Choosing Documentation Tools for Holistic Officer Insights and Records

Make sure your compliance and performance management tools support officer careers rather than harm them.

The tools your department utilizes for recordkeeping and compliance are powerful. They can provide courts and the public with definitive evidence of past conduct and tell a compelling story of an officer’s history with a department.

Is the story your records are telling one of only mistakes and not of positive impact?

Documentation tools implemented to cover the bare minimum of compliance will inevitably focus on the negative outcomes that external stakeholders are most worried about. When questions are raised about an officer, you will only have a history of negatives, which falls short of a complete picture.

By adopting a more holistic approach to your documentation tools, you provide a more balanced and honest narrative that can better protect your department and your officers.

The role of document management

To provide a holistic view of an officer’s history, you’ll need to be sure you are tracking all relevant information—ideally in a single, unified system.

Managing the training, certification, evaluation, and performance data attached to each individual employee is a complex but critical objective.

  • In an integrated data system, all performance data—good and bad—is attached to personnel records. This helps you demonstrate that an employee’s file highlights positive achievements and isn’t merely a collection of negatives.
  • Integrated systems provide better legal defensibility when called upon. If an officer is accused of misconduct, your ability to assess their performance in its entirety protects your agency—as well as the officer—from unfair accusations.

Plus, comprehensive documentation assists leaders in preventing situations that may have otherwise led to external investigation or litigation.

  • No technology can take the place of the ongoing guidance you provide at your agency. But comprehensive recordkeeping allows you to track performance at every step, enhancing your awareness and engagement with staff.
  • Having consistent and complete information easily accessible helps you objectively and fairly handle challenges—and defend your decision-making.
  • Especially when paired with an early intervention philosophy, having instant access to complete, standardized records for all officers means leaders can identify patterns that reveal underlying areas that need attention.
  • Increased transparency also shows your officers that you’re working together to track their progress so they can be appropriately guided and rewarded.

Choosing the right tools

Tracking relevant data is made easier with tools designed to help you meet and go beyond compliance needs.

The most effective tools will paint an accurate picture of your personnel

Too often, personnel files reflect the tendency for organizations to document negative incidents without including subsequent improvements and largely neglect to document positives like outstanding performance, awards, and other recognition. Balanced documentation helps those inside your organization and outside parties (including juries) take a more holistic view of your officers.

Multiple use-of-force incidents, for example, might be viewed in court as evidence of an officer who’s prone to violence on the job. However, this information placed alongside documentation that the officer more often de-escalates high-risk interactions may make it clear that the officer is, in fact, assigned to respond to situations likely to become violent due to their exemplary abilities to defuse them.

In addition, your documentation and performance management tools should do the following:

  • Account for your agency’s unique needs and challenges
  • Keep an employee’s documentation in a single, secure place
  • Anticipate what you’ll need to maintain legal defensibility

How you use the tools matters as well

By fully investing in your staff’s success from day one, you begin to build a two-way relationship centered around transparency, consistency, and mutual support.

Leaders can use early intervention techniques to initiate and document constructive conversations and provide meaningful feedback to officers—who can address their own concerns with leaders. Minor conflicts and miscommunications can be addressed in this environment before they reach the point of conduct that leads to litigation or internal dynamics that may put leaders and officers on opposing sides.

Comprehensive performance management promotes this kind of relationship by:

  • Laying a detailed roadmap for complete onboarding, training, and professional development over a career
  • Automatically flagging opportunities for discussion and feedback
  • Acknowledging positive behavior and outcomes rather than focusing solely on areas that need improvement 
  • Documenting ongoing improvement by officers
  • Providing employees with the transparency they need to feel empowered and protected
  • Providing leaders with a better understanding of staff transferring into their agency

The outcomes of holistic recordkeeping

Together with engaged leadership and early intervention, documentation and compliance management systems can transform your agency into a more productive and protected workplace.

Your agency is protected, and so are careers.

Incidents of misconduct are minimized, and thorough documentation is readily available for defending yourselves legally. Unfortunate occurrences are put into context and not perceived as part of a pattern of misconduct or incompetence.

A positive, proactive culture emerges

Leaders and officers see themselves as being on the same side, working toward common, trackable goals. Conflicts are handled in a way that results in more harmonious relationships. Remediation of unwelcome behavior is acknowledged and rewarded.

The supportive environment you’ve created fosters leadership among personnel

The complete training your staff receive, coupled with the transparency and accountability you practice at every level, fuels their trust and dedication. Officers who aspire to promotion are confident in their abilities—and the integrity of your agency.



Want to learn more about how early intervention can help protect, support, and retain public safety personnel?

Posted on Oct 28, 2021