Who to Consult When Developing Policies for Your Law Enforcement Agency
For many law enforcement agency commanders and administrators, creating new policies and procedures can seem like a daunting task. It can be difficult to know what to cover in a new policy or what to include in a policy manual rewrite.
However, agencies don’t have to start from scratch to create new policies. Administrators should seek input and advice from sources inside and outside the department to develop robust, effective law enforcement policies.
In a recent study conducted by PowerDMS and the Police Foundation, more than two-thirds of law enforcement agencies reported that they issue new policies every six months or more. The study also found that agencies consulted several different sources for advice in developing policies. Here are some of the most helpful places agencies look to for input when developing policies:
Other agencies and model policies
Along with consulting with the commanders and supervisors in their department, 96 percent of law enforcement agencies surveyed sought input from other agencies. Direct input from commanders of nearby departments can be helpful, but for complete policy updates or rewrites, law enforcement agencies can also obtain copies of manuals from nearby departments to use as models for their own policies. Agency commanders should look for departments in their state or region that have completed certification or national accreditation, and request to consult with the commanders and view policy manuals. Model policies can be found online through sites like the International Association of Chiefs of Police or each state’s police chiefs’ association.
Legal counsel and risk managers
While policies can’t address every possible risk, agencies need to take steps to ensure that policies protect both individual officers and the agency as much as possible. Lawyers and risk management experts can help tremendously. Eighty-eight percent of State of Policy survey respondents said their agency seeks input from legal counsel when establishing new policies and procedures. While 56 percent said they consulted risk managers, 45 percent would consider doing so or planned to do so in the future.
Laws and standards are always changing, so as law enforcement agencies continually update their policies, it’s crucial that they consult experts who keep up to date on case law and the potential liabilities law enforcement agencies face. Risk managers can make sure new and revised policies address those areas that most often result in litigation against law enforcement, such as search and seizure, use of force, false arrest and auto accident negligence.
Scientists, consultants and scholars
Individuals within law enforcement agencies may not always know the big-picture trends in law enforcement as a whole. But many experts have studied the statistics, researched community perceptions of police and seen which policies and practices work and which don’t.
Law enforcement agencies don’t always think to consult outside experts. PowerDMS’s study found that just over 50 percent percent of agencies had sought input from scholars, evidence-based scientists or consultants. However, many agencies are starting to recognize that this can be helpful—around 40 percent said they would consider or plan to consult these sources in the future.
Individual consultants, academic journals and research organizations such as the Police Executive Research Forum can help law enforcement agencies create well-informed policies in areas that might otherwise have been overlooked.