In our 2017 State of Policy report, we gathered data from more than 340 law enforcement officers regarding a number of policy and training topics. Not surprisingly, we found that the majority of police departments value consistent updates to policy manuals.
Seventy-three percent of respondents said policies should be reviewed and updated constantly. However, only 48% do it annually or less often. 5% never review or update their manual.
There are many important reasons to update your manual frequently. As you know, both best practices and laws are always evolving.
Updating your policy manual helps you protect your agency from litigation and ensure your officers are adhering to most recent laws.
Make your policies legally defensible
Along the same lines, making your policies legally defensible is a must. Risk prevention and management are two crucial aspects of building effective policy manuals.
With solid policies at the core of your department, you can take great strides toward protecting your organization. Consider involving legal experts such as lawyers or representatives from the ACLU.
You will also want to refer to the right source material, such as accreditation standards or sample policies from other states.
Keep your procedures up to date
You already know why it’s crucial to update your policies. It’s equally important to keep your procedures up to date. Because technology changes so quickly, you may even have to update your procedures more frequently than your actual policies.
Try to review your procedures regularly to look for outdated processes. You will also want to update language and references to irrelevant technology. All of this will protect you from liability issues down the road.
Alert officers when you change a policy or procedure
If you update your policy and procedure manual, your team needs to know. Sending out e-notifications is crucial. But you also need to highlight exactly what has and hasn’t changed.
For example, it wouldn’t be effective for your officers to re-read your whole manual if you only updated one procedure.
Online software like PowerDMS will show your officers a comparison, highlighting what you updated or removed.
Create an Implementation Plan
It’s not enough to hand officers a policy manual and expect them to stay current with every change throughout their career.
You will need a plan to keep your entire department on top of all changes.
Being proactive in this way could reduce liability for your department, since it shows you have done everything you can to make sure officers know how to comply.
Develop a training plan
Again, for your policies and procedures to be truly effective, your officers need to know how to comply. That’s where training comes in.
Thankfully, online training makes this process much easier. Keep in mind not every policy or procedure change needs formal, classroom training.
In fact, this may be a waste of resources in some cases. Some policies may just need a mention at roll call or a short, online presentation. Others need more thorough, scenario-based training.
Either way, make planning training a regular part of your policy review process. Prioritizing training will ensure your officers know how to act on your standards.
Test for comprehension
Similarly, simply sending out a policy doesn’t mean officers understand what they need to do as a result. Instead of formal training, which can be costly, you can send out short quizzes/tests about aspects of the policy manual to see how well officers know what to do.
Tools like PowerDMS allow you to customize tests so your officers can quickly demonstrate their knowledge. You can also use tests to identify gaps where you may need more training or clearer policy language.
Track officer attestation
With a tool like PowerDMS, your team can not only review new documents more easily. They can also sign off on your documents. This is a crucial aspect of compliance since simply viewing documents isn’t enough to understand them.
Tracking signatures also helps provide legal defense for your department. Being able to prove your officers have read your most recent policy documents demonstrates your agency’s commitment to compliance.
As you know, your police policy and procedure manual will differ from other departments’. It will also continue to evolve over time, requiring vigilant updates and revisions.
The most important thing to keep in mind as you develop your manual is that your policies should reflect your agency’s mission. When you create each one of your policies and procedures through the lens of your end goal, you will have a powerful foundation for your document. And when you are more invested in your policies, your officers will be, too.