The Grants Pass Department of Public Safety is a combined police and fire agency, with 57 officers and 42 firefighters protecting 34,500 people about 250 miles south of Portland. Unlike traditional police and fire departments, Grants Pass police officers and firefighters operate in dual roles, performing duties relative to both divisions.
As a CALEA agency for 20 years, the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety (DPS) understood the value of having sound policies in place. But the department was sinking a lot of resources into keeping its accreditation. “We had a deputy chief who was overseeing the process full-time, and then a part-time person assisting her,” says Deputy Chief Jim Hamilton. “Plus when we had to get ready for reaccreditation, it took two or three people working on the process for a few months. It was labor-intensive and very time consuming.”
Grants Pass DPS also struggled to keep up with new legislation and case law, and lacked expertise to translate changes into policy. “Our biggest challenge was keeping our policies up to date and consistent with constitutional law and national trends,” Hamilton says. “We were writing policy updates based on information coming through from CALEA, and we didn’t have a system in place for a legal review. We had officers writing policy. My concern was that we might go to court and find out that we had made a mistake in the policy language.”
In 2015, looking for a way to address their policy challenges, Grants Pass DPS subscribed to the Lexipol Oregon Law Enforcement Policies and Training service. At first, the leadership assumed they would do the policy implementation on their own. “As we got into reviewing the policies, we realized that for us it was going to be a smoother transition and much more efficient to contract with Lexipol’s Implementation Services,” Hamilton says.
The agency began working with Bill McAuliffe, a Lexipol implementation specialist. “We were able to lean on Bill and say, ‘How do we do this?’” Hamilton says. “The experience that he brought really helped us get our process into place. Had we done it on our own, we would have been making mistakes throughout. Bill was able to help us prevent tripping over ourselves.”
Using Implementation Services also proved key to the department’s aggressive implementation timeframe. “If you’re doing it in house it’s easy to push it to the back burner because other things come up, but if you’re paying someone to get something done, it motivates you,” Hamilton says. “And Bill had the expertise to be able to see where we might run into trouble and chime in to warn us when we were getting off schedule.”
Because Lexipol also offers an Oregon Fire Policies and Training service, Grants Pass was able to purchase both solutions, providing them with a consistent policy and training approach across the entire agency.
Grants Pass DPS uses the Lexipol Daily Training Bulletins (DTBs) to keep officers current on policy comprehension. “We issue 30 DTBs a month to our officers, and they have the option of completing the training on a desktop computer or through the Lexipol app on a department phone,” Hamilton says. “We use Lexipol’s reporting features to put triggers in place so as we get close to the end of the month, the training manager sends messages out to the supervisors to let them know whether their officers have completed that month’s training.”
Grants Pass DPS now has confidence that their policies are kept up to date because Lexipol issues updates in response to case law and new legislation. “We had policies that were way out of date, that no one caught,” Hamilton says. “That’s a huge liability. Now we have Lexipol monitoring for those changes, and they send us updates as needed. We can push out the updates right away.”
Lexipol has proven to be a cost-effective solution to reducing Grants Pass DPS’ risk. “We’re spending less time on policy management so we’re saving money,” Hamilton says. “When we looked at what we were spending in terms of personnel costs, and we broke down the numbers, Lexipol clearly outweighs what we were doing before.”