Early Warning Systems for Officer Performance (EWSOP)
Studies have pointed out that a few officers in any police department are largely responsible for most of the citizen complaints regarding its overall performance. With the help of EWSOP, a data-based police management tool, supervisors can readily identify such officers, intervene with them, often through counseling or training, and further track their subsequent performance (Walker, Alpert, & Kenney, 2001). Law enforcement agencies are increasingly adopting such programs to reduce police officer misconduct. Effective adoption of the program will encourage improved behavior of supervisors and the identified officers, resulting in improved officer performance and reduced citizen complaints.
The EWSOP is comprised of three basic phases, namely; selection, intervention, and the post intervention monitoring. Selection in the first phase involves identifying officers to be included in the program. Although, they lack any established standards for officer selection criteria, law enforcement agencies generally use performance indicators to identify officers exhibiting problematic behavior that requires intervention. Citizen complaints as an indicator for selecting officers to be included in the program focuses on the number of complaints issued within a specific timeframe (Gaines & Worrall, 2011, p. 445). It starts with the setting of a standard citizen complaint level for all officers. When the number of citizen complaints regarding a particular officer exceeds the set threshold, the officer will be identified and selected for the program. The second critical indicator for selection is the firearm discharge and the use-of-force reports. Officers exhibiting threatening behavior in the use of firearms and unreasonable force in the course of duty are often included in the program. The level of professionalism exhibited by officers when dealing with resisting arrest incidences is another important indicator. An aggressive behavior by officers in addressing such in incident does not demonstrate professionalism in law enforcement. Officers exhibiting aggressive behaviors have higher chances of being selected for the programm. Cases of civil litigation due to integrity issues can be an indicator for an officer’s selection. Finally, the number of high-speed pursuits and cases of vehicular damage can determine an officer’s performance competency. Officers involved in disproportional high-speed pursuits and vehicular damage, or unacceptably low activity levels can be easily identified and selected for the program.
The second phase for the EWSOP is intervening with the identified officer exhibiting problematic behavior. Since the primary goal of the program is to change the officer’s problematic behavior affecting performance, the intervention strategy would combine deterrence and education. The deterrence approach is based on the assumption that officers subject to intervention would definitely change their problematic behavior when issued with potential punishment threats. The educational approach is based on the assumption that conducting training or counseling will help the identified officers improve their performance (Siegel, 2010, p. 291). The initial intervention efforts are often undertaken by the officer’s immediate supervisor. The first step in determining the appropriate intervention is identifying the existing intervention actions to assess their suitability in changing the officer’s behavior. The second step involves identifying other possible intervention measures that are not presently in existence within the organization, and ascertain the need for their adoption to address the issue at hand satisfactorily. The intervention measure should be assessed carefully before adoption to minimize unintended consequences, for instance, worsening the problematic behavior that required intervention in the first place. This can be achieved through the adoption of problem-specific intervention strategies.
Post-intervention monitoring as the last phase it involves tracking the identified officer’s subsequent performance to determine the efficacy of the initial intervention efforts (C. Bartol & A. Bartol, 2012, p. 67). Its scope depends on the resources available in the department. While the informal monitoring can be undertaken by the officer’s immediate supervisor, some departments have designed formal monitoring processes involving close observation, evaluation, and reporting. The monitoring systems adopted should be supported by the department’s management structure (centralized or localized), although they can vary with the intervention measures used. Centralized intervention monitoring systems have proved to be more efficient in law enforcement. While outcomes measures for counseling-based interventions can be both subjective and objective, those monitoring outcomes of training programs are highly objective, for instance, the assessment results.
Combining the intervention and management phases under one centralized structure can improve the early warning system’s efficacy in changing problematic behaviors affecting the performance of law enforcers. The reason for this is that monitoring is normally required before any intervention is implemented, as it establishes a baseline measure that will facilitate measurement of the officer’s performance changes. The increased integration of these two phases would make the administrative processes more efficient, thereby facilitating the continued improvement of the intervention process. An effective EWSOP is a complex and high-maintenance activity demanding considerable investment of administrative resources. Therefore, the systems’ success is based on serious dedication to accountability. However, it has been identified as one of the most effective management tools for improving officer performance, leading to improved law enforcement. EWSOP should be used together with other management tools to enhance the performance of officers, and further improve the quality of services issued by law enforcement agencies.
Bartol, C. R., & Bartol, A. M. (2012). Introduction to forensic psychology: Research and application. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications.
Gaines, L., & Worrall, J. (2011). Police administration. New York: Delmar Cengage Learning.
Siegel, L. J. (2010). Introduction to criminal justice. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
Walker, S., Alpert, G. P., & Kenney, D. J. (2001). Early warning systems: Responding to the problem police officer. US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice.