Nov. 8, 2018 | View as webpage
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As time and technology wait for no one, law enforcement leadership must be agile in how policies are developed and distributed. Volumes of printed documents are a thing of the past, with online access to departmental policies for both officers and community members increasing compliance and transparency. As technology allows for more effective and efficient policy updates, a mindset change is also required to continually address and embrace how evolving circumstances and societal changes drive policy revisions.

Chief Joel Shults, Ed.D., PoliceOne Editorial Advisory Board member and columnist, discusses how the #MeToo movement and social and cultural changes, including fluidity of sexual identity, are reminders for police leaders to review their sexual harassment and equal opportunity policies. Julie Parker, who recently served as director of the Media Relations Bureaus for the Fairfax County and the Prince George’s County police departments, details why LE agencies should include a social media communications policy in their active shooter response protocols.

What policies has your department revised this year? Email me at and share your lessons learned and best practices in policy development and implementation.

Nancy Perry
Editor-in-Chief, PoliceOne

In this issue:
Reviewing police policy under the #MeToo spotlight

By Chief Joel F. Shults

The progress of women in law enforcement is a story that should be preserved for today's police officers. It is also a story of how policy evolves.

Women now retiring after 20 or 30 years of service joined law enforcement when it was a less than welcoming environment that offered slights, inconveniences and even schemes to cause them to fail. In the not too distant past, women were required to wear skirts and little hats, forbidden to make an arrest without a male officer present, or assigned to work only with women or juvenile offenders.

Through lawsuits, federal mandates and persistence, equality in the workplace for women has advanced. While challenges and opportunities for making police agencies reflect the communities they serve still abound, perhaps the profession can be more proactive in policy development, anticipating major social and cultural movements rather than responding to complaints and lawsuits.

Issues of equal treatment are still under the microscope. Most recently the #MeToo movement has raised awareness of sexual misconduct. In the context of other social and cultural changes, including fluidity of sexual identity and LGBTQ awareness, sensitivity to workplace attitudes is a leadership issue that requires forward thinking and collaborative policy-making with subject matter stakeholders in and out of the law enforcement circle.

A good time to review policy

At the very least, police leaders should take a few minutes to review their existing agency policy on issues regarding sexual harassment and equal opportunity.

Comparing policy to behaviors and conversations noted within the ranks is a starting point to assess whether your workplace is one free of sexual harassment. Supervisors must remember that the mere existence of a policy is no protection from liability if behavior that violates the policy is accepted in the workplace. It will always be the accepted and tacitly endorsed behavior that will be considered the real policy, regardless of words on a page in the policy manual.

Items to review include:

  • Are your selection and promotion processes gender neutral in language, practice and outcome?
  • Is there a policy allowing employees to circumvent the chain of command in order to express concerns or complaints about sexual harassment, with clear guidelines for reporting?
  • Does the policy clearly define what sexual harassment is and what it looks like?
  • Does the policy provide for preventive, corrective and disciplinary action for violations of policy?
  • Does training emphasize that what may look like consent to policy-violating behavior and speech may be a product of implicit bias or fear of subtle or explicit retaliation?
  • Does the agency culture include an expectation of peer support and social support of equal treatment?

Simple respect

Establishing a culture of respect and equal opportunity is an ideal worth working toward. Until then, treating others as you would want to be treated is the best rule to live by.

Best practices in police policy development:

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3. Inked cops apply here: In a bid to recruit more candidates, one Texas agency is relaxing its tattoo policy, as tattoos don't "change the professionalism of the man or woman answering that call for service," said the chief.

2. Why retail no-chase policies are a dilemma for police: The Policing Matters podcast hosts, Doug Wyllie and Jim Dudley, discuss how private sector “no pursuit” policies turn a responding officer into little more than a report taker, not an enforcer of the law.

1. Policy trends impacting policing: A new report delivers insights from 250 LE professionals on policy development and review, how they communicate policies to officers, and how to ensure policies are put into practice. Download the report to benchmark your practices.

By Julie Parker

Every police agency should include a social media communications policy in its active shooter response protocols, says media relations expert Julie Parker. In this article, she shares how an agency can ensure timely delivery of information.

A synagogue, a church, a newsroom, nightclubs, shopping malls, grocery stores and schools are just some of the locations where active shooters have committed unspeakable acts of horror. Just as law enforcement continues to train to enhance tactical response to active shooters, it must also train on how to best share information with the public during such incidents.

High-profile, high-stress incidents naturally strike fear and concern among people located closest to the event. Whether they live or work near the crime scene, know someone who does, or are potential victims themselves and hiding from the shooter, they need and deserve to know what’s happening and what to do if the violence directly impacts them.

Law enforcement agencies can ensure timely delivery of information by following these four steps:

1. Post basic facts and any necessary calls for action.

Once the active threat is confirmed through the appropriate internal channels, the PIO or social media specialist should use a social media platform – ideally Twitter – to share basic facts that will not change, and issue any calls for action.

  • Tweet information like: “We are responding to the report of a shooter at Brown Library at First and Main Streets.”
  • A call for action could be to the public at large such as “Please stay away from anywhere near First and Main Streets.” A call for action could also be directed to those inside a building in which someone is shooting such as, “If you are inside Brown Library, shelter in place.” Guidance from your SWAT or Emergency Response Team may help with these instructions to avoid further casualties.
  • Indicate whether there is a threat to the public. If so, urge people to stay indoors, away from doors and windows, or whatever guidance you want to give.

2. Indicate where media should stage.

Reporters will help amplify your message and you want them, ideally, in one central location that provides the PIO access to both the media and to the scene to facilitate the sharing of information.

Using Twitter to tell reporters where to go is imperative as it will be virtually impossible to respond to multiple calls, including multiple calls from a single newsroom in some cases.

3. Don’t risk your agency’s credibility by trying to tell too much too soon.

The number of casualties, the status of the suspect, and whether or how many officers are injured very often changes as an event breaks. Don’t box yourself in. General statements are acceptable early in a crisis such as “Multiple injuries at the scene” or “Multiple injuries, some critical” if you have confirmed this to be true. The numbers and conditions of patients are often wrong in the beginning and, in the case of fatalities, you don’t want to be in the position of saying there were more casualties than there were.

4. Maintain communications.

Continue to use social media to inform the public until the incident is over. This includes what you are telling the media. Don’t rely on the media alone to tell your story. When the incident is over, ensure you share that the suspect is in custody, the building or location has been cleared, and any other pertinent details.

Top tip

When the media shares law enforcement’s message during a crisis, your story gets spread exponentially. As Twitter is the platform most journalists use both for breaking news and to gather news in times of calm, it is beneficial for law enforcement to have a Twitter presence.


It is imperative that officers or deputies sworn to serve and protect remember that doesn’t always mean running toward danger – sometimes it means using the power of social media to serve people what they crave in a crisis: information.

How to manage communications during your next crisis:

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