Reforming Public Safety

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The attention on reform provides departments the ability to take an objective and comprehensive review of their current state of their agency to identify opportunities for improvement. However, reform implies change and the statement “not every department has a positive culture for change” will surprise no one.

In the law enforcement environment of today a significant amount of focus is being directed towards public safety reform. Merriam-Webster defines reform as “to put or change into an improved form or condition.” Synonyms include improvement, transformation, reorganization, refine and modification. Public safety reform can include a wide range of topics such as department structure, strategic and mission objectives; public safety initiatives, policies and procedures; workflows and business processes; training protocols; and performance metrics. The topic is so wide-ranging that it can be difficult to develop an actionable plan that provides value both to the community and public safety operations.

The attention on reform provides departments the ability to take an objective and comprehensive review of their current state of their agency to identify opportunities for improvement. However, reform implies change and the statement “not every department has a positive culture for change” will surprise no one. Many departments need a catalyst to implement change to improve their operations whether it be focused on culture, operational effectiveness, time efficiency or value to the community they serve. This article is intended to identify a variety of opportunities at a high-level that departments could consider in exploring areas of reform.

Reform initiatives must benefit a diverse audience including the community being served:elected officials, city/county management, and public safety. Reform initiatives must be realistic and capable of demonstrating tangible and measurable improvements. The goals of the reform need to be clearly stated.  A cost benefit analysis should be completed for each initiative in order to fully understand the total cost. This total cost includes initial and recurring costs; level of effort to implement; and all the requirements for staffing, infrastructure and technology. This process enables the department to  to determine if there will be a positive Return on Investment (ROI) prior to green lighting an initiative.  Achieving a positive Return on Investment is a key component to the successful implementation of any reform.

Areas for Improvement

Below are some of the wide range of opportunities for departmental improvement.  As you can see, some are more complex and may require significant planning, while some are much smaller in scope and can be accomplished quickly.

9-1-1/PSAP Operations

  • Explore the validity of criteria based dispatching
  • Reduce the non-emergency workload for 9-1-1 call takers
  • Reduce accidental 9-1-1 calls to the PSAP
  • Divert non-emergency and non-public safety type incidents to a new workflow
  • Leverage technology systems to improve operational effectiveness and time efficiency (e.g., workforce multiplier)
  • Analysis of data to identify current 9-1-1, Police and Fire and EMS workload for the various types of incidents, trends, etc.
  • Implement a 3-1-1 web-based system to improve customer service

Policies and Procedures

  • Review policies, procedures and training to ensure they meet current standards and expectations
  • Identify any departmental practices that may conflict with department directives
  • Review and Analyze s high risk and high volume policies and SOPs to determine their desired effectiveness. Example of this types of policies include:
    • Use of Force
    • De-escalation
    • Pursuit
    • Arrest procedures
    • Search warrants
    • High risk incidents
    • Traffic enforcement
    • Self-Initiated activities
    • Community resources
    • Personnel conduct
    • Procedures for specific types of incidents – EDP, intoxicated, graffiti, neighbor dispute, quality of life
    • Personnel proficiency–Policy versus real-life actions/customs
    • Personnel evaluation
      • Evaluate if personnel as to their level of training and effectiveness of the training as it applies to the various policies and SOPs.

Monitoring Department Performance – Quality Assurance/Quality Improvement

  • Measure the performance of all personnel
  • Utilize Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
    • Determine and review current KPIs
    • if not present, develop Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
    • Measure the performance of all personnel against the Key Performance Indicators
    • Performance metrics – Measure if personnel are following policies and procedures as designed
  • Quality Assurance Program
    • Community Engagement
      • Conduct Community Surveys
        • Call victims and witnesses regarding first responders performance
        • When conducting community surveys utilize multiple  demographics to ensure diverse representative sampling
      • Implement a Complaint Line–this can include both Web and phone service
    • Body Worn Camera System
      • Ensure policy and procedures meet current standards and expectations
      • Develop training curriculum
      • Develop quality assurance process to ensure that the video capture and video release policies are being adhered to
      • Conduct regular audits
    • Use of Force Review
    • Arrest analysis
      • Arrests made
      • Cases prosecuted versus dropped by District Attorney
      • Analyze specific case types( incl Arrests, search warrants. For example:
        • Narcotics
        • Weapons
        • Gangs
    • Diversion analysis
    • Positive action analysis – Track positive department activities

Community Communications and Involvement

  • Educate the community regarding department policies, procedures and training through community outreach programs. Topics could include:
    • Use of Force
    • Arrest Procedures
    • Body Worn Camera system
    • Traffic Enforcement

Winbourne Consulting has assisted numerous agencies in analyzing, evaluating and implementing departmental programs.  For more information on how they could assist your department, contact us at info@w-llc.com.

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