How to Improve a Police Department

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One of the challenging tasks faced by the administration of a police department is that of turning around a disreputable department and instilling a productive law enforcement environment that inspires confidence in both the law enforcement community and the citizenry it protects and serves.

How to Improve a Police Department

  • Establish a no-nonsense approach to cleaning up corruption within the department. Rooting out corruption can be accomplished by putting in place a clear line of communication with the citizenry so as to enable the reporting of corrupt police behavior without fear of retribution. Establish an internal affairs investigative process that is governed by a set of internal controls to ensure investigations are handled in a fair and transparent manner. Act aggressively on actionable investigative findings. These processes will serve as a strong deterrent to corruption and result in renewed confidence in the department by its citizens.

  • Once you have a mechanism in place to deter corruption, put in place a series of clear, performance-related benchmarks in order to have a method to analyze and chart improvement. These benchmarks will also provide the department's employees with a set of firm guidelines by which they can gauge their performance, and have security in knowing that they are meeting the expectations of the department's administration. Examples of these benchmarks might be a targeted lower crime rate, a number of successfully conducted community policing projects, reaching a goal of positive community feedback indicators, or establishing a target number of visual impressions per person of patrol units patrolling their neighborhoods.

  • Develop a merit-based reward system to provide incentives for performance and encourage improvement. Put in place broad-based criteria which enables all department employees to have opportunities to achieve a merit-based reward. Ensure that the criteria are strongly tied to the benchmarks mentioned earlier, as a poorly administered merit system can result in charges of favoritism and actually worsen morale.

  • Finally, conduct a public-relations campaign to highlight the new improvements and publicly acknowledge the successes of the department employees who advance in the merit system and encourage additional community feedback. This public-relations campaign will encourage the employees to continue to perform in a superior manner and will inform the citizens about their successes, which should build goodwill within the community.

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