The Salt Lake City (UT) Police Department has about 500 sworn officers protecting a population of more than 192,000. The department became a Lexipol customer in May 2017.
Missing policies, out-of-date policies, policies that were not in compliance with state and federal laws. This was the state of the Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD) policy manual when Lt. Scott Mourtgos took it over.
“It was so out of date it referred to processes and positions within the department that didn’t exist anymore,” Lt. Mourtgos says. “We didn’t have a dedicated person responsible for making sure we kept our policies up to date with legislation and case law.” When additions and changes were made, they were often done without consideration to how they affected other parts of the manual, leading to contradictory guidance.
“There were also areas where we were providing deficient guidance to our officers,” Lt. Mourtgos says. “Our Temporary Custody of Juveniles Policy was missing key state and federal legal requirements. We didn’t have a nepotism policy or a service animal policy. Our Public Alerts Policy didn’t cover Blue Alerts.”
Distribution and tracking of policy updates posed another challenge. “We would send a Chief’s Order saying the policy had been updated and requiring officers to read it,” Lt. Mourtgos says. “But there was no accountability system—we didn’t know if it was reaching the officers and if it was being read.”
The risks associated with SLCPD’s policies came into focus at a training conference attended by department administrators. “The instructors stressed how common agency problems stem from a lack of policy, failure to keep policies updated and a lack of training on policies,” Lt. Mourtgos says. Securing a policy solution became a priority—one that ratcheted to the top of the list when the department found itself involved in a high-profile policy incident a short time later.
The SLCPD evaluated several policy solutions, but ultimately chose Lexipol’s Utah Law Enforcement Policies and Training solution. “What we were specifically looking for was a content provider as well as the policy system,” Lt. Mourtgos says. “Lexipol was the only one in the market with content—and good content.”
Another feature that played large in the decision was the policy updates Lexipol customers receive. “The updates are huge for us because it’s impossible to stay on top of all of it yourself, even if you have a dedicated policy person,” Lt. Mourtgos says. “I followed our state legislature, but there are state regulatory changes, federal legislation and case law I’d never know about without getting the updates from Lexipol.”
The SLCPD used Lexipol’s Implementation Services to streamline the adoption of the new policies. “Implementation Services went through all our old content and indexed it against the Lexipol content, telling us where it lines up with the new manual,” Lt. Mourtgos says. “Having the Implementation Services folks do it was much faster, much easier and much more comprehensive than anything we could have done on our own. It was well worth paying for.”
The department also used Lexipol’s Supplemental Publication Service to separate policies from procedures, allowing the agency to meet transparency goals without making tactical information public, which could put officers in jeopardy. “Lexipol allows us to separate policy and procedure but build the links between the two, so officers don’t have to go back and forth between two documents or systems,” Lt. Mourtgos says.
Lexipol has helped the SLCPD achieve three key policy goals: 1) Improve policy content, 2) enhance user access and accountability, and 3) improve officer understanding of policies.
Although the department’s manual is longer after implementing Lexipol, Lt. Mourtgos says the officers appreciate the guidance. “Now they have a reference to go to, when sometimes before they were just winging it,” he says. “We’re not missing things; it’s comprehensive.”
As for accessibility and accountability, “we absolutely love the mobile app,” Lt. Mourtgos says. “All our officers have iPhones, so they can instantly access the policies. And with the system’s tracking and reporting features, we can run periodic audits to make sure officers are reading and acknowledging the policies. Once officers realized we were doing that, our compliance rates went through the roof.”
Finally, from the monthly Daily Training Bulletin (DTB) packages provided by Lexipol, the department selects several that “line up well with something we’ve dealt with recently or that we feel the need to review,” Lt. Mourtgos says. “Once a week everyone’s got to sit down and think about a policy issue they never would otherwise.”
The end result: “More peace of mind,” Lt. Mourtgos says. “We have the most current, best practice policies out there. And we know our people are actually getting the policies. Before we had no accountability when it came to policies. Now we do.”