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5 law enforcement policy trends for 2024

New laws and court decisions mean updated law enforcement policies; here’s an overview of some important topics to watch throughout the year

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Staying abreast of changes to legislation and best practices poses a significant policy challenge for law enforcement leaders.


Due to legislative actions, court decisions and gradual shifts in best practices, terminology and technologies, law enforcement policy is in constant flux. At Lexipol, our subject matter experts are always on the lookout for new developments in federal and state statutes, regulations, case law and accreditation standards to keep our policies current and help protect agencies, officers and the communities they serve.

In 2023, we analyzed over 11,000 pieces of legislation that directly and indirectly impact public safety agencies, leveraging internal resources as well as insights gained from collaboration with numerous departments nationwide. Below are several recent policy trends for law enforcement leaders to consider as they work to align their agencies’ policies with these developments.

1. Child abuse

In 2023, 17 states enacted legislation addressing child abuse, focusing on broadening definitions of abuse and neglect, extending the periods for legally surrendering infants, and updating reporting requirements. For instance, Texas now mandates that officers record oral reports of abuse (with appropriate notifications to the reporter), emphasizing penalties for false statements. Oregon requires law enforcement to inform additional state agencies about abuse allegations in child care centers, while Arizona now mandates immediate forensic interviews for children taken into custody due to exigent circumstances.

These developments represent a renewed effort to protect children and prosecute those who abuse them, and law enforcement policy needs to evolve to accommodate that.

TIP: A child abuse investigation is one of the most challenging tasks a law enforcement officer will face. It’s critical that your agency’s policies stay in step with the latest legislation and remain accessible to your officers as they deal with these complex situations in the field.

2. Sexual assault investigations

In response to the nationwide backlog of untested evidence from sexual assault cases, several states (including Alabama, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, Texas and Washington) passed legislation in 2023 to prioritize sexual assault investigations. Maryland established a reporting regime for sexual assault evidence kits, while Louisiana now mandates testing of every kit received by law enforcement. In Texas, new laws require officers to provide additional information to crime labs after DNA matches, making efforts to collect biological samples from suspects and notifying victims promptly about results.

Regardless of legislative action, communities and victim advocates expect thorough investigations that respect victim privacy. This underscores the importance of reviewing how your officers handle biological evidence and sexual assault investigation procedures.

TIP: Whether or not your state has enacted new laws regarding the processing of sexual assault evidence, it’s worth the time to review and update your agency’s policies in this area.

3. Excited delirium

All too often, patrol officers encounter subjects in mental crisis, many exhibiting symptoms such as profuse sweating, combativeness and the inability to follow commands. Historically, law enforcement used the term “excited delirium” to describe these cases, but controversies surrounding its use prompted major medical and psychological organizations to disavow the term. In 2023, California banned the use of “excited delirium” in police and medical examiner reports, with other states considering similar measures.

Encounters with highly agitated individuals — especially those under the influence of substances — may necessitate immediate medical intervention and restraint. However, using outdated terminology can perpetuate misconceptions and fuel distrust in your community.

Note that Lexipol removed “excited delirium” from relevant policies in 2022 while maintaining guidance for recognizing symptoms and treating such cases as medical emergencies. Further insights can be found on the Lexipol blog in “Excited Delirium: Understanding the Evolution Away from a Controversial Term” and “Understanding Excited Delirium: 4 Takeaways for Law Enforcement Officers.”

TIP: It’s important to review policies regarding the term’s usage, train officers in proper response and reporting, and collaborate with medical examiners to discuss terminology and symptoms associated with severely agitated subjects.

4. Post-traumatic stress

On average, a law enforcement officer will experience 188 critical events over a career. This puts officers at a high risk for post-traumatic stress, both cumulative and associated with a specific event. As municipalities struggle with officer retention and skyrocketing FMLA leave, legislators at both the state and federal level are moving to extend protections.

At the national level, the Public Safety Officer Support Act recently extended benefits under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program to certain public safety officers and survivors who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following stressful situations while on duty. This legislation affects agency policies around line-of-duty death and officer wellness.

On the state level, there are moves to mandate mental health leave following a critical incident (Texas) and to expand mental health resources to more personnel, including retired or separated members (Utah). Addressing wellness holistically, including post-traumatic stress, is becoming a standard practice in law enforcement.

TIP: If your agency doesn’t yet have a wellness program policy, you can use Lexipol’s national policy as a starting point. Remember to incorporate state-specific mandates. Agencies that subscribe to Lexipol’s policy management solution receive state-specific policy guidance. Learn more.

5. Pregnancy protection

New federal legislation, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, strengthens legal protections for employees who are pregnant or nursing. The law mandates that employers provide accommodations for pregnancy-related limitations, barring undue hardship on employees. Unlike previous laws, which require proof of an ADA-qualifying disability for accommodation, this legislation automatically extends coverage to any physical or mental condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.

TIP: Agencies offering modified (“light-duty”) assignments may need to update law enforcement policies to comply with the new requirements. Having a clear and legally sound modified duty policy is crucial for avoiding liability and ensuring fair treatment.

Staying abreast of changes to legislation and best practices poses a significant policy challenge for law enforcement leaders. However, it’s vital for legal compliance, delivering quality service and fostering community trust.

Lexipol’s Content Development staff consists of current and former public safety professionals including lawyers and others who have served as chief, deputy chief, captain, lieutenant, sergeant, officer, deputy, jail manager, PREA auditor, prosecutor, agency counsel, civil litigator, writer, subject matter expert instructor within public safety agencies, as well as college and university adjunct professor. Learn more about Lexipol’s public safety solutions.