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Should you be publishing police policies online?

Put those policies out there and make them easy to access. We really have nothing to hide

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Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today, I’d like to talk to my law enforcement friends about publishing your agency policies online.

The idea of sharing policy for the world to see might be unnerving. However, doing so creates transparency, educates the public, and illustrates your agency’s commitment to professionalism.

Let’s look at an example. A patrol officer handles a call that results in an arrest. All policies are adhered to, and the arrest is legal. However, the arrestee thinks the officer violated policy. There are three ways this can play out.

First, let’s say the officer works for an agency that requires a public records request to view policy content. It’s highly unlikely the arrestee will choose to navigate the bureaucratic maze to view the policy in question. Instead, they will go on believing that policy was violated during their arrest.

Or, maybe in spite of the red tape, the arrestee submits a records request. In the end, the person gets their hands on the applicable document. It ultimately reveals – you guessed it – that policy was adhered to. But this still costs the agency valuable time.

But there’s a third scenario. What if the officer works for an agency that publishes policy content online? In this case, the arrestee can go to the agency website and check. Lo and behold, facts show the arrest was conducted within agency policy.

Three scenarios, three outcomes. One of the outcomes creates division and mistrust. The other costs the agency valuable administrative time. But the third saves time AND builds trust within the community.

Providing your policies online reduces administrative time from processing public records act requests. It also helps educate the public and creates transparency. So put those policies out there and make them easy to access. We really have nothing to hide. And doing so is a win-win for both your agency and the community you serve.

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Until next time, Gordon Graham signing off.

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Gordon Graham has been actively involved in law enforcement since 1973. He spent nearly 10 years as a very active motorcycle officer while also attending Cal State Long Beach to achieve his teaching credential, USC to do his graduate work in Safety and Systems Management with an emphasis on Risk Management, and Western State University to obtain his law degree. In 1982 he was promoted to sergeant and also admitted to the California State Bar and immediately opened his law offices in Los Angeles.