How agencies can identify potential risks before they become lawsuits
This cloud-based solution uses artificial intelligence to assess risk potential, track remediation and avoid escalation
Sponsored by Tyler Technologies
By Laura Neitzel for PoliceOne BrandFocus
In 2016, the Detroit Police Department was finally released from two federal consent decrees stemming from a series of complaints about excessive force, illegal arrests and improper detention.
The reform measures took 13 years and over $50 million dollars.
That is a position that no police agency wants to be put in, but every police agency is at risk of. Despite the case that the vast majority of police officers go above and beyond to make sure they are upholding the public trust, one claim for excessive force or officer misconduct can devastate lives, city budgets and community relations.
“The public entrusts law enforcement officers to carry and use lethal weapons with skill, discretion, and wisdom. That trust also demands that local governments and law enforcement agencies, from executive leadership to rank and file, take responsibility for ensuring that the necessary policies, procedures, training, hiring, accreditation, review, supervision, and support are in place and consistently applied.” – The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS)
To be honest, it’s a lot for any leadership team or supervisor to keep track of: making sure all policies and procedures are followed to the letter, all officers are up to date on training and accreditation, hiring practices are sound and officers have the financial, emotional and mental health support they need to uphold their oaths and do their jobs effectively.
Police are held to a higher standard
Police officers are held to a higher standard – they are expected to protect the public, not put it more at risk. Police “actions should reflect a standard of professionalism and skill that ensures equal protection and equal treatment under the law,” as the COPS report on Risk Management in Law Enforcement makes clear.
That can be a high bar to meet, especially when you consider the extraordinary demands placed upon police officers. In the normal course of their job, officers can be exposed to gruesome accidents and crime scenes, child and domestic partner abuse and other horrors that can lead to post-traumatic stress. Police officers also endure the normal stressors of family life and extreme ones like divorce, loss of a parent or financial difficulties. Any of these factors can an affect an officer’s physical, emotional and psychological well-being, job performance and decision-making ability.
The combination of stressed-out police officers and the high-risk critical tasks that they undertake on a daily basis creates possibilities for missteps and lawsuits. With the proliferation of video and social media, chances are good that someone will notice.
“Intuitively, all police chiefs recognize the negative impact cumulative stress has on overall department performance, the conduct of individual officers and the physical and mental health of officers,” said Charles T. Craft, former Chief of Police of Troy, Michigan and a 39-year law enforcement veteran.
“The problem is not a lack of data that can provide indicators of an at-risk officer,” Craft adds. “The problem is that each data set is contained in a stand-alone system or file cabinet. We have no way to correlate the data, analyze it and present it in a manner that allows police executives to manage their personnel and risk.”
Fortunately, agency leaders don’t have to manage the risks alone – the cloud-based software developed to help Detroit PD can do it for them.
How technology transformed Detroit PD
When Detroit PD was working to make the changes mandated by the consent decree, it turned to local technology entrepreneurs for help. Dr. Jay Harrison and Bo Cheng digitized Detroit PD’s records, connected them and developed a system that would enable the agency to identify, manage, mitigate and avoid future incidents of officer misconduct.
In the first five years after Harrison and Cheng created the software, Detroit PD saw a 62 percent reduction in lawsuits, a 36 percent reduction in citizen complaints and a 64 percent reduction in fatal shootings. It also started saving over $5 million annually in lawsuit payouts.
Realizing that police departments of all sizes could benefit from the solution that transformed Detroit PD, Harrison, Cheng and their partners founded Altovista Technology.
Altovista Technology’s software, Arx Alert, is cloud-based risk management software that helps agencies proactively monitor and identify risks before they become lawsuits. Using artificial intelligence, Arx Alert identifies when an officer has been exposed to or is exhibiting the potential for risk, then guides supervisors through an intervention process to proactively correct the issue.
The software searches across records already maintained by the agency in its normal course of operations, like management systems, computer-aided dispatch systems, training records and personnel records, and correlates factors like citizen complaints, excessive overtime, vehicle pursuits or collisions, officer-involved shootings and civil rights violations.
“Overtime, intake violations and vehicular incidents are prevalent in all police departments,” said Cheng. “These cause lawsuits and cost money just like the more newsworthy issues like improper use of force.”
Arx Alert recognizes these factors, alerts the appropriate staff and manages the intervention process. A supervisor can log in to a customized dashboard to see all officers who report to him or her and any risk potentials are flagged. The dashboard provides a single, holistic view of individual officer activity and can be used to identify agency trends.
The solution also allows the agency to digitally manage, track and document corrective actions taken, so if an agency is challenged in a court of law, it can show steps taken to remediate the behavior and prevent future risk.
“The limits of human capability are not an acceptable defense against the allegations contained in a lawsuit or to justify a job action; data and documentation are,” said Craft.
Common scenarios that signal risky officer behavior
Many police officers routinely supplement their salaries by working extra shifts. Unfortunately, working an excessive amount of overtime on top of an innately stressful job can take a toll. Fatigue and stress can affect how an officer makes decisions, reacts to a threat or interacts with the public.
For example, if Officer Smith has been working excessive overtime and is also the subject of a number of citizen complaints over the same period, Arx Alert may correlate the data and flag Officer Smith as a potential risk, although these are only two of the multiple factors feeding the AI engine driving the decision-making process. The supervisor can then decide whether to restrict overtime, recommend counseling or take other corrective action before the problem escalates.
Arx Alert works with agency partners to define events and conditions that trigger an alert when certain key factors present themselves. For example, if an officer has responded to multiple domestic violence incidents in one shift, that officer’s supervisor would see an alert on the dashboard indicating that the officer might be at risk for short-term post-traumatic stress. The system would also then suggest an appropriate course of action, such as counseling, domestic violence training or temporarily reassigning the officer to another assignment.
Arx Alert can also make distinctions in risk level based on officer rank and position. Multiple use-of-force incidents over several months might not be out of the ordinary for an officer assigned to a gang unit, but would raise alarm for an officer assigned to traffic patrol. Or, if multiple officers assigned to a particular supervisor are involved in a higher-than-average number of use-of-force events, the system might signal a high-risk potential that needs to be addressed by additional training for the officers or the supervisor.
Risk management for all agencies
As a technology partner of Tyler Technologies, Altovista has ensured that Arx Alert integrates with Tyler’s New World Public Safety CAD and RMS systems, as well as Tyler’s payroll, time reporting and other software.
Every law enforcement agency knows that the cost of one lawsuit, one death of a suspect in custody, one breach of public trust or one officer suicide can devastate a community. With an all-in-one risk management software solution that automatically brings attention to potential problems, agencies can avoid lawsuits, save money and save lives.