The 51 sworn officers of the Ashwaubenon (WI) Department of Public Safety provide law enforcement and fire and rescue services to a community of 18,000 in a suburb of Green Bay neighboring Lambeau Field. The agency has been using Lexipol since 2013.
For Chief Eric Dunning, policies were a moving target from his first days in law enforcement. “We were issued a three-ring binder with all the policies when we started,” he says. “You sat down with your field training officer, and you went through the policies over the next 14 weeks. By the time you get to the end, something in the middle has changed.”
As Chief Dunning’s career progressed, taking him to the rank of lieutenant, then overseeing the FTO program, and finally to chief, the challenge of policy management pursued him. “I’ve realized the importance of having a way to keep policies up to date, distribute them out to your officers and show they read them,” he says.
In 2013, exactly how to do that was the challenge facing Chief Dunning and the Ashwaubenon (WI) Department of Public Safety (ADPS). “We were still using three-ring binders,” Chief Dunning says. “You would get the newest copy of a policy at briefing, then each officer was responsible for getting the update into their copy of the policy manual. Also, you’re only as good as the information that’s given to you. We had updates on use of force and vehicle operations, because that’s what the higher-profile cases centered on. But we weren’t getting a lot of the state or federal changes, because we didn’t have the resources to review the state and federal briefs.”
After Chief Dunning heard about Lexipol’s Wisconsin Law Enforcement Policies and Training service at a chiefs’ conference, he realized it might be the solution to the ADPS’ policy management challenges. The service provides a set of comprehensive, state-specific, continuously updated policies and Daily Training Bulletins. “After I explained what it could provide to us, the Village felt it was important to have Lexipol on board as a partner, so they funded it,” Chief Dunning says.
Chief Dunning assigned a commander to oversee the transition to Lexipol. “I consider it like going for accreditation,” he says. “You dedicate a person to the task, five days a week, because if you work on it intermittently, you’ll fall behind.”
The commander was also central in helping overcome any hesitancy ADPS officers felt about the new policies. “Most people are fearful of change,” Chief Dunning says. “But I think everyone realized that we had to come up with a more efficient way to distribute and understand our policy. The commander in charge of the transition is very trusted by the department, and he did a good job of explaining the changes.”
One of those changes was enhanced access to policies. Lexipol policy content is provided through an online platform and mobile app. “The system makes it so much easier to use the policy,” Chief Dunning says. “At a roadside incident, if an officer has a question, they can bring it up instantly rather than going back to the station, trying to find the three-ring binder and hoping they have the latest version of the policy.”
Lexipol’s tracking capabilities also improve the ADPS’ ability to assess whether officers have read updates. “Paper updates and notifications can pile up and get lost, but with Lexipol it’s all stored electronically,” Chief Dunning says. “The supervisor can easily see who has makeup work to do.”
As a result of implementing Lexipol, the ADPS now has an efficient, easy way to keep policies updated. “Now, we get a friendly email from Lexipol saying, ‘This policy has changed as a result of legislation or case law, here’s our suggested modifications.’ And our coordinator goes into the system and accepts the changes, I verify them, and then the update is sent electronically out to the department,” Chief Dunning says.
The second major benefit is a natural extension of the first: With an efficient distribution system in place, all officers are operating off the same page. “A few years ago you’d be wondering, did the most updated copy get distributed?” Chief Dunning says. “Now it’s in real time and everyone’s getting the same document.”
And that in turn puts officers and supervisors in sync. “In our line of work, we do have disciplinary issues from time to time,” Chief Dunning says. “Lexipol makes it simple—you do a search for the content you’re looking for, download the PDF of the policy, and determine whether there’s a violation. Administrators and officers are reading the same documentation, and if other people, such as union representatives or lawyers, need to get involved, they have a clean, easy to-understand document to read.”