Located in the Kansas City metropolitan area, the Mission (KS) Police Department provides emergency response, traffic enforcement, citizen engagement and education, and neighborhood patrol. The department’s 29 sworn officers protect a population of 9,300.
Small and medium-sized police departments often experience leadership turnover every 5 years or so. And with a new chief comes new policies—new directives and ways of operating that reflect the chief’s leadership and policing philosophy.
The injection of new ideas is often a good thing, but it can wreak havoc on a department’s policy manual. That was the situation at the Mission (KS) Police Department. “We had a hodgepodge of policies that chiefs had put into effect when they took office,” says Captain Kirk Lane. “It was very confusing; the policies were a mess. We needed to organize, update and fix them.”
Capt. Lane faced an additional challenge: He was assigned to lead the policy implementation project, but he considered computer skills one of his weak areas. The prospect of learning the ins and outs of a content management system while working with something as important as department policies was daunting. “I am a captain over the patrol division, I am a cop. I’m not a computer guy,” he says. “The last thing I wanted to do was mess up our policies. I wasn’t that comfortable with it at all.”
More than a year before Capt. Lane began working on the MPD’s policy manual revision, he championed the need for the change. He presented the idea of using Lexipol’s Kansas Law Enforcement Policies and Training solution to Chief Ben Hadley, and a presentation to the city manager followed soon after that. “I felt strongly that we needed living, breathing policies that were being continuously updated,” Capt. Lane says. “Lexipol offers an opportunity to have a standardized policy manual, something that is updated by outside experts who have been vetted by the police chiefs association.”
Although he was convinced of the value, Capt. Lane remained hesitant about using Lexipol’s online Knowledge Management System (KMS). “And then I met Theresa,” he says. Theresa Furman, the Lexipol account manager assigned to MPD, provided the assistance Capt. Lane needed to get up and running with KMS. “The customer support has been amazing,” he says. “Theresa calls on a regular basis to check on me if she hasn’t heard from me. She’s very involved and truly cares about helping us accomplish the goal of implementing our new manual.”
Furman’s background as a dispatcher also made a big difference. “Having someone who can ‘speak cop’ and relate to us was key,” Capt. Lane says. “She knows when to give us space but is also constantly on us to ensure we’re making progress. All my anxieties went away after seeing the support I got from Lexipol.”
Capt. Lane also took advantage of the KMS Beta environment. Beta is available to any user and features the latest enhancements the Lexipol IT staff is working on. Although customers are advised that new features are still being tested in Beta, working in the Beta environment allows customers to absorb changes and enhancements incrementally. There’s also the opportunity to leave feedback for Lexipol’s developers.
“Beta is really helpful for me in adjusting to change—I’m not just going to log in one day and see a massively different system, because I’ve been getting those updates all along,” Capt. Lane says. “And working in Beta, you see that KMS is not a stale product—it’s fluid and changing, constantly improving. We had PowerDMS before, and it’s strictly black and white, there’s no changes or anyone trying to make it better. With KMS, the feedback I provide through Beta is listened to.”
The MPD is still working through the policy implementation process, but Capt. Lane can already see the benefits. “Now our policies aren’t stale documents; they’re living, breathing documents,” he says. “That reduces our liability and gives reassurance to the officers.”
Using the KMS mobile app is also key. “Our officers have quick access to the policies,” Capt. Lane says. “They have more confidence on the street because the policies are right there in their hands. They can easily and quickly see whether they followed all the protocols; they don’t have to ask a supervisor. And that empowers the officers to make their own decisions.”
Implementing a new policy manual is a significant project that entails a lot of work. But the MPD experience shows just how valuable the commitment can be. “It’s been everything we need it to be and then some,” Capt. Lane says. “You may question how much it costs at the beginning because it is an investment, but it’s an investment into your department, in your officers—and it’s a smart investment because you’re getting a resource that’s constantly updated and is built for the specifics of your state.”
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