The path to positive decision-making

Building a framework for your department to overcome challenging situations

By Ari Vidali

Desiring change and identifying what needs to change are often two different things. Change must follow the mission of a department, moving it in a positive direction.

But what is good change? The obvious answer is that good change makes an organization more successful at achieving its mission. But during the anxious, reactive time we find ourselves in, naming and choosing good change can be challenging, especially when multiple stakeholders are involved.

A decision-making framework can help. Departments tasked with major organizational change have worked toward their goals with a combination of policy reforms, training and technology. The goal is to build trust and enhance effectiveness. 

1. Keep outcomes in mind from the start

It’s difficult to face hostile narratives or inconsistent policies. We need to take a wider view of our mission and make sure our policies are in line with best practices and the goals we wish to achieve. When we are clear about our task from a high level, choosing and communicating the right policies and tactics becomes easier. 

Reform starts with clear goals and committed leadership. Do the changes that make sense to you have the support of political and community leaders? Alignment upstream is critical for buy-in downstream. If you haven’t already named the specific changes you want for your department following this wave of social unrest, now’s the time. Setting specific objectives now will pay off when things come together more easily later in the process. 

2. Rethink hiring – and training

A systematic approach is essential. Top-down, goal-directed change should be the plumbline for all of your hiring and training, which are the lifeblood of your organization’s culture, operations and image in the community. Decisions on recruitment, hiring and promotions are stronger when they are derived from solid data and input from the community.

The goal of training is to help translate the mission-driven policies into performance on the job. Overall, policy can be handed down explicitly through instruction and reinforced through the tone and content of the training your agency provides. For example, a revamped use-of-force policy may lay out direct instructions, while your choice of training gives you the tool to hammer on points of emphasis.

How do your hiring and training choices map to the good changes you can implement in your department today?

3. Respect the need for transparency

The mutual respect required for effective community policing is rooted in transparency and communication. Policy and training are necessary foundations, but standards and accountability are the keys to proving that we are delivering the reforms that we agreed to. When transparency breaks down, so too does that vital relationship with the communities we serve.

In day-to-day work, police are judged on performance. If you’ve set certain metrics, be open about the results. Control your narrative by always communicating through the lens of the mission with which you’ve been tasked. Share quickly, show your work and always pull attention back to the mission. Communicate like a partner and respect your personnel and the public. 

Technology can aid in transparency by enabling the collection and communication of clear metrics. Comprehensive data can also aid in performance evaluations and promotion decisions. The goal is to monitor implementation with engagement and accountability throughout the process, to ensure we are creating and maintaining the department our community and officers deserve.

4. Putting it together

Across the country, police departments are asking:

  • What does good change look like?
  • What do we need from upstream?
  • What do we need in terms of civic partnership and public allies?
  • Where are our policies ready for a refresh?
  • What tone needs to change in how we train?

In regard to the community: Is the voice of your department to the community consistent with the regard you have for the work you and your peers are doing every day? What’s preventing everybody from seeing what you see, and have devoted your life to offering the world?

Working from a mission-fueled framework, and building that framework, is a matter of honor and integrity both in terms of the work you do and in terms of how you and your personnel experience your own lives. 

You are an expert on your own context. You are a student of your mission and what your department could be. This moment of strain and protest is really an invitation for police departments to win alignment from mission to team to training to the community.

The pieces have never been more ready to be moved in the direction of good change. It’s up to you to name it, seek it and build upon it.

About the author

Ari Vidali is Founder & CEO of Envisage Technologies, creators of the Acadis Readiness Suite, a comprehensive, modular training management framework that modernizes and streamlines the complex operations of nearly 11,000 public safety agencies, serving over 2 million first responders via their FirstForward online training network. In his 20-year career in high technology, he has been the lead founder for five high-tech enterprises and instrumental in developing innovative readiness strategies for military, public safety and law enforcement commands. 

He is an acting committee member for the National Congress for Secure Communities, a technology advisory board member of the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST) and an active advisory board member for the Bloomington Technology Partnership.  

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