March 26, 2019

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Don’t Use Contests or Rewards as an Incentive to Increase Enforcement.

Gordon Graham
Category: Law Enforcement

Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for law enforcement.

A big problem starts to occur when law enforcement officers use a competition to increase enforcement activity. 

Today’s Tip is for law enforcement officers and it deals with contests to see who can make the most arrests or write the most citations. And the short version of the tip is simply: don’t do it.  

Being around law enforcement for as long as I have, I know that cops can be a competitive bunch. Give us a challenge and we will do everything we can to win. We’re always trying to win and losing is not really an option.   

In some situations, a friendly competition can build camaraderie, promote team building, and increase morale. A big problem starts to occur when law enforcement officers, or an agency, use competition to increase enforcement activity. 

The scenario goes something like this:  At the beginning of roll call, the supervisor says, whoever makes the most arrests this week, will get priority in signing up for their choice of assignment or days offOr, I will buy dinner for the officer who writes the most citations or makes the most stops tonight. 

On the surface, this may seem like a decent way to help motivate officers. However, if we take a step back and think about it for just a minute we will realize that can be a bad idea.  

We should be making decisions about enforcement action based on the facts of the situation. Not because we would win a prize or earn bragging rights. Now, I know. You would never do that. Even if you were participating in a contest like that you would still make lawful and ethical enforcement decisions. But, what would be the public’s perception? And what would a defense attorney argue in traffic court?   

The officer did not actually see my client commit that traffic violation. The officer did not really see the driver make that furtive movement. The officer did not really smell that odor of alcohol. The officer was motivated by a desire to win a contest. This desire clouded the officer’s professional judgment. 

Don’t use contests or rewards as an incentive to increase enforcement.  Instead encourage everyone around you to take appropriate enforcement action with one goal in mind: making a positive difference in the community you serve.  

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off. 

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