Where Do We Stand? Survey Respondents Report on Readiness

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In these deeply polarizing days, it may be easy to make assumptions about the state of our first responders and their organizations. However, we believe these times call for more clarity and communication—not less.

In order to gain further insight into the readiness of our first responders, the Envisage team conducted a survey as part of our six-part law enforcement webinar series, “Five Keys to Leading Through the Policing Crisis,” and compiled responses from more than 60 officers.

While reviewing the responses, it became clear that law enforcement professionals care deeply for the communities they serve, despite any divisions within those communities, and are committed to serving them better. While many were optimistic about their department’s capabilities and practices, respondents were also keenly aware of the need for improvement.

Key webinar findings

Our Five Keys webinars began June 17, 2020—twenty-three days after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis—and ended August 26h. The webinars included topics on leadership, hiring, training, culture, transparency, and technology. Four hundred thirty-one officers attended the webinars, and 16 percent of them responded to the closing surveys.

The surveys consisted of five questions with Likert scale answers (N/A, Poor, Fair, Good, and Excellent) and three additional open-ended questions. Here are some of the key findings:

Graph: Rate agency's capability to follow best hiring practices.
Graph: Rate agency's capability to train officers toward mission objectives.
Graph: rate agency's capability to prove officers are following training.
Graph: Rate agency's capability and speed in producing accurate data.

Fifty-three percent of respondents said they believe their police departments are good at following best hiring practices, with 13% saying their departments were excellent and 27% saying their departments were in the fair and poor categories. These results suggest that there is room for improving hiring practices and getting best practices enculturated within law enforcement departments.

In measuring and monitoring training, the responses were a touch below middle-of-the-road, with 45% saying their agencies were fair at measuring officers’ training toward mission objectives, 34% good, and only 10% excellent. The respondents were slightly more confident in the ability to prove that officers were following their training, with 26% saying fair and a solid 51% saying good, but still only 15% rating their capabilities as excellent.

Another question asked personnel to rate their department’s ability to quickly produce accurate data for stakeholders. Only 17% were confident that their department’s capability in this area was excellent, with 38% saying it was good. Many respondents responded N/A to this question, suggesting police personnel may not be aware of their department’s data collection procedures. This raises concerns: In today’s world, when departments are under close scrutiny, it is vital to collect information quickly and accurately, and with transparency.

It was gratifying to see most respondents felt the webinar series itself was useful, with 55% rating its usefulness as excellent and 36% as good. This tells us that members of the law enforcement community are eager for answers. They are looking outside their departments, seeking new and innovative solutions. This should serve as encouragement to any who have felt hopelessness during the ongoing crisis.

Topics for future exploration

Although fewer participants answered the open-ended questions, one of these—“What other questions are critical for you to answer in this crisis?”— garnered some particularly thoughtful responses.

  • “How do we educate our legislative leaders on the financial need to have the proper equipment and training so our officers are given everything they need to be successful?”
  • “It is vital to have plan in place for the security and safety of the officers and the community—which sets forth a solid sense of communication. How are others handling this?”
  • “How can we learn to critically analyze an event rather than just looking at it from a transactional point of view?”

Conclusion

It’s easy to look at the world in terms of “us” and “them,” and to lose faith in the possibility of compromise or reconciliation. But the personnel who engaged with the Five Keys webinar series and responded to the survey questions clearly want to fix problems. They voiced a need for communication, both within and outside departments; a desire for a clearer understanding of their role in the community; and the freedom to explore restructuring and technology in an effort to improve conditions for both the public and the police.

In these survey results, we can hear the heart of our policing community, and we know they want the answers too. They are ready and willing to work with their communities to fix the situation. They are not closing their doors, their ears, or their hearts, and they are not giving up.

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