Acadis Legal Defensibility

Acadis Legal Defensibility

With record-breaking legal settlements paid by public entities in recent years, there are several reasons public safety and other government organizations need to implement an enterprise-level training management system built specifically for their industry. Key among these are the needs to protect reputation and budget. While generic learning management systems designed for other types of customers may deliver some types of training effectively, one significant downside is that they are more likely to leave public safety and government organizations inadequately defended from potential lawsuits. The Acadis® Readiness Suite is designed exclusively for public safety and other high risk and liability government organizations as an enterprise-class training management system.

In this modern era, when an agency’s legal readiness hinges on its ability to provide clear and accurate training records, a generic LMS may not provide the records management, security, and audit trail needed for agency records to stand up in court. One problem is that paper records that can be easily altered or destroyed are becoming increasingly questionable and antiquated. Even computer-generated records may not be adequate in court if they aren’t generated by a training management system built specifically for that purpose. As many agencies have learned the hard way, antiquated training documentation leads to liability, which can result in large legal settlements and negative publicity.

This is especially true in law enforcement and public safety. One in five law enforcement officers will be accused of some form of misconduct over the course of their career, according to a Cato Institute study of alleged police officer misconduct. Many of these accusations result in litigation stemming from inadequate training or haphazard training records, known as “failure-to-train” lawsuits, or from substandard hiring and performance evaluation processes, all of which can be addressed through use of the Acadis training management system.

Acadis tracks the full spectrum of training across an employee’s career — from hire to retire — in a digital, replicable, and legally defensible manner, which gives agencies and departments the legal ammunition necessary to fight failure-to-train lawsuits. It provides a proactive means to organize and substantiate training records and potentially avoid court altogether, avoiding negative headlines and saving money that could be spent on resources and staffing. It also provides support for processes to document and ensure appropriate screening of applicants before hiring and compliance with policies regulating employee conduct, as well as performance appraisals throughout their career. In addition to providing an audit trail that proves an agency’s training and performance records are legitimate, Acadis will facilitate and automate training and personnel evaluation processes, ensuring readiness for duty and freeing up resources for mission-critical uses.

In these cases, rather than focusing on whether conduct was negligent, the focus typically becomes whether conduct was reckless or intentional. And, critically for governmental and public safety managers, rather than focusing on what constitutional rights were violated, the focus often turns to policy and training. Managers need a training management system that has been built specifically to provide legally defensible training records.

The Financial Impact of Litigation on Public Safety Agencies

The financial and reputational impact of lawsuits against public safety organizations is easiest to see in some of the largest U.S. cities. Major cities like New York City ($384 million in five years) and Los Angeles ($81 million in one year) have recently experienced record-breaking settlements for alleged police misconduct.

The financial impact can also be seen, though, in small- and medium-sized cities across the country and across public safety disciplines. In Iowa City, Iowa, for instance, a federal jury awarded $4 million in June 2019 to the family of a man who, high on amphetamines, died while resisting officers and being held on the floor of a motel room. The family successfully alleged in court that the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety failed to train its officers on how to avoid suffocating people when restraining them.

In a pending lawsuit in Virginia, a volunteer EMT has sued the Bedford County Department of Fire & Rescue for $30 million. The suit contends that Bedford County does not have adequate sexual harassment policies, and does not adequately review the criminal backgrounds of people working in the department. This, the lawsuit alleges, resulted in the hiring of a violent felon, Larry Scott Hawkins, as an EMT who sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl who was volunteering with goals of becoming a career EMT. Hawkins was later sentenced to three years in prison after pleading no contest to two charges in a plea agreement.

In a widely known case in Ohio, the City of Cleveland paid a $6 million settlement to the family of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was playing with an airsoft pellet gun when police officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback drove up to him at a recreation center. Loehmann, a trainee officer, shot Rice twice within two seconds of arriving.

This case was publicly controversial right away. That controversy grew when a grand jury decided not to indict Loehmann despite a judge finding probable cause for charges of murder, involuntarily manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide, and dereliction of duty.

In May 2017, two years after the grand jury declined to indict, the Cleveland Police Department (CPD) terminated Loehmann’s employment, saying information about his job fitness, unearthed following Rice’s death, conflicted with his resume submitted before joining CPD. Among other things, Loehmann’s resume stated that his departure from a previous job was voluntary. In reality, he was offered the option to either quit or be fired after a string of behaviors and incidents called his fitness for duty into serious question.

Documentation Matters

With or without an agency-defining crisis on their hands, public safety agencies of all disciplines are better prepared and protected when their software systems support any data the organization finds relevant, hold it in one spot, and keep it for the length of a given employee’s tenure.

In the example of the Cleveland Police Department’s experience with Loehmann, for instance, documented mistakes by Loehmann’s first agency ran the gamut from minor offenses and bizarre occurrences to egregious actions that would almost certainly lead to termination in other departments. For instance, during state firing range qualifications, Loehmann reportedly had an emotional breakdown on the range, failed to properly secure his service weapon, and removed his bulletproof vest because he was hot. These findings — and the fear of hiring more recruits of such low apparent quality — ultimately motivated the CPD to change their hiring policy. Now, the CPD requests the balance of documents the previous organization can securely share, and thoroughly reviews them before making an employment commitment of any kind.

On its face, this seems like a common sense approach. Consider, however, the challenges an agency might face when asked to collect and disseminate all of its training and employment records for outside review. Incompatible digital systems, not to mention the paper-based processes still in use in many departments, present a number of information-sharing roadblocks. Often, by the time important information reaches the requesting agency, the hiring agency has already had to make a decision.

Resolving Personnel Woes with a Centralized Approach

Unfortunately, in the public sector, this situation is most prevalent amongst law enforcement agencies. Once a minor problem in regions of the US, a full-blown policing personnel shortage has withered headcounts and led desperate managers to be somewhat less selective. When the only other option is to accept a smaller budget, there seems to be little choice. While most subpar officers presumably do not end up in situations similar to Loehmann’s or that of Larry Scott Hawkins at the Bedford County Department of Fire & Rescue, there is also no question that less-than-stellar public safety officers — and occasionally, totally unqualified ones — end up in positions with life-and-death responsibilities. Such situations lead to damaged reputations and erosion of the public trust.

Better documentation is not a failsafe, but the examples presented here show how it can be of service in avoiding a bad hire. Why employ a different system for each organizational unit when each could instead share all relevant data in one technical solution? This solution offers a lot of utility compared to mixed, incompatible systems. For example, Field Training Officers may not see each other’s observations during the weeks of training, but can easily review them when the results are all stored in the same shared training ecosystem. As examples in our FTO whitepaper show, an individual hire, recruit, or even longstanding employee may lack any obvious red flag that makes them unsuitable for the job. With centrally collected knowledge, however, agencies can more easily spot patterns of small problems that might signal a larger issue. Thus, the necessary analysis is more likely to get done.

Bad Hires Are Not the Only Hires

Of course, obvious oversights are not the only way in which problem officers end up back on the job, and they should not be the only reason an agency considers a newer, more centralized system. Better organization, access, and visibility mitigate a number of risks, and enhanced speed and ease of use increase both productivity and savings. The time savings need not be elaborate in order to be worthwhile. With the right tools in place, a comprehensive digital Training Management System can run a report letting superiors know exactly who took a given course, when they last took it, and other pertinent data. Likewise, it can automatically alert supervisors of noncompliant individuals, with a custom message telling them exactly what steps they need to take.

Consider every important document and bit of data generated in a year of work: course logs, test and range scores, performance reviews, and other data pile up fast. With the sheer volume of data generated over an officer’s career, it is easy to see how gaps in an ad-hoc system can quickly become troublesome. Training and compliance records are the types of documentation most often called into question when lawsuits are filed, and judges and juries are rarely tolerant of missing training records destroyed by a burst pipe over a filing cabinet.

Documentation with Acadis

Let us look at the value of using a training management system built specifically for public safety through the experience of a particular agency, the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA – for full customer story, please see ILEA is responsible for training and compliance for all police officers employed by law enforcement agencies in Indiana. Its mission is to prepare law enforcement professionals for service through rigorous, high-liability training to ensure the safety of the officers and the citizens they serve.

In the past, each Indiana police department would manually compile and submit its in-service training paperwork, often via fax or traditional mail. It took four full-time ILEA employees a minimum of four months to sort through the thousands of officer records, verify each officer had completed the required number of training hours to meet the state’s certification requirements, and enter the data into their legacy system. According to Indiana State Police’s annual report, ILEA processed more than 14,000 training records in a year. Manual practices were just not keeping pace with the volume of paper records ILEA was required to process.

Given the high liability associated with the law enforcement profession, it was of vital importance for ILEA to establish a secure system of record that would track every officer’s lifelong learning record —including test scores from basic training to annual in-service courses —in a legally defensible manner. With the high volume of training functions ILEA manages, along with the nation’s need to increase homeland security in every state, Indiana’s force must be prepared to handle everything from suicide bombing incidents to suspicious packages and substances. A comprehensive system became necessary to ensure that all officers were being trained according to up-to-date policies to handle these complex threats.

Envisage Technologies’ Acadis® Readiness Suite®, a web-based enterprise resource-planning system, was the obvious solution. Designed specifically to address the needs of the public safety community, the system was a strong fit for the requirements. The Acadis Training Management System and Registration modules provide ILEA with the ability to create classes and publish them to the Acadis Online Registration Portal. The Portal enables remote access to view scheduled classes, manage officer registration, report in-service training events, and view officer training history to confirm the compliance status required for recertification in ILEA’s numerous training programs.

Acadis is designed to rigorous federal and military security standards, ensuring the integrity of officer records. The In-Service training module and the Online Registration modules are fully integrated and designed to track lifelong learning records for every officer in the force. ILEA now has a framework that allows the state to proactively manage officer compliance, enabling it to drastically reduce its processing costs.

Acadis captures and compiles each ILEA officer’s training and certification records throughout his or her career. Real-time access to this data gives Indiana police departments and law enforcement executives the ammunition they need to request funding, defend against litigation, and continue to protect the public with a well-trained workforce.

From a liability standpoint, ILEA is better prepared and more efficient should a civil litigation suit be brought against an Indiana police officer. Acadis enables defendants and agencies to come to court with detailed, legally defensible training records.

Additionally, from a preparedness standpoint, ILEA is able to share its secure Acadis database with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. This provides for quick identification of emergency responders with specific skill sets and rapid assessment of what kinds of physical resources are available.

By automating its training process with the Acadis Readiness Suite, ILEA now has a valuable tool to ensure a qualified workforce dedicated to meeting its mission: to “provide the most professional, effective and courteous police service possible.”

What Other Agencies Can Do to Protect Their Budget and Reputation

One of the benefits of using Acadis to address legal defensibility and other training management needs and issues is that it is a customizable, modular system that can grow as an agency’s needs change over time. This protects an organization’s budget by allowing it to purchase only those modules it requires at any given time.

Acadis consists of the training management system and a series of supporting software modules, which are configurable to support the full spectrum of training operations. These modules work in tandem to support and manage online and classroom-based courses, high-liability training, and complex training, performance management, forecasting, housing, inventory, and other business processes. The modular system provides software to support specific areas of training management across an individual’s career.

If you’d like to schedule a time to speak with an expert about your agency’s current practices, protections, and legal vulnerabilities— as well as opportunities for improvement — please reach Envisage Technologies at 888-333-8324 or [email protected].

Posted on Feb 26, 2020