The 250-year-old town of Smyrna is known for nurturing small-town life while embracing cutting-edge technology. The 29 officers of the Smyrna Police Department (SPD) have been using Lexipol’s Law Enforcement Policies and Training solution and PoliceOne Academy since 2019.
It was 2019 and the SPD was going through growing pains. Within a few years, the department went from having almost three-quarters of officers eligible for retirement to having one officer eligible.
At the same time, law enforcement agencies nationwide were being buffeted by changing community expectations, often codified in legislation.
The SPD felt this acutely. “It was tough staying on top of things and getting those changes out to the officers,” says Chief Torrie James. “You could tell them there were changes coming, but I know what it’s like to be an officer—you read that email and you move on.”
The department lacked a system to disseminate and track policy acknowledgments.
“We were a small agency trying to learn how to be a larger agency,” Chief James says. “Policy changes would be via email or at a supervisors’ meeting. We never had an electronic system; we updated the policies in Word. It was cumbersome.”
The SPD’s approach to training was similarly manual, with most of the budget spent on in-person training to meet state mandates—which, of course, ground to a halt when COVID hit.
At the annual meeting of the Delaware Association of Chiefs of Police, Chief James listened while another agency described what Lexipol’s Policies and Training solution did for them. “Right then we knew it was something we needed,” he says.
With Lexipol, the department has access to 170 policies housed in an electronic platform that provides one-click policy issuance and acknowledgment reporting. Lexipol also keeps the policies updated as new state and federal legislation is passed. “The system forces the officers to look at the policies and the updates and acknowledge that they’ve seen them,” Chief James says. “And the Daily Training Bulletins help the officers pay attention to the policies and learn them.”
Lexipol’s online training complements the policy management system. Using PoliceOne Academy, Chief James creates learning assignments aimed at meeting state requirements. “We assign courses every month or so, giving the officers a couple months to complete them,” Chief James says. “It was great with COVID, as we were able to offset training hours we just couldn’t get because people weren’t doing in-person training.”
The Academy courses also allow the SPD to address performance issues. “When I have issues with officers, I can rely on Lexipol instead of waiting for the state academy to provide applicable training,” Chief James says. “Recently I had an officer who said some things he probably shouldn’t have around some female members. I was able to immediately assign him two sexual harassment courses through PoliceOne Academy.”
For the SPD, Lexipol’s policy and online training solutions work together, reinforcing one another and creating cost savings and efficiencies.
“PoliceOne Academy absolutely lowers our training costs,” Chief James says, “We use it to fill the state mandates. l don’t have to have an instructor on staff, I don’t have to pay the officers overtime to sit through a training course.”
The SPD’s investment in Lexipol’s policy management solution was also quick to pay off. “I had a trial board for termination of an officer, and as expected the officer’s attorney argued the deviation occurred because the officer wasn’t familiar with our policy,” Chief James says. “I was able to present the documentation showing the officer had acknowledged receiving the policy. That ended the situation. The investment in Lexipol proved its worth right there.”
The combination of solid policies and training also “made my accreditation process just seamless,” Chief James says. “The state auditors told us that we’re the model agency for the state of Delaware for accreditation. That’s definitely because of us having Lexipol and being able to show that our policies are in place, they’re easy for the officers to find, and the officers were able to answer the auditors’ questions about policy.”
The SPD is moving forward on its journey away from small-town thinking, transforming growing pains into tangible progress. “Lexipol has moved us in a different direction,” Chief James says. “It’s helping us solidify that we’re a legitimate department, with policies and training in line with leading agencies across the country.”