Sunday, January 20, 2019
When I started writing this blog, and running a public Facebook page, I didn't expect the kind of behind-the-scenes feedback I get--good and bad-- about law enforcement agencies and leadership.
Living in a state with relatively stringent workplace safety codes, it never occured to me that, in the year 2019, there are still law enforcement agencies that fail to provide bedrock, dealbreaker basics for their officers.
I read a little article on Forbes.com titled "Ten Things Your Employer Should Pay For, Not You" ; it was written for an IT specialist at a financial services firm, but the principle is sound:
If you work for a business, there are expenses that are the responsibility of the business owner, not the employee.
If you work for a law enforcement agency, that principle still applies.
There are normal expenses that are the responsibility of the department- not you- as well.
The problem is that people become accustomed to their own environment, sometimes to the exclusion of reasonable perspective on a bigger issue.
This post is about what's actually reasonable, whether you see it locally or not.
It's not normal for an officer to be poorly equipped, or poorly trained.
It's not reasonable, it's not safe, and it's not acceptable.
Let's begin at the very beginning:
1. Your agency should pay for or issue your sidearm, a shotgun, and either pay for a patrol rifle or permit you to qualify with and carry your own.
2.Your agency should pay for your vest.
Rifle plates are a strongly recommended bonus, in today's new normal of high velocity, high risk.
It can be concealable, or external, but it needs to fit, and it needs to be replaced as it wears.
3. Your agency should pay for a vehicle appropriate to patrol in your beat.
It doesn't have to be new, it doesn't have to be pretty, and the fleet doesn't have to match.
It does have to be equipped with a cage, if you ever transport prisoners. Ever. Like, even once.
4. Your agency should pay for vehicle maintenance. Maybe they can only afford ugly vehicles. That's fine.
Vehicles with bald tires or bad brakes? That's not fine.
Keep it safe, or get it off the road. No excuses.
5. If you are expected to use a cell phone, on or off duty, your agency should pay for that.
Do not use your own cell phone for work-related calls, searches or messaging, even if your agency pays you a stipend to offset costs.
Established case law will permit your personal phone to be searched if there is information pertinent to an investigation, and one side or the other can make a case that the information is needed for court.
Your phone is your phone; don't blur that line.
It's not worth it.
6. Your agency should pay for continuing ed, to meet or exceed your state's POST.
All officers must have regular legal update training, training in perishable skills like EVOC and use of force, and advanced classes to develop them as professionals.
Yes, of course officers need to invest in their own professional development: read, collaborate, take classes.
But the agency's development is on agency leadership, and so are the costs.
Get creative to minimize expenses, but do it.
Share costs with other agencies, send one officer to certify as a trainer and come back to train the rest, piggyback on a bigger department's training, use webinars and online classes. It can be done.
7.Your agency should pay for firearms training. Not qualifications: training. There's a difference.
Getting bodies out on a range to punch a few holes in paper once, or four, times a year, is not adequate.
Low light, crowded environment, weak hand, awkward position--- none of it is intuitive, and you're going to play like you practice. It's far more effective to send one or two senior officers to certify as trainers than send the whole department out. What you spend will make up for itself in reduced liability.
The very first question by an attorney after an OIS is "When did you last qualify?" followed by "Show me your training records."
8. Your agency should pay for practice ammunition.
Confidence and accuracy come only with repetition, and ammo is cheaper than failure.
Officers are far more likely to spend their own time on the range when they don't have to balance the cost of practice against purchasing diapers or groceries.
9. Your agency should pay for individual first aid kits (IFAKs), including tourniquets-- at least two TKs per officer.
Of course, this includes the training to go with them.
I don't ever, EVER want to hear again that an officer bled out from an extremity because someone above his paygrade wanted to save $40.
10. Your agency should pay for communications equipment that works.
That means dispatch consoles, portable and in-vehicle radios, and the repair or replacement of repeaters.
If you can't get help, or information, because you're THAT far from coverage, that's life.
If you can't get help or information because your comms fail that's... just failure
There's more--there's always more. But these are the basics.
Meeting a basic standard is within reach, and it's a reasonable expectation, for both an officer deciding whether to stay with your current agency, or a boss calculating whether your department is meeting the mark.
This isn't the Old West, even if you live in cowboy country, and we don't just wing this stuff anymore.
21st century law enforcement is a profession.
To be professional means standards and high expectations, from the agency, from the officer, from the public.
To hire, train and retain professional officers will mean time, money,and effort.
It will pay off in better morale and confidence among your officers,better applicants, improved officer safety, reduced liability, and better relationships with the public.
If your agency isn't there yet, find one that is and ask them how they got there.
Then, do the thing. All the things.