The Weatherford (TX) Police Department’s 60 sworn officers protect a community about 30 miles west of Fort Worth. The department has been using Lexipol’s policy solution since 2017.
When Lance Arnold was appointed chief of the Weatherford Police Department (WPD) in 2017, he didn’t expect the agency’s policies to be an issue requiring immediate attention. As a Recognized Agency through the Texas Police Chiefs Association (TPCA) Best Practices Recognition Program, WPD had recently passed an independent review of its policies and procedures relating to 168 best practices.
As a result, the WPD’s policies were way ahead others Chief Arnold had seen, but the agency was still facing significant policy-related challenges. “In a lot of cases, our policies didn’t match our practices, and the policies didn’t speak with a single voice,” Chief Arnold says. “The policies had undergone an extensive rewrite as part of the effort to obtain TPCA Recognition, and a lot of them were modeled on policies from other agencies or on the best practices in the program. It created a cut-and-paste feel.”
The third issue was both deep-seated and potentially more destructive. “Our policies were causing a big morale issue for the officers,” Chief Arnold says. “It was a running joke that by the time you showed up at work, you’d violated at least three agency policies. They were widely regarded as unrealistic to follow.” In rewriting the policies, the agency had adopted a lot of “officers shall” and “officers will” language. “We had removed officer discretion from the policies, and that resulted in a lot of officers being written up for a violation when the situation really called for coaching or counseling,” Chief Arnold says. “We needed to put more decision-making power into the hands of the people doing the job every day.”
Having come from an agency that used Lexipol’s Law Enforcement policies, Chief Arnold immediately thought Lexipol could be a solution for the WPD. But he was concerned about getting the implementation right. “My previous agency chose to go it alone when implementing the Lexipol policies, and that caused some setbacks,” he says. And while there was widespread agreement that the policies needed work, Chief Arnold wanted to be respectful of the WPD personnel who had been involved in the original rewrite.
To help the implementation go smoothly, the agency purchased assistance through Lexipol’s Implementation Services. “I think that was probably one of the best things we did other than signing the initial contract,” Chief Arnold says. “Our Lexipol project manager brought a wealth of knowledge based on his previous experience as a police chief and with Lexipol. He did much more than just help us implement the policies; he helped us make key decisions on whether and how we should modify them.”
Another key to a smooth implementation: Lexipol’s Supplemental Publication Service (SPS), which the WPD used to separate and house agency procedures. “A lot of manuals blend policy and procedure together, and the lines become blurred,” Chief Arnold says. “What goes into the record as a policy violation is often a procedural misstep. Lexipol was a big help in getting everyone on board understanding the difference.” The WPD’s policies are hyperlinked to procedures in the SPS, allowing officers to quickly access related content.
Although Chief Arnold had decided early on that the WPD would favor Lexipol policy content if it conflicted with the TPCA Best Practices, there were ultimately few conflicts. “A lot of Texas Recognized Agencies are Lexipol customers,” Chief Arnold says. “Initially we felt it was more important to have good, solid policies. But following our implementation of Lexipol, as we got ready to renew our Best Practices recognition, we realized in a lot of cases the Lexipol policies were exactly in line with the TPCA standards, if not more comprehensive.”
Implementing Lexipol has helped the WPD achieve harmony between practice and policy. The agency’s policies are now concisely written and immediately accessible through the mobile app.
But Lexipol helped the WPD realize a much bigger goal as well. “Bringing Lexipol on board was key to starting to shift the culture,” Chief Arnold says. “We trust officers with a badge and a gun, but we had these policies that took all decision-making and discretion away from them. I wanted to change that culture, to say to the officers, ‘You’re the ones who are going to interact with our customers. You have the discretion to make decisions in line with our mission vision and values.’ Lexipol kickstarted all that.”
The WPD’s experience underscores that policies are much more than “rules” governing daily operations; they are an integral part of the agency’s culture. “Lexipol gave us a chance to reset the clock, to write policies that empower officers to make decisions, trust them to follow the guidelines in place, and support them when they do,” Chief Arnold says