Quick Tips! Managing Officer Misbehavior Before It Becomes a Big Problem

Consistency is a key element to any organization. Whether we’re referring to policies, processes, or procedures—if you aren’t consistently implementing and monitoring them, smaller issues can turn into bigger problems in the long-term. For law enforcement, being consistent with employee misbehavior is critical.

As recent news events show, most people are no longer willing to give police departments the benefit of the doubt when misconduct hits the headlines. And if policies weren’t put into place, enforced properly, or tracked correctly, your department could really be in a rough spot with your community and your leadership.

Patterns of misbehavior often begin with incidents considered too “low stakes” to warrant serious disciplinary action. There may be a few small incidents that occur in environments or departments that do not routinely interact, so the pattern of behavior gets missed. Even if a pattern is noticed, because it’s outside their daily purview, supervisors may fail to consider training records or other evidence that would strengthen the department’s response to a report of misconduct.

Quick Tip 1: Establish policies and management practices that teach your supervisors how to detect and document patterns of misbehavior from the beginning. Issues that seem small at the forefront can turn into really big problems for the department (as well as other officers) if the behavior isn’t corrected immediately.    

Having a wider view of an officer’s history can make critical personnel decisions easier, faster, and more informed. The challenge is in keeping that data up-to-date and complete.

Smart policy and guidance from leadership grow even more effective when combined with technology that:

  • Reduces your organization’s blind spots and makes it easier to analyze behavioral concerns
  • Gathers the information in one place, allowing for new insights to be pulled from the data
  • Automates the information, eliminating gaps that may otherwise exist between manual or siloed digital work systems
  • Builds the policies and procedures of the organization into the tool, resulting in better data maintenance

Quick Tip 2: Organizations can use the same data tools to communicate policies and procedures that govern officer conduct. Changes don’t need to be large to be effective. For example, a system that automatically emails every use-of-force complaint to the relevant personnel can promote fairer, more effective, and more consistent practices.

The need for data can vary widely within a public safety organization. A training management system might house full employment disciplinary records, training records, performance evaluations, and other personnel information. The ideal system would restrict access to data according to each user’s level of authorization and need to know, protecting privacy while allowing easy sharing of information among those who need it to make informed decisions. A tool that matches the information needs to each department and individual is critical to ensuring more effective compliance.

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