What Coming Police Reform Means for Federal Agencies

With a strong focus on police reform expected from the new Biden administration, federal law enforcement agencies can anticipate new policy, programs, and directives focused on training, reporting, and personnel management.

Without defined guidance, most organizations are waiting to change practices and systems. However, some proactive organizations are preparing now for anticipated changes.

New training initiatives

One thing we can be sure of is new training demands for law enforcement, especially for procedural justice, implicit bias, or mental health.

This cascade of new training will tax organizations already challenged by COVID-19 and attrition.

Police reform training directives will be more manageable for federal agencies that are equipped to efficiently distribute policies and systematically roll out new training.

Creating modern de-escalation, use-of-force, or misconduct training in accordance with the JUSTICE Act (also known as the Justice in Policing Act) will require:

  • New content
  • Policy audits
  • Legal reviews
  • An actionable timetable for implementation

The residual health crisis and its training culture shift will likely cause a significant portion of training to be designed for a distributed or virtual environment.

Further standardization of training

Federal law enforcement organizations have long derived and enforced their own standards in accordance with professional standards commonly accepted and aligned to their mission.

However, there are now calls for a baseline federal standard for law enforcement.  

Some prevailing or de facto standards already exists—such as FLETC’s FLETA-accredited CITP that many agencies require special agents to complete before assuming law enforcement duties.

Yet, lawmakers and their constituents are currently looking for greater accountability.

Some have even gone as far as suggesting the establishment of a Federal POST to establish, monitor, and enforce a core standard.

Though extensive, detailed standards are unlikely, leaders should consider the possibility of a small core of stringent, baseline requirements. Such standards would cause logistical hurdles for agencies as they wrestle with the transition.

Federally mandated use-of-force and decertification reporting

Considerable discussion has also revolved around mandating and standardizing reporting to the FBI’s National Use-of-Force Data Collection and establishing a similar database for decertification, such as IADLEST’s National Decertification Index (NDI).

Many already use and/or contribute to these databases, but the voluntary nature of these databases means that organizations are inconsistent in their use and participation. For others, liability concerns or union restrictions have also tempered reporting.

The consequence is a data set with significant gaps and reduced utility.

For those agencies who have not automated this type of tracking and data sharing with robust data management systems, these mandates (if they occur) will greatly strain those already dealing with staffing and reporting issues, especially if participation is unfunded or becomes a condition of receiving grants.

A drastic increase in record requests

The need for strong data management processes and systems will not stop at just reporting use-of-force incidents and decertifications.

Legislators are already requesting to visit academies to watch and evaluate training. There is a new emphasis on reporting and transparency that is already placing extra burden on law enforcement.

Record requests are increasing in both number and scope. Even more challenging, many of these requests want data cross-referenced with data from many different areas—and those areas might not link together, especially for agencies with siloed or paper-based systems.  

Federal agencies—especially those with federated models of training—must wrestle with a workforce and training team that is geographically distributed across the nation, creating additional challenges to consistent training practices and consolidated recordkeeping.

When record requests are not answered quickly due to antiquated systems or paper processes, the perception of transparency can be damaged. Data may also be incomplete or maintained in a way that is not legally defensible.

For agencies tasked with managing training data across an enterprise, the ability of modern technology to aggregate data, improve processes, and automate reporting may be worth looking into.


Even without clear mandates, the Biden administration has made it clear that change is coming.

Technology is a means to level the playing field by alleviating the administrative burden on leaders and staff.

Federal law enforcement agencies should equip themselves with tools to help amplify resources and transform their training programs. These processes do not happen overnight.

Agencies that prepare now for the changes ahead by making sure the right systems are in place will ensure they meet their objectives—and have the capacity to tackle anything else that might come their way.

Posted on Apr 22, 2021