State of Policy in Law Enforcement Research Study
- Written by Amy Dinsmore
- July 19 2016
With law enforcement facing increased scrutiny and media attention, it’s becoming more and more important for agencies to continually improve, update and effectively distribute policies, procedures and training to every member of their staff. Law enforcement agencies recognize the importance of policy, but commanders and administrators sometimes question how often they should be updating policy, how they should judge the effectiveness of a policy and how they should disseminate new policies to officers.
One way to answer such questions is to look at what other law enforcement agencies are doing. And in a new study conducted in partnership with the Police Foundation, PowerDMS did just that, surveying more than 100 law enforcement agencies all over the U.S. The survey included 13 closed-ended questions covering how agencies view the role of policies and how they develop, adapt and distribute policies and training. The survey included agencies of varying sizes in 20 different states. Roughly half of the agencies are accredited, and the other half hope to pursue accreditation in the future.
By sharing the results of the research, PowerDMS hopes to help establish benchmarks for best practices for policy management and training. Effective policies and training improve accountability, operational success and, ultimately, community relations. Here are some of the important takeaways from the report:
The importance of policies
Overall, law enforcement agencies appreciate the importance of policy in helping operations run smoothly. Ninety-three percent of the agencies surveyed agreed that policies are “very important” to ensure that officers understand expectations and can properly do their jobs. Ineffective policy management is seen as detrimental. Ninety-nine percent of respondents cited agency liability, civil lawsuits and inconsistency as potential results of poor policy management.
Policy creation and updates
Most law enforcement agencies view policies as living, dynamic documents. Ninety percent of agencies said they try to consistently review policies to make sure they are still applicable. Thirty-six percent of respondents said their agency issues new policies on a monthly basis. And roughly one-third said they at least partially revise the substance of existing policies on a monthly basis. Agencies try to anticipate problems and proactively update policies. No respondents said they only adapt policies when a significant incident or system failure pushes them to do so.
Most agencies actively send out new policies to officers, with 98 percent sending out new general orders or SOPs, 94 percent conducting in-service training on new policies, and 92 percent requiring personnel to sign policies. However, the exact methods of distribution vary depending on the agency and the substance of the policy. Sixty-three percent of agencies use a software tool to distribute new policies, and 35 percent plan to or would consider using a software tool.