Are You Biased When It Comes to Risk Management?

By Gordon Graham

Editor’s Note: This article series is designed to introduce you to the concept of real risk management—an approach that goes way beyond a safety program to encompass the 10 Families of Risk and to demonstrate how better understanding these risk families can help you anticipate and mitigate the risks in your own organization. Whether this is your first introduction to Gordon Graham and risk management, or if you’ve been following his innovative approach for years, this series has something for every public safety leader. We encourage you to follow along as we publish additional installments.

Risk management - LexipolGordon Graham here, and thanks for taking the time to read this brief piece—the first of many to introduce you to the breadth and depth of “real risk management” and what Lexipol can do to help you address the real risks you face in your public safety organization.

If you have been to my live programs, you know I often throw around a nasty four-letter word: bias. Public safety organizations in the U.S., especially law enforcement agencies, have been accused of “bias” quite a bit lately and there is a lot of sensitivity about how this word is used. Racial bias is a very hot topic, as is news media bias.

But the bias that I want to start with relates to the bias I face every time I talk about “real risk management.”

Too often, I meet people prior to a live program, and they ask, “What are you going to talk about?” I tell them “risk management” and their response is “Oh, I know what that is.” A conversation follows where they explain to me that they have a “safety” program in place and they don’t need to hear my presentation.

I politely tell them that having a robust safety program is part of a good overall risk management program, but I inform them (again politely) that “real risk management” is more than the “safety” stuff. It is more than the ergonomics stuff. It is more than the code enforcement stuff. It is more than the indemnification stuff. It is more than all of that.

If you don’t get anything else out of this brief writing, please leave with this: Everything you do as a public safety executive—and I mean EVERYTHING—involves a level of risk. There is a risk involved in hiring people. There is a risk involved in firing people. There is a risk involved in training your people. There is a risk involved in the performance evaluation process. There is a risk involved in maintaining your fleet.

Everything you do involves a level of risk! And when I say that to people, the reply usually goes something like this: “But we do thousands and thousands of things in public safety—how do we get a handle on addressing and managing all of those risks?”

Thirty-five years ago I did not have an answer to that question. But I heard it often enough that over a period of years I put together a series of programs to help make it easier for public safety professionals to understand and implement risk management.

One of my programs is entitled “The 10 Families of Risk”. What I have tried to do is to take all the risks you face and put them into 10 families. These families are:

My goal in writing these brief articles is threefold. First, I want to expand your knowledge regarding the value of “real risk management.” Second, I want to show you how to identify the real risks you face in your public safety organization and how to address those risks. And finally, I want to show you how Lexipol can help you manage some of the risks you face.

But before we explore these “families” of risk, I want to spend some time on why government entities do not fully understand the value of this discipline and what you can do to get “real risk management” fully inculcated into your operations. That will be the topic for my next article.

Until next time, thanks for reading!

In this piece I mention the risk involved in performance evaluations (PEs). Trust me, the PE process is filled with risk and you need to ensure that your PE process is being taken seriously. Too many PEs in law enforcement overrate employees primarily because no one ever complains when they get overrated. These ill-prepared PEs are setting you and the organization up for future employment law problems. Please take the PE process seriously!

Lexipol’s state-specific policies and training solutions help public safety leaders reduce risk and keep their personnel safe by improving policy access, understanding and compliance. Contact us today to find out more.

Gordon Graham is a 33-year veteran of law enforcement and the co-founder of Lexipol, where he serves on the current board of directors. Graham is a risk management expert and a practicing attorney who has presented a commonsense risk management approach to hundreds of thousands of public safety professionals around the world. Graham holds a master’s degree in Safety and Systems Management from University of Southern California and a Juris Doctorate from Western State University.


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Lt. Victor Pecoraro
Auburn (CA) Police Department

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Chief Joseph Morris
Arapahoe Community College (CO) Police Department

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Captain Jesus Ochoa
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Chief Steven Vaccaro
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Jim Franklin, Executive Director
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