Law Enforcement Standards and Accountability

Law enforcement officers occupy a unique position in American democratic society.  They are entrusted with the awesome authority to affect the person, property and liberty of citizens and the discretion to use force, up to and including deadly physical force, to carry out their duties and responsibilities.  Consequently, individual officers, their departments and their employing governmental entities are justifiably held to a high degree of accountability to the public they are charged with protecting and serving.

The manner and methods for achiefing this high level of accountability have changed dramatically over the years.  Court imposed accountability strategies, such as the exclusionary rule, were only the beginning.  Today, the profession itself has adopted policies and practices which, among other things, leverage technological advances in almost all areas of law enforcement; guide and limit the use of discretion, particularly in the are of use of force; broaden procedures for the intake of citizen/inmate complaints and their subsequent investigation; provide for greater civilian oversight of departmental practices; raise expectations regarding interaction with minorities and persons with mental disorders; establish data collection systems to assist with a myriad of activities from crime prevention to personnel management; provide for fair and consistent disciplinary accountability for officers engaging in misconduct; and promote greater transparency with regard to departmental activities such as the public reporting of critical incidents, production of department records and department-media relations, to name just a few.

Along with all of the changes has come the expectation that individual officers and their departments conform their practices to this heightened level of professionalism and scrutiny.  Failing to do so in reality or perception can potentially lead to a loss of the public confidence and trust so vital to a department’s ultimate success.

Nevertheless, depite this expectation of professionalism and potential loss of public confidence, frequent media reports of such things as questionable handling of critical incidents, controversial uses of force, troublesome officer misconduct, failures in effective training or discipline, and significant awards or settlements in civil liability cases raise the legitimate question of whether officers and departments are holding themselves to this heightened level of accountability.

KRW and its associates have the education, experience and expertise to assess a department’s policies, practices and training with regard to all areas of police accountability to ensure that the expectations of the law and the public are being met and that the latest “best practices” are being followed.  These include consultant services and in-service training in any of the following areas:

1. Recruitment/hiring, particularly with regard to development of minimum standards and increased hiring of women and minorities;

2. Development or revision of Department Mission, Vision and Values statements to provide meaningful standards by which to guide department priorities and expectations;

3. Sufficiency of Academy training, field training programs and in-service training.

4. Policy development/revision in all areas to conform with current “best practices,” particularly in the areas of use of force, vehicle and foot pursuits, employment of technolgoical advances, racially-biased policing, dealing with persons with mental disorders, workplace discrimination, sexual harassment and avoidance of hostile work environments;

5.  4th Amendment (Search and Seizure) issues;

6. Use of force reporting systems, including development of or revisions to use of force databases;

7. Reduction of physical/deadly force incidents with emphasis on policy development and tactics to help reduce the probability of the need to use physical/deadly force;

8. Understanding the bases of civil liability and employing strategies to reduce potential liability;

9. Data collection and development of databases to assess personnel performance including development of early intervention systems;

10. Establishment of department goals and creation of objective criteria to measure progress towards those goals;

11. Implementation of policies and practices to ensure fair intake of citizen or detainee complaints and both thorough and timely investigation of those complaints;

12. Assessment of disciplinary policies and practices and assistance in the development of a discipline system which will:

a) Provide notice to both officers and the public of the standard of conduct expected of officers and the likely consequences for failing to adhere to that standard.

b) Promote corrective and rehabilitative measures, where appropriate.

c) Result in reasonably consistent discipline based on reasonably objective factors while still providing for the appropriate application of managerial discretion.

d) More effectively withstand challenges from discipline appeals and lawsuits;

13. Assessment of the need/viability of external civilian oversight including the understanding of various oversight models and practices;

14. Development of written procedures for continual review of critical incidents and the assessment of the need to revise policies and practices;

15. Assessing and addressing detrimental “cultural” issues within the department or within division/units of the department, and

16. Establishment and maintenance of community oriented and constitutionally based law enforcement and correctional practices which promote public accountability and trust within both the department and the community.

Please contact KRW for assistance.