As part of a panel of subject-matter experts at the NOBLE Conference in Atlanta, Georgia on July 31, 2017, my colleagues and I discussed promising practices used by progressive departments and leaders across the country. These departments are creating new and innovative policies that are helping transform policing and build communities of trust.

This workshop session focused on the three P’s – People, Policies and Processes – that are critical to embracing and implementing the pillars outlined in the Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing and to building internal capacity and accountability for change.

1. Engaging People

To be effective, policing practices need to be explained and understood by both the department and the community they serve. It is important to leverage the experience and perspectives of the department’s personnel and the community to engage in better policing strategies and problem-solving.

  • The Importance of Leadership: Organizational transformation is a pillar of community policing. An organization cannot transform until its leadership is completely invested in using organizational resources and building better community relationships. Leaders need to model the behavior of the change that they seek and ensure they place people who share this mission in high-visibility roles. Without support from leadership, the transformation is doomed to fail.
  • Definition of Success: Departments must define their overall strategies and goals, and determine the resources available to achieve them. Writing a formal and comprehensive strategic plan, Mission, Vision and Values statement, and department-wide community policing plan are the first steps to accomplishing their goals. Set the department’s expectations, communicate those expectations and then measure the outcomes. Share these plans with internal and external stakeholders and post them on the department website, social media platforms and throughout the community.
  • Cultural Immersion: Before incorporating procedural justice or plans to develop a community policing philosophy and program into a department, the principles of procedural justice and community policing must be reflected in all aspects of the department. For example, these principles must be included in the department’s manual, as well as in policies, training and messaging. Additionally, they should be reflected in the department’s processes such as performance evaluations, promotional processes, recruitment and hiring, assignments, and micro-community policing plans.

2. Implementing Policies

After a well-thought out and appropriate policy has been developed, departments must communicate and train their personnel on the goals and expectations of such policies to make them operational.

  • Pillars of Procedural Justice: The core components of policies for a department must be the four pillars of procedural justice.
  1. Fairness: Policies must be reasonable and approach the solution with the perspective of all those involved.
  2. Voice: Both internal and external stakeholders must be able to provide input and review policies.
  3. Transparency: There must be transparency surrounding the end goal, and stakeholders must be told why feedback was or was not incorporated into the policy.
  4. Impartiality: Policies must apply to all internal personnel regardless of rank, assignment or any other factors, and must apply to all members of the community regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity or any other factors.
  • Clear and Consistent Communication and Training: If personnel are trained on the policy during roll-call, supervisors should inspect the briefings to ensure the message is communicated consistently from the top down and reflects any revisions. If in-service training is provided, supervisors should review the training outlines and course materials to ensure they are appropriate, the messaging is clear and the learning objectives are met. Supervisors must also evaluate whether the trainers are effective. 
  • Up-to-Date Policies: A department should consider having a policy coordinator or unit to ensure policies are up-to-date with legal changes and other updates. Policies should be consistent with other policies and be tailored to your department, especially if a department is using a policy management software system that will send a generic policy manual requiring revisions based on department terminology, units, and their own practices and procedures.

3. Creating Sustainable Processes

To ensure sustainability, the department’s leadership must appropriately plan, properly execute, clearly communicate, consistently apply and review its processes.

  • Accountability: Procedural justice requires transparency and consistency in application. Internally, sergeants can be the first level of accountability by auditing adherence to processes through direct observation and a review of reports and investigations. External accountability can be facilitated through the review of compliments and complaints, and soliciting feedback from community members.
  • Evaluation of Compliance: An individual’s failure to comply with a process may be intentional or unintentional. If it was an intentional failure, the employee is responsible and their supervisor needs to take corrective action. If it was unintentional, leadership is responsible because the policy or process may be misunderstood, unclear, unrealistic, unachievable or poorly designed.
  • Tools for Measurement and Accountability: Operationalizing a policy requires training, measurement, audits and transparency of the process. This may include the department’s review of their policies and processes using tools for measurement and accountability such as:
    • Inspections and audits
    • Supervisory oversight
    • Disciplinary guidelines or matrix
    • Performance evaluations
    • Early intervention systems
    • Micro-community policing plans

A Successful Roadmap

When a department follows the 3 P’s — People, Policies and Processes – and leverages them in an effective and meaningful way, and ensures transparency and accountability, a successful roadmap will likely emerge.

For departments interested in developing a successful roadmap of their own, I suggest the following resources: the Advancing 21st Century Policing Initiative, the U.S. Department of Justice, Community Oriented Policing Services, the National Initiative for Building Community Trust & Justice and National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College.

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