Picture this: Your agency is implementing a community review board for your policy manual. You know it’s a great way to engage community members, build trust and better understand the needs of your community. But with no real guidelines, it has the potential to cause more problems than it solves. Without right expectations and processes, committee members and the community as a whole can become disillusioned with the process and feel as though the department lacks transparency and accountability – when the purpose of the review board is to encourage and support those very things.
As community review of police policy grows in prevalence as a solution to customize policies based on community needs and drive police-community engagement, an effective process is essential. Why? An established and effective process allows community review boards to be applied with consistency in expectations and execution. With a streamlined process in place, departments and communities will ultimately see greater success.
Choosing What Policies to Review
The first question you need to wrestle with when conducting a community review board: Should you review every policy in the manual? Lexipol’s policy manual includes 170 law enforcement policies – many of which committee members are likely not particularly interested in. It probably doesn’t make much sense to review policies on emails, sick leave and other less community-centric topics. Take some time up front to establish what policies will take the stage in community review board discussions. Outline key policies you think are important for the committee to review, provide members with the table contents for your policy manual, and see if there are any others they believe are pertinent to discuss.
A solid process ensures that community review of police policy will be effective in accomplishing the goals of building trust, improving policies to fit community needs, and increasing transparency, accountability and community engagement.
Commonly reviewed policies include:
- Use of force
- Control devices
- Handcuffing and restraints
- First Amendment assemblies
- Fitness for duty
Doing this will set clear expectations for all involved and demonstrate a dedication to transparency to committee members. In turn, this will foster greater trust with the public and result in policies that agency leaders, officers and the community have bought into.
The Policy Review Process
From the get-go, establish a policy review process for the clarity of agency leaders, committee members and officers. A solid process ensures that community review of police policy will be effective in accomplishing the goals of building trust, improving policies to fit community needs, and increasing transparency, accountability and community engagement. A solid policy review process includes policies and recommendations moving between the primary work group, the citizen review committee, the chief executive, and officers and staff.
The primary work group, which reviews all policies, should consist of command staff, legal representatives and other subject matter experts who work within the agency. After the primary work group reviews and customizes the policy manual, the selected policies should be sent to the citizen review board, where members provide recommendations based on their varying perspectives. Then, the policies return to the primary work group, which reviews the recommendations, making changes and providing feedback to the community review board. Finally, the policies go to the chief executive to be reviewed and finalized before being distributed to all personnel.
Community review of police policy is a powerful tool in the future of policing and gaining community buy-in. Setting the right expectations through process development is an important step to ensure your community review board gets off on the right foot and leads to greater safety, professionalism, trust and transparency.