By Jennie Pierce
Take any moment in time in my life and you might find me playing the role of policy author, directive writer, supervisor, investigator, file organizer, proof-of-compliance sorter, parent, chauffeur, chef, counselor—and I know I’m missing at least one other! Like you—like all law enforcement professionals—I wear a lot of different hats.
If your agency is accredited or pursuing law enforcement accreditation, one of the responsibilities you might shoulder is that of accreditation manager. Typically, this is not looked upon as a fun job. The accreditation manager is often confronted with staff who find accreditation requirements cumbersome and intrusive.
Why do we need accreditation?
Proofs of compliance, what are those?
Doesn’t our policy manual state that?
Well that’s how we have always done it.
We were supposed to document that?
Don’t we have a policy for that?
How many standards are there?
We have to do what?
Geez, how many policies do we actually have?
The assessors want to see what?
If these remarks sound familiar to you, I bet you want to bang your head against the wall and walk away, disappear, beg for a new job or end the accreditation cycle now! But accreditation doesn’t have to be complicated. You wear a lot of hats each day; accreditation doesn’t have to be the one you pull over your eyes in despair.
When your agency begins the journey down the path to state or national law enforcement accreditation, the task may seem impossible, tedious and overwhelming. Like any big task, it helps to break it down into steps.
Map accreditation standards to your current policies.
This is where the heavy lifting comes in. You’ll need to scour your policies and procedures, comparing them with accreditation standards. In many places, your policy language will align with the standards, or be close. But you’ll also run across accreditation standards that aren’t yet reflected in your policies.
At Lexipol we do this type of cross-reference between “master” content and agency content all the time. We find that one of the best ways to keep it all straight is with spreadsheets that neatly organize the content into chunks, detailing where in your policy manual the content is found and the corresponding accreditation standard.
For accreditation standards that aren’t yet reflected in your policies, you’ll need to re-write your policies to include language to meet required standards. When doing so, you may want to consider a three-factor test for changes: Are they applicable, practicable, functional? Remember that the auditors will not only look to ensure you have the right policies on the books; they will also check that your practice follows policy. There are often different ways to meet law enforcement accreditation standards so it’s important to find a practice that works for you.
Go electronic with your policies.
The traditional approach to accreditation involves mounds of paper that build up on your desk, threatening to erupt like Mt. Saint Helens. One of the most important changes to make accreditation less complicated is to break through the paper jungle and manage your policies in an electronic platform.
There are lots of different ways to do this, from custom document management systems to storing files on an agency intranet or other secure but accessible location. Whatever method you choose, electronic policies offer several benefits:
• Helps ensure everyone is working off the same, up-to-date version.
• Easier to make changes and updates to policies using features like Track Changes so reviewers and staff immediately know what’s changed.
• You can incorporate law enforcement accreditation standards into your policies, making the cross-reference process a one-time thing. At Lexipol, our policy management system tags content sections that align with accreditation standards and highlights the specific policy language that corresponds to the standard. After that, it’s easy to search for accreditation terms or standard numbers to easily find what you’re looking for.
• By arranging policies in electronic folders, you can also include other compliance documentation, such as checklists, training records and procedures. That way it’s all there for you come audit time.
Set up a reliable policy acknowledgement system.
Accrediting bodies test for compliance in different ways, but one of the most important is policy acknowledgement by staff. Many agencies continue to rely on written checklists to document that officers have reviewed and acknowledged policies. Like paper-based policies, this is cumbersome and leaves you vulnerable to risk—what happens if that paper gets lost or damaged? At the very least, paper acknowledgement records should be electronically archived as PDFs. Or, you can set up your own spreadsheet-based system. Even better is to use electronic acknowledgement features like those available in many document management systems.
Whatever you use, ensure you’re hitting a few key items: All staff should have the same time to review policies and updates. Whatever files you store need to be able to show definitively that the employee acknowledged the policy—not just that the supervisor provided them with the policy. And you should set up a series of escalating reminders for staff who don’t promptly review and acknowledge their policies.
Train against policy.
Auditors will also be looking to see that your staff is trained on your policies. Training should be ongoing, specific and interesting. Reviewing a policy at roll call or briefing is a good start, but challenge yourself to go further. At Lexipol we use Daily Training Bulletins that use real-world scenarios to focus on a specific part of the policy, so the training can be completed quickly and there’s a greater chance officers will retain it. Whatever kind of training you do, make sure you document it. Policy management systems make this easy, but if you’re working manually, consider having a spreadsheet for each policy and noting each time training was provided.
Accreditation Made Easy
Striving for professional excellence doesn’t have to be a disaster. If the above steps still sound overwhelming, consider Lexipol’s policy and training solutions, which provide powerful, intuitive law enforcement accreditation tools and electronic policy management, combined with state-of-the-art policy and training content. Picture this:
You type in your username and password, open your policy manual and run a keyword search to find the policy you need to work on. Yellow highlighting shows which words match accreditation body requirements, and the policy is tagged with the corresponding accreditation standard. You haven’t shuffled a single piece of paper or even touched a yellow highlighter. There it is on your computer screen, ready to go.
A policy needs to be reviewed, so you export the PDF, email it to the subject matter expert, and your work is halfway done. You didn’t even worry about your printer being low on ink or the copy machine’s endless request for toner. Every policy and standard is right where you need it, right at your fingertips.
Next you run a report to see which employees have read the latest issued policy. You check to make sure automatic notifications are on so employees who haven’t acknowledged the policy yet will receive a reminder. You click over to another tab within your policy management system and read through the day’s training bulletin. After answering a question that tests your knowledge against policy, you click accept and finish.
You take that last sip of coffee, policies read, accreditation standards tagged, policy training completed and a few proofs of compliance gathered. Geez, it’s not even 10 am and you’re already caught up for the day. Time to put the next hat on!
Lexipol’s Law Enforcement Policy Manual and Daily Training Bulletin Service provides essential policies for law enforcement and corrections agencies, with tools that simplify and streamline accreditation reporting. Contact us today for more information or to request a free demo.
Now a Lexipol Professional Services Representative, JENNIE PIERCE served the New Mexico State Police for 21 years retiring at the rank of Captain. In the last six years of her career, Pierce led the Standards Bureau for the Department of Public Safety, maintaining policy and procedures and internal affairs, and obtaining three National Re-Accreditation awards for the State Police. In her spare time Pierce commanded the Search and Recovery Dive Team, becoming the first female in State Police history to achieve this rank within an agency specialty team