Importance of law enforcement policies and procedures

At a time when agencies face more scrutiny than ever, strong policy protects your officers and your mission.

July 2, 2021

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Around the nation, cities and states are enacting new police reform measurements, protesters continue calls to defund law enforcement, and agencies face increasing lawsuits that led to some $300 million in settlements in 2020 alone.

Amid these challenges facing law enforcement, agency leaders could understandably feel overwhelmed. But there is one key area in which agencies can protect themselves from liability – and help create greater transparency with the communities they serve.

Law enforcement policies and procedures are the rules and standards by which agencies operate, the guidebook that helps officers navigate the challenging and potentially dangerous scenarios they face every day.

These policies are the key foundation for an effective department, and they also serve as a promise to the community – that officers will respond safely and responsibly. 

But how do you create strong law enforcement policies and procedures? Or how do you effectively update the ones you already have?

In this article, we’ll explore what makes a strong policy, and the considerations you need to make as you develop your own.

Importance of policy management in law enforcement

Policies help protect your community, and your officers

When the president signed the Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities, he made the key point that law enforcement is a critical part of American life, but one that comes with difficult challenges.

At the same time, it stressed that agencies must grow and adapt to better serve their communities and to increase transparency, trust, and efficiency.

“State and local law enforcement agencies must constantly assess and improve their practices and policies to ensure transparent, safe, and accountable delivery of law enforcement services to their communities.”

Law enforcement policies and procedures play an essential role in this process. 

First, effective policies equip your officers with the training and know-how to respond appropriately to difficult situations. That, in turn, equips officers for safe policing.

But a key second step is to make policies accessible to the public. When your community can access your policies, they are better informed about how police respond, and why. That creates a stronger degree of trust and connection that will keep everyone safer.

Protect your officers

In order for law enforcement policies and procedures to be effective, you have to make sure that versions are updated, and that every officer who needs to access them can do so. 

Officers need to be able to review policies wherever they are, including in the field, at any time and on any device.

The benefit of cloud-based policy management software is that it provides for immediate access via any smartphone, computer, or tablet.

Such systems also allow you to communicate policy changes immediately.

Say your agency revises a key policy. With an electronic system, you can push those changes out to officers immediately. And you can also send training exercises, quizzes, and tests to officers to make sure they understand those changes.

This allows you to hold officers accountable, while also protecting them by keeping them well informed.

Protect your agency

Communities and state governments are increasingly looking to enact new regulations for law enforcement. Rather than being defensive, agencies can proactively prepare for these changes.

Most new laws push agencies to comply with best practices and industry regulations. By bringing your law enforcement policies and procedures up to the highest standards, you can make sure you’re already operating in the best, safest way.

And when your policies meet the highest standards, proving industry compliance becomes a far easier task.

A central aspect of this process is ensuring that every officer sees new changes, and then having each officer sign off that they have read and reviewed each new policy or procedure. 

Using a cloud-based system to track signatures allows you to immediately check to see if an officer has signed off on a policy change. It also lets you run reports and see if anyone has failed to sign off on a change. This is an essential practice to protect your agency from liability.

Lastly, electronic law enforcement policies and procedures allow you to review the version history of each document. That way, you will always be able to see who signed, edited, and approved each policy.

Save time and money

We get it. The task of revising your policies or moving them to a new, cloud-based system seems imposing. But in addition to all of the benefits listed above, there’s another very simple one: It will save your agency time and money in the long term.

As a leader within your department, you know that budgets are limited already. And now some are calling for law enforcement budgets to be reallocated to other community needs.

Switching your law enforcement policies and procedures to a digital service will start saving you money on day one, because you’ll be able to stop printing out copies. Those savings quickly add up, not to mention the benefit to the environment of using less paper.

You’ll also see a return on the time it takes to set up a new system as you save time on policy management, training, and accreditation processes. That will free up more of your time to focus on other important needs within your agency.

A win-win for your agency

As law enforcement challenges continue to arise, one key solution is optimizing your policies and procedures. By following best industry standards and moving your policies online, you benefit your agency in multiple ways:

  • Increase public trust by making policies accessible
  • Protect officers by keeping them up to date
  • Track who has seen, and signed off on, policy updates
  • Easily review version history
  • Save time and printing costs

Instead of feeling overwhelmed by these challenges, taking action today will make your agency stronger for tomorrow.

View more on the subject in our comprehensive guide to policy management in law enforcement.

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