The 14 sworn officers of the Grinnell Police Department serve a community of more than 9,000 residents in central Iowa. The agency has been using Lexipol since 2016.
In law enforcement, change comes quickly, driven by new legislation and evolution in best practices. It’s difficult for most agencies to keep up—something Chief Dennis Reilly of the Grinnell Police Department (GPD) experienced first-hand. “We had relatively good policies but keeping them up to date in an ever-changing climate was a big challenge,” he says.
Take use of force as an example: “Our Use of Force Policy included the force continuum,” Chief Reilly says. “But many law enforcement experts started to advise against that. I spent almost a year working on a policy update, trying to get it done with all the other administrative duties I had to take care of.”
As in most small departments, the burden of policy updates fell squarely on Chief Reilly’s shoulders, but he had little time to devote to it. And even when he was able to author updates, getting them out to the officers was another challenge. “Our dissemination process was onerous,” he says. “I would update or create a policy in a Word document, then create a PDF of that policy, move that to the network drive and print out a copy to put in the manual we kept at the station.” Tracking officer acknowledgement of policies was also done manually, further slowing the process.
The limited accessibility to the policies had a direct effect on the officers, too. “The only way they could access their manual was to consult the printed copy or go to the network—which had to be done in the office; it wasn’t accessible from their in-car computers,” Chief Reilly says. “While it worked for us, there was certainly room for improvement.”
Lexipol’s Iowa Law Enforcement Policies and Training solution matched up perfectly with the policy challenges Chief Reilly faced. “Lexipol has subject matter experts and legal experts on staff who create and update the policies as needed,” he says. “It’s all web-based so my officers can access the policies in their car or at their work stations—and if I’m at home I can pull up the policies on my cellphone.” The system also tracks and documents officer acknowledgement of policies, putting an end to the paper-and-pen acknowledgment system.
Through the Daily Training Bulletins (DTBs), Lexipol also filled another need that had previously gone unmet at the GPD. “I like providing my officers with as much training as possible, but logistically I can’t send them to training every week,” Chief Reilly says. “With DTBs, they’re getting daily training on high-risk subjects—pursuits, use of force, dealing with the mentally ill. Instead of an officer reading a policy only when it’s issued or when there’s a potential policy violation, on a daily basis they are referencing policy that our training supervisor deems is important and appropriate.”
The tools integrated into Lexipol’s Knowledge Management System (KMS) offer additional opportunities for training. Chief Reilly sets recurring review dates for certain policies and KMS sends out reminders to officers on those dates. “As frequently as we choose, we can require officers to review a policy. We don’t even have to think about it—the system sends it out for us, and documents it,” he says.
Lexipol has been a big timesaver for the GPD. “I used to spend time going to various websites to review model policies or try to keep track of Iowa code changes or court decisions, and think about how that impacts our policy,” Chief Reilly says. “I don’t have to do that anymore because Lexipol is taking care of that for me.” He also cites the accessibility of policy content and the reinforcement through training as huge benefits.
Recently, a Grinnell citizen’s group became interested in the department’s immigration violations policy. “In our prior policy manual, we didn’t have a policy that addressed immigration,” Chief Reilly says. “But Lexipol does, so when I met with the group, I was able to pull up the policy and show them clearly what we can and cannot do, based on federal law and best practice. That was really nice.”
As valuable as the policy content is, Chief Reilly underscores it is just one part of the comprehensive Lexipol system. “The policy is a big piece—but just one piece,” he says. “You also get training, you get web-based access, you get tracking and reporting. Put simply, Lexipol allows administrators to provide good policy, facilitate access to it and reinforce it through review and training.”