Leveraging Data to Enhance Leadership
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Leveraging Data to Enhance Leadership

By Hugo McPhee, Director of Public Safety, Three Rivers Park District

Hugo McPhee, Director of Public Safety, Three Rivers Park District

Certainly, in the post-Covid-19 era, there have been new challenges for law enforcement leaders, but the added civil unrest occurring throughout many parts of the country have added to the stresses of an all ready overburdened criminal justice system. The presidential election promises to take on heightened awareness as not only campaign stumps requiring a police presence will be prevalent across the country, protests and counter-protests, as well as the potential for post-election demonstrations or civil unrest, will need to be planned for to safeguard the populace.

Law enforcement has historically relied on data trends to respond to criminal activity, and thoughtful leaders have further leveraged data, to the extent possible, to predict future crime trends and craft a response to mitigate or deter criminal activity. Failure to do so in these challenging times will undoubtedly result in damage to or loss of property and an enhanced risk to personal safety.

Most larger agencies have in place crime trend analysis professionals who meticulously pore over reports or use software to discern developing crime trends. Other agencies have designated staff to listen to “chatter” from social media sites. Protest groups are becoming increasingly covert in sharing information amongst followers relating to staging areas, equipment needed for the protest, and even the implementation of make-shift ambulances for protesters who may get injured during the confrontation.

Role of Social Media

If your police agency does not currently have a platform on social media sites, I urge you to consider using social media as tools to enhance public relations, gauge growing community satisfaction or unrest, and monitoring future demonstrations impacting your organizations or communities. The need for monitoring Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, MarcoPolo, special interest blogs, anti-establishment websites, etc. is real, and you need to staff and plan accordingly for community activist events- planned and unplanned.

If your community is situated in or near one of the many civil unrest hotspots across the country such as Minneapolis, Portland, Atlanta, Chicago, and others, realize that events occurring in one locale will most assuredly have a cascading effect in others. For example, the Minneapolis officers involved in the George Floyd incident go to trial in early March. Presumably, verdicts will be announced in late March.

As law enforcement leaders, we need to anticipate that there will be protests supporting or condemning whatever the verdicts are, and there will be the risk of property damage during any resultant demonstrations. Pro active planning should be occurring now to best prepare an appropriate and measured response for your community.

How Technology Can Help

Scheduling and RMS

Whether you rely on scheduling software to best utilize current staff complements or you manually implement a scheduling system, many agencies in the Covid era have placed staff on 12-hour shifts and minimize face-to-face interactions with co-workers as well as citizens to minimize the risk of influenza exposures. Certain low-level calls are handled via the phone or are not responded to at all, as in the case of certain medical calls- relying instead on local EMS services to handle. Also, rather than reporting to a central main office, officers are deployed to make-shift satellite offices, which further mitigate face-to face interactions. Vehicle transports of citizens or arrestees are also discouraged.

“As law enforcement leaders, we need to anticipate that there will be protests supporting or condemning whatever the verdicts are, and there will be the risk of property damage during any resultant demonstrations. Pro active planning should be occurring now to best prepare an appropriate and measured response for your community”

Additionally, call management software in your record management system (RMS) coupled with scheduling software can help you put staff resources in those places at required times when services are most needed when crimes or calls for service may be at their highest- typically afternoon and early evening hours in many locations.

Vehicle Monitoring

Not with-standing the immediacy and necessity of a Covid response and pending civil unrest issues, technology can help Chiefs and Directors of Public Safety monitor existing staff behaviors that historically expose us to high liabilities like driving police vehicles en route to a variety of calls.

Fleet metrics is one tool that sends an email and a text as well as a mapped location when a vehicle is being driven beyond pre-set conditions such as high speed, heavy braking, excess idling, etc. Monitoring the behind the scenes vehicle dynamics, especially when shared with officers upfront and as a preventative tool and early warning system, has a predictable and identifiable improvement in officer and citizen safety and, most importantly, helps drivers to eliminate bad driving habits before a tragedy occurs from driving too recklessly or cavalier when on patrol or en route to calls.

Early Warning Human Resources Software

Lastly, it is incumbent on law enforcement leaders to provide support and monitor staff mental health via early warning systems designed to alert supervisors as well as officers in a positive pro-active fashion of trending psychological issues or growing impatience or uses of force against citizens. Whether you conduct mandatory mental health check-ins for the officers (check-up from the neck-up) or some other proactive screening to work collaboratively with stressing officers, it is important that we provide staff with the tools to be healthy- both physically and mentally.

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