By Gregg Satula
Your department has just purchased Lexipol, and you’ve been named to the committee that will review policies. As you stare at the Lexipol “master” content for your state—policies covering everything from administrative communications to officer-involved shootings to overtime—you feel a bit overwhelmed. In many places, these policies differ from your department’s current policies, but you’re not sure how to reconcile the differences.
This feeling is very common among new Lexipol customers. Before you dive in with the red pen, there are important considerations to take into account.
As part of Lexipol’s Management Services team, the question of when—and when not—to change Lexipol content is something I deal with on a daily basis. Management Services representatives work directly with Lexipol customers to implement an agency’s transition to Lexipol, assist in the management of policy updates and daily training bulletin (DTB) issuance, and perform other tasks to increase the quality and professionalism of the manual. As a team, we’ve worked with hundreds of agencies, so we’ve been able to see the effect changes to master content can have. Following are a few pointers when you’re getting started.
What is the nature of the policy?
Certain policies are prone to modifications based on a variety of factors, including agency size, available equipment or technology, or specific services that may or may not be offered to the jurisdiction the agency serves. In addition, some sections or subsections are labeled as Discretionary, such as parts of the Uniform Regulations Policy. Lexipol fully expects customers to alter this content to best fit the agency; whether you prefer black, navy, blue, brown or green is your choice (except in the states that statutorily mandate a certain color!).
What effect will changes to the policy have on other content in the manual?
Changes to one policy can have a cascading effect on the rest of a manual. For example, if an agency makes drastic changes to its Use of Force Policy, changes may be needed in the Firearms Policy, the Pursuit Policy, even the Animal Control Policy. Also beware of adding content that may already be included in another policy. Lexipol policy writers attempt to minimize duplicative content because it complicates updates and can easily lead to inconsistencies across policies.
Is the change worth the additional work it may cause in updates and DTBs?
Although Lexipol’s Knowledge Management System is designed to let you make any changes you like to policy content, remember that part of what you’re investing in when you purchase Lexipol is ongoing management of your policies. Lexipol’s content writers regularly review content and issue updates as needed—but those updates are based on the master content. If you significantly alter content, it can create additional work when reviewing updates. Also, significantly altered content may cause flags to appear that need to be resolved when you’re reviewing and issuing Daily Training Bulletins.
The Three-Part Change Test
When working with an agency, a Management Services representative will typically discuss a major policy change using a three-part test:
Is the change applicable?
Will the content be appropriate for the agency? This necessitates a clear understanding of what services the agency is required to provide and actually can provide to its jurisdiction.
Is the change practicable?
Will the content reflect what the agency actually does? This occasionally leads to a second discussion: Does the agency have to change its practice to match Lexipol content or does the content need to change to match the agency’s practice? Some agencies are surprised when reviewing Lexipol content to find that their previous policies did not meet state reporting requirements or other laws and regulations.
Is the change functional?
Will the content be something that can actually be done in the real world? There is sometimes a disconnect from those in administrative positions and those actually doing the job on the street. If policy is such that it cannot be reasonably accomplished, one of two things will happen: Proactive enforcement or prompt responses for calls of lower significance will go to the wayside, or officers will take shortcuts and not follow the policy. Both will incur potential liability for the agency and members and will create tension in the agency.
A policy that is a perfect example for this discussion is the Canines Policy. Many agencies that do not have canines of their own are quick to remove this policy from their manual without second thought. However, Management Services representatives often advocate leaving the policy in the manual because many agencies that don’t have canines of their own will rely on a neighboring jurisdiction for assistance in searches or apprehensions. In this circumstance, an agency will still need policy content on who can make such a request. Do assistance requests require supervisor approval? When the handler and canine arrive, who is in command of the incident? What happens if the canine is used and a suspect is injured as a result of a bite? What are the reporting requirements for such a situation? Is there any training conducted on a regular basis so that officers are comfortable around the canine and understand the canine’s benefits and limitations? All of these are policy issues that should be addressed to minimize risk for all involved.
When the Management Services representative and agency administrator are addressing Lexipol policies or pending updates, the task is to balance the requests from the agency against the intent of the Lexipol content. The representatives are knowledgeable in the manual contents and benefit from the experience of working with other agencies to address similar concerns. While we cannot provide legal advice, we do offer insight on how to better utilize Lexipol content.
If you are interested in how Management Services can assist you, contact your Lexipol Account Manager or Customer Service at firstname.lastname@example.org.
GREGG SATULA is a manager in the Management Services division of Lexipol. Gregg has worked directly with law enforcement and custody agencies across the United States implementing Lexipol manuals and addressing updates.