The Farmingdale State College is part of the State University of New York (SUNY) campus system. Its 16 sworn officers protect nearly 10,000 students.
The 16 sworn officers of the Farmingdale State College State University of New York Police Department cover a lot of ground. They protect a 380-acre campus that hosts nearly 10,000 students in a metropolitan area. Unlike many small New York police departments, the department operates 24 hours a day. And although it is part of the SUNY system, the department operates largely independently.
“We’re like a small city,” says Chief Marvin Fischer. “The university system is decentralized. We have a commissioner and a deputy commissioner and occasionally we receive guidance from systems administration. But each of the 30 campus police agencies is autonomous.”
That autonomy extends to the department’s policies. “There are some standardized policies that administration will send out, such as uniforms and conduct, and there is a central bargaining unit,” Chief Fischer says. “But there’s no direct line of control.”
So when Chief Fischer set a goal of achieving New York State Law Enforcement Accreditation (NYSLEA) for his department, he knew he’d be on his own. And the department’s policies were not in great shape. “Our policies were old, outdated, and pretty much had been written on an as-needed basis,” Chief Fischer says. The department needed a way to get its policies aligned with the 110 NYSLEA standards—and an efficient way to get them disseminated to staff.
Lexipol’s New York Law Enforcement Policies and Training service proved to be a good fit to meet the Farmingdale State College Police Department’s policy challenges. The service provides about 155 New York specific policies aligned with the NYSLEA standards, as well as an electronic platform that facilitates dissemination and tracking.
Chief Fischer had heard about Lexipol through his activities with the Accreditation Council, which oversees the NYSLEA program. He currently serves as Council chair, a position appointed by the governor. “The research that was done on the Lexipol policies, the use of both federal and state law, gave us a lot of confidence,” he says. “Knowing that the policies had been vetted, the documentation was there—we knew the effort and time that had gone into creating the product.”
The Lexipol system also allowed the Farmingdale State College Police Department to customize the policies to fit their needs and address the specifics of law enforcement in a campus setting. “We understood going into the project that we were going to want to do some customization,” Chief Fischer says. “For that reason, back-end support was also important. Lexipol offers options to help agencies get started.”
Department members attended a few group meetings Lexipol’s Professional Services team held to assist New York law enforcement agencies with adopting the new policies, and they took advantage of phone support to learn how to use Lexipol’s Knowledge Management System. But the department handled the bulk of the implementation project on their own.
Delegation was key. Chief Fischer put the assistant chief in charge of the project and empowered him to review and edit the policies and get them out to the officers. “Have a strong person to manage the project and understand that it’s going to take a period of time,” he says. “You don’t just sign on and download the policies and go. It takes a commitment on the department’s part, but once you’ve bought in, it’s easy to maintain.”
Using Lexipol’s electronic platform has made it “easier to disseminate information across the ranks,” Chief Fischer says. “I don’t have to worry about whether the officers are accessing the current version of policies, because I know they are. Any time they have a question, they can look up the policies instantly using the mobile app.”
He also underscores the importance of the training component of Lexipol’s subscription service: “With all of the responsibilities of performing the police function on a campus, it can be difficult to get time to train on and review policies. The other part of Lexipol is the Daily Training Bulletins, having the ability to quickly read a scenario and a synopsis of the policy. My officers are getting refreshed on techniques and procedures they don’t normally do.”
The system also provides insight into whether officers have completed training bulletins and acknowledged policies. “There’s one place to look to see who’s done the work and who hasn’t—an audit trail,” Chief Fischer says.
In addition to these immediate benefits, Chief Fischer notes that Lexipol has helped position the department for a long-term goal: “Hopefully by this time next year, we’ll be a fully accredited police agency—using Lexipol as the basis to get there.”