Four Steps to Prepare Your Law Enforcement Agency for EIS Legislation

Given the changes that began in 2020, it is no surprise that new legislation impacting law enforcement is now going into effect.

One such example is North Carolina’s Senate Bill 300 (signed into law September 7, 2021). The bill makes many changes to the way the state’s law enforcement operates with the purported goal of building a more fair, evenhanded, and diverse police force.

Most notably, the bill requires N.C. law enforcement agencies to implement an early warning system (EWS), also known as an early intervention system (EIS), “to identify and correct officers who use excessive force or other misconduct.” This makes North Carolina the eighth state in the U.S. to enact such a requirement.

The bill brings significant changes for many NC-based law enforcement agencies, which must quickly respond technologically and culturally.

More broadly, though, this bill is indicative of a greater trend.

It is highly likely that most states will soon pass similar legislation requiring early warning or intervention systems—or that federal legislation on the matter may push all agencies to implement similar tools.

What you can do in advance

These four steps can help your law enforcement agency better prepare to comply with new requirements and needed capabilities.

Step 1: Implement an EIS/EWS

Implementing a tool that will support the system you’ve envisioned doesn’t happen overnight.

The further you can get through the process before a law is signed, the less disruption there will be to your operations and the better your implementation will be. Starting early will give your stakeholders the time they need to think through the impact of the system.

Whichever system you end up choosing, make sure it meets the following standards:

  • Easy integration with existing software platforms: You don’t want to disrupt your tech stack to implement your warning system, so get one that works with the tools you already use.
  • Customizable metrics and thresholds: A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work in a workplace as uniquely detailed as a law enforcement agency. What works for one police department might not work for yours.
  • Support for cultural change: When your tools support your agency’s desired changes instead of forcing changes, your agency prospers.

Step 2: Document daily tasks

Early intervention systems work best when there is consistent and detailed documentation.

Without solid documentation practices, common practices like annual performance reviews can leave both the reviewer and the reviewee wondering, “How can events from nearly a year ago be recalled accurately?”

While a functional agency will always document major points in an officer’s career (be it an act of bravery, a disciplinary warning, or a promotion), ongoing tracking of daily interactions gives the agency a more granular view of what their people are doing. This allows for review and improvement year-round, not just during formal performance reviews.

Improved documentation makes it easier to make the right decisions about officers—allowing your EIS to become a great tool to supplement supervisor interaction instead of overriding it.

Step 3: Shift your culture to one of documentation

Supervisors should be the spearhead of the cultural change you hope to create. By noting good, bad, and generally “noteworthy” incidents in day-to-day operations, they give officers themselves an impetus to use your early intervention tools in their day-to-day working lives.

Positive encouragement and “early recognition” are solid ways to encourage this sort of behavior on the organizational level.

Training and education can further increase the cultural impact.

Use training on the new tools to create excitement and explain, in exacting detail, new expectations. Whether you’re doing it to stay compliant or to provide better service to the communities you keep safe, it’s essential to let the people generating the documentation know just how important it is.

Step 4: Meet the standards of CALEA accreditation

Laws requiring early warning systems are not the last upheavals your agency will face. The issues that lawmakers and taxpayers are hoping to solve will not be solved solely by implementing a single software system.

One of the best ways to ensure that you are not scrambling to meet new compliance regulations is to become accredited through an organization such as CALEA (The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement). The standards they require are above and beyond what is legally necessary in order to guide the creation of more efficient and capable departments. Often, accreditation bodies will recommend standards years before any legislation does.

If you have a goal of becoming accredited, you will want your early intervention system to meet the standards set forth by your accrediting body.

CALEA, for example, requires early intervention systems to meet the following:

“If an agency has an EIS, a written directive establishes a Personnel Early Intervention System to identify agency employees who may require agency intervention efforts. The directive shall include:

  1. definitions of employee behaviors or actions to be included for review
  2. threshold or trigger levels to initiate a review of employee actions or behavior
  3. a review of identified employees, based on current patterns of collected material, that is approved by the agency CEO or designee
  4. agency reporting requirements of conduct and behavior; e. documented annual evaluation of the system
  5. the responsibility of supervisors
  6. remedial action
  7. some type of employee assistance such as a formal employee assistance Program, peer counseling, etc.”

In other words, a viable system must pay more than lip service to the idea of early intervention to meet CALEA standards.

Since accreditation is integral to many departments and officers, agencies should consider how early intervention systems would function in their workplace and look for tools that hit the mark.

Interested in an early intervention system founded on positive recognition and leadership that meets state legislation requirements?

Posted on Nov 24, 2021