The Marshall Police Department is an agency that has existed and served the City of Marshall, Texas for over 126 years. As the current Chief of Police, I am the first outside that has overseen the agency. I came from an agency in West Texas in a community that has a daytime population of a million people. To maintain a high quality of life for the citizens that we serve and protect we must ensure that the formulation of our policies is in agreement with best practices. My former agency was accredited by CALEA.
Since I arrived in Marshall, Texas as the new PoliceChief, I found that the current policies had not been updated in eight years. The first thing that I did was to look at beginning the process to get the Marshall Police Department accredited with CALEA. After looking into what it would take to do such a thing for my current agency I discovered that it would not be cost effective for my agency to do such a thing. I found out that the Texas Police Chief's Association has a program called Texas Best Practices Recognition Program. This program is designed to mirror the CALEA program but designed specifically for policing agencies in the State of Texas. It is my goal that after we obtain the Best Practices Recognition that my City Manager will allow me to obtain the CALEA accreditation.
My agency does not use any private entity (i.e. LEXIPOL) to assist with the formulation process. I am a member of the Texas Police Chief's Association, and my agency is currently going through the recognition process; therefore, we are allowed to use the blueprint that they have to formulate our policies. We also use PMAM policy management system to ensure that they are pushed out and read by the staff. This system also allows us to test our employees to ensure that they are reading the policy.
The Marshall Police Department has just recently come into light with the 21st century. The department up until know would take a regular word document and make it into a memo or what they call a dear Chief letter. I was at a loss for words when I first arrived in Marshall. We have since formatted all of our general orders, special orders, and memorandums. We are using a simple number system for each order or directive that we push put. They are listed first by the last two numbers of the year followed by the number of the month, and the number of the order or directive that has been issued that month (i.e. 16-05-01).
In my agency are critical tasks, high-risk directives are not classified by the seriousness of the subject. We have what we call directives which are sent out every time that policy is affected. In other words, if I need to send out a policy revision or change then it goes out in a directive. When I directive goes out people know that it must be important because a policy or rule has changed. A memo is used when some form of information needs to be sent out to address an issue such as an assignment change. If I a certain Sargent will be going on vacation he will send out a memo letting staff know that how long he will be gone for and who will be left in charge of his command. In a way I guess we do classify them by the seriousness of the subject manner.
When training is required on directives that we put out we most, certainly do provide training. The majority of our directives involve some policy change; therefore, our staff is required to read the policy and then take a small exam via the PMAM system. When we first instituted the PMAM system all staff members were required to attend a training session on how to use them. I also have mandated training that is required by a directive where officers must attend class to gather the knowledge that I am requiring.
As I have mentioned above our review process for Directives and changes to policy are done by addressing them and comparing them to the recommendations of the Texas Best Practices Review process. Even after policies have met the required checklist of items through Texas Best Practices we submit them to our legal adviser to obtain a final opinion from him. Directives are scrutinized from the start of the creation of the document by the police chief who has ordered that such document is created. Then it is sent to our Office of Professional Standards to ensure that they meet with Best Practices, and are then sent to our legal section for a final review. All of our directives and policies are reviewed every 18 months to ensure that they continue to meet with best practices.
I would have to say that the biggest concern that I have with the directive process is that I truly have no real idea if the officers and staff are reading and absorbing the material in real time that it will allow them to recall such information when needed. They say that adults learn by repetition; therefore, lies the question do I need to keep sending out the policy over and over to ensure that the officers are retaining the material? This event could become rather costly.
An agency head can make the formation of directives and policies as hard or as easy as they want it to be. I have found that policing is not a new science and therefore does not require us to reinvent the wheel. It does oblige us to make modifications and improvements to it from time to time. I have found that the best way to do this is by participating in an international, national, or state best practices recognition process. By doing this, an agency head is ensuring that they are minimizing the amount of liability that they are facing. I have found that the more I can minimize the amount of liability I bring to my agency by providing easy but comprehensive polices and training the better off we all are.