The Aurora (IL) Police Department has a staff of 301 sworn officers, 75 civilian employees and 33 dispatch center personnel protecting a population of more than 200,000 in the western suburbs of Chicago. The agency has been using Lexipol since 2017.
Any police officer with a few years of service knows law enforcement is a constantly changing field. Legislation creates new training mandates; court opinions shape department policies and procedures. For most law enforcement agencies, it’s difficult to keep up.
That was the situation the Aurora Police Department (APD) found itself in as far back as 2011. “We had a planning and research section, but they were tasked with many other things,” says Commander Jack Fichtel. Despite their best efforts, the APD found itself slipping behind. “We started to see some deficiencies,” Fichtel says. “There are a lot of pitfalls when you try to interpret case law and legislation and determine how they impact your policies.” Inconsistency in policy also crept in, compounded by Special Orders that expired without being incorporated into General Orders, thereby creating confusion for officers.
After several years of struggling to keep up, under leadership of a new chief, the APD made it a priority: They needed to get their policies up to date, and they needed help doing so. “With the size of the staff we have, the investment of time to keep up with legislation and case law on our own—and do it properly—was simply overwhelming,” Commander Fichtel says.
The help the APD needed came in the form of Lexipol’s Illinois Law Enforcement Policies and Training solution. The subscription service provides a comprehensive body of vetted policy content. Equally important, Lexipol monitors case law and state and federal legislation and sends policy updates when needed.
Adopting a new set of policies is a complex task that can create friction among personnel and command staff—something Commander Fichtel saw first-hand when the agency had attempted to update its policies several years earlier. “This time around, we made sure we had a larger committee to review the policies, and we were supported by buy-in from the chief, the command staff and the union,” Fichtel says.
Using Lexipol’s Implementation Services provided another critical difference. The APD worked with Patrick Kane, an experienced law enforcement executive who helped the agency review and customize Lexipol’s policies to fit their needs. “We saved a lot of time with Implementation Services, because as a group we’d get hung up in the review process,” Commander Fichtel says. “Patrick would step in and he’d be able to put what we were trying to do into words. He is a great facilitator and has the experience and knowledge to back up his recommendations.”
The APD released the new policies in a phased rollout accompanied by a mandatory department-wide training session. Commander Fichtel encouraged feedback from the officers. “This is not just the command staff’s policy manual, it’s our policy manual,” he says. “So I asked people to contact me if they had comments or questions. We stressed that we wanted to make sure our policies were in alignment with our practices, not just that we have a policy, but it’s a useable one.” Commander Fichtel reviewed all the feedback with Kane. “We made some changes, and we were able to provide explanations for why we shouldn’t make other changes,” he says. “That had an impact—word got around that we were listening and there was logic behind the policies.”
With the Lexipol policies now fully implemented and updates coming regularly from Lexipol, the agency has reduced liability associated with outdated and conflicting policies. The process also filled in critical policy gaps the department had, such as the lack of a policy on lactation breaks (which are federally mandated). “It’s reassuring that we’re up to date,” Commander Fichtel says. “We’re a progressive police department and a professional organization, and now our policies reflect that.”
Working with Lexipol helped the APD enhance the credibility of the department’s policies and personnel trust in them. For this reason, the agency continues to retain Lexipol’s Professional Services—which was key in keeping union support. “It’s important to the union and it’s important to the staff that there’s a third party—Lexipol—weighing in on changes and that policy decisions aren’t being made in a vacuum,” Commander Fichtel says. “Lexipol knows how other agencies are doing things, so their input provides an important check and balance. Working with professionals who understand law enforcement culture is key when you’re undertaking a policy project.”
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