iterations of the PPCS (one every three years) contained enough variation that year-to-year comparisons were statistically problematic. Further, the researchers noted that the PPCS is a targeted survey (US residents aged 15 and older, English speaking only, with access and ability to answer survey questions), that naturally eliminates any possible respondents that do not fit the requirement or can’t answer the questions (but may still have experienced police use of force).

Unfortunately, the lack of complete data on police use of force is creating more conflict than cohesion. Activist groups and journalists continue to push lawmakers for increased police oversight, but the absence of use-of-force data is a major hurdle to satisfying these requests.

The demand, and expectations, for government transparency have reached the point where some media outlets have chosen to create their own “use-of-force databases” to satisfy the public’s desire for information.

Crowd-Sourced Use-of-Force Databases

As you can see, while crowd-sourced data can be useful in understanding the sentiment of a particular group, it’s not a sustainable resource for guiding corrective action. It’s just not complete or scientifically rigorous enough to compel wide-scale change. This is why digitization of existing personnel data, as well as contributing to projects like the FBI’s, are critical to the success of data-driven policing. Using data to inform your management and personnel strategies is a natural extension of evidence-based policing. It enables you to determine effective policies based on longitudinal data rather than anecdotal information.

Media outlets construct ad-hoc databases by searching through a massive volume of articles, reports, police records (secured through a state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) laws), or crowd-sourced submissions.

While these databases contain many bytes of potentially useful information about use-of-force incidents, they are not held to any particular standard of statistical analysis or reporting requirements. Outlets can source data at will by using any method they wish and are not required to make their data accessible for peer-review. As noted by journalism researchers in a 2013 study, while many journalists strive for accuracy, methods for verifying information differ journalist to journalist.

While potentially well-meaning, presenting data in this manner can affect public perception on police use of force. While the data access is a positive, analysis is not something the average citizen is trained to do. In the same way we need to approach any article with a critical eye it’s important to teach people to recognize that data on its own is objective, the visualizations we apply to it can’t possibly be.


The Psychology of Perception

In 1973, research psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman began to share groundbreaking research in cognitive biases and the psychology of decision making. Among their most prominent works was their research that discovered the availability heuristic and, subsequently, the accompanying cognitive error known as availability bias. Their findings have since been replicated countless times and their theories have been added to the basic tenets of psychology.

Heuristic is a fancy term for mental shortcuts, and, in this case, the availability heuristic is a mental shortcut where individuals make decisions or draw conclusions dependent on how recently information entered their memory. Subsequently, availability bias occurs when the recency of that information informs judgments on a broader scale. What this means is we’re more likely to give more weight to information we’ve experienced or learned recently than something perhaps truer but less obvious or top of mind.

The unfortunate conclusion is that, coupled with an unprecedented alignment in media coverage of law enforcement, citizens begin to anticipate police use force, act non-compliant in accordance to that anticipation, and situations escalate to require more force than might have been necessary.

In a similar vein, citizens are more likely to believe that all police interactions can result in sudden unexpected violence, based on the frequency of media reports covering police use of force. Such beliefs can lead some people to experience far more anxiety, or react unexpectedly, during routine police actions such as traffic stops.

Otherwise innocent encounters may result in citizens resisting police control simply because they fear being the victim of “police brutality”. Tragically, regardless of the cause, officers would be forced to respond to such resistance, leading to a perpetuation of the vicious cycle favoring a narrative focused on “police brutality” rather than one focused on legitimacy and improved relationships with citizens.

We are not only dealing with an inescapable hiccup in rational thinking (the availability bias), but the combined limited and limitless nature of communication in the age of non-stop, and social, media. This is not to say that policing should exist without scrutiny, but that we should understand, and circulate, how cognitive biases affect our perception of the seemingly obvious.

(Ed. Note – This is part 1 of a two-post series. Read part two here.)

Does your early intervention system allow you to identify potential problems and intervene with customized responses at the very first sign that something could be going wrong? Here are 6 must-haves to look for when evaluating how well your current early warning system is serving you and your department.

1. Research-based

We know that research and analytics play a major role in human capital management across almost all professions and industries. We should be looking outside of law enforcement to inform ourselves on best practices that can be applied to the unique needs and goals of police departments. That means considering an early intervention system that is grounded in research and fueled by an analytics engine.

2. Go beyond simple triggers

If a system is using arbitrary, blanket metrics to indicate when an action is needed, then most likely you’re not getting a true reading or meaningful insight on your officer activity and behavior. Take for example an officer who gets three use-of-force complaints in a 12-month period and then is automatically elevated to an intervention program. Shouldn’t we know the context? Like total number of arrests . . . or the nature of those arrests . . . or historical activity for that officer, to name a few. Look for a solution that provides a window into context, patterns of problematic behavior and officer history.

3. Reduce ‘false positives’

The 6 Must-Haves of an Early Intervention SystemThis goes hand-in-hand with #2. Nothing can be more disheartening than to have an officer who is doing a phenomenally great job incorrectly flagged for off-track behavior. These ‘false positives’ are demoralizing and can be timely and costly by the time you identify and course-correct the flagging. Look for a system that only identifies officers who are truly engaged in a pattern that suggests their behavior might be trending off track, so you can provide them with the support they need to get back on track.

4. Be preventative and proactive

How many times have we heard someone say – or even ourselves have thought – “if only I would have known sooner”? When it comes to off-track behavior, timing is critical . . . and, it goes without saying, the sooner the better to step in and take action. Find a system that identifies and proactively notifies you at the first sign of an officer who is trending off track, and who has a real need for intervention to get back on track. It’s the difference between being preventative vs. reactive.

5. Be compliant

Look for an early intervention system that is configured to protect you from officer misconduct and rising liability costs. Does it comply with the body of standards proposed by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA)? Does it incorporate the best practices and elements of the ethics toolkit developed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)? What about the performance guidelines on officer conduct recommended by the Department of Justice (DOJ)? A system that meets all these criteria helps you safeguard against problematic behavior and the staggering price tag of liability settlements.

6. Built to improve accountability

You definitely want a solution that works to the specific operations, needs and goals of your police department. Does it allow supervisors and commanders to review and compare data for individual officers and units – even down to watches? Can you assign intervention actions for problematic behavior in need of correction? What about making recommendations for exceptional performance? Remember, the goal is to enlist a system that helps you improve overall accountability.

Selecting the right early intervention system is so key to the success of your department. Keep this checklist in mind when evaluating your current system and the options available to you.

To learn about First Sign™ Early Intervention, click here.

Thinking of replacing your current early intervention or early warning system — or exploring getting your first one? dominosHere are three essential things to consider as you weigh your options, in support of your professional standards within your agency:

1) Real-world policing experience

Anyone can claim to do anything — and they often do. That’s why when it comes to an early intervention system, you should look for one that’s been built by people who know what it means to walk in your shoes. Were they at one time an officer themselves? Or a member of a command staff? Or perhaps worked in a mayor’s or city manager’s office? Bringing that real-world experience to the table can mean the difference between a limited, ineffective offering to a nuanced solution that’s built specifically for the needs of law enforcement agencies.

2) Best-in-class technology

The greatest software idea can fail miserably before it’s out of the gate if its technological framework doesn’t support your needs. How configurable is it to your department’s requirements, policies and goals? Is it fully automated, simple and secure? Is it built to integrate with your existing systems? How intuitive is it, for user friendliness and ease of use? These are all questions you should seek answers to when searching for a new professional standards early warning system.

3) Research based

Look for a police early intervention system that’s grounded in research. What we know from other professions is that the right data, brought together with the right analyses, intervening with the right support, can make a dramatic difference in how organizations function and operate. The same holds true for law enforcement, where research, data and analytics can drive preventative intervention for trending off-track behavior — before it escalates into a larger, more challenging problem for an officer and your department.

Obviously, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for departments across the board. But these are three critical criteria to consider — so that ultimately you and your officers are supported with a system that is easy-to-use, fair and unbiased . . . and one that can navigate the complexities you and your department faces every day.

For more information on First Sign™ Early Intervention, click here.