Realizing His Goal

Sheriff John Simpson is putting his idea into practice.

A few simple and uneventful ride-alongs in the passenger seat of a Liberal, Missouri squad car were all it took for 15-year-old John Simpson, who now serves as Barton County sheriff, to know law enforcement would be his life’s career.


“The town was small — I knew the officers from growing up there — and decided to ride with them because it was something different. I really enjoyed it and after four or five times, I decided that’s what I wanted to do,” he said. And his mind was made up without even getting in on the more “exciting” side of crime fighting. “Whenever they got a serious call, they’d pull over at the next intersection and drop me off. The town was less than a mile from one side to the other, so I’d just walk home.”


Holding fast to his decision, after graduating from high school in 1999, he took a fulltime job dispatching for the Barton County Sheriff’s Office. In 2002, he attended Missouri Southern State College’s Law Enforcement Academy and continued working in dispatch until a patrol position came open. He went to the road January 1, 2005. Shannon Higgins was sheriff at that time.


He loved his job and worked hard at it, which earned him a promotion to sergeant in 2007. In 2009, when Mitchell Shaw took office, he was promoted to his chief deputy. He stayed there until June 2012, when he took the position of chief of police at the Liberal PD.


“I enjoyed the job very much, but it’s hard to be the chief in the town where you grew up, so I decided to run for sheriff in 2020. Mitch and I have been friends for 20 years, so it wasn’t anything personal,” Sheriff Simpson said, adding that, like everyone else who ever ran for office, he just felt he had a better idea. “Serving as sheriff had been a goal of mine since starting at the sheriff’s office in 1999, and I just thought it was my time to try for it. I must have been right because I won.”


After taking office, he made several changes in both their look and in their operations.
Deputies are now required to wear uniforms to work, and the only facial hair allowed is a mustache.


He remodeled their office space, and updated their fleet, purchasing four patrol cars to replace the four that each had more than 250,000 miles. Once those vehicles arrive, they’ll be getting new computers installed. Sheriff Simpson is also in the process of updating their radio system to MOSWIN (Missouri Statewide Interoperability Network), a statewide public safety communications system that will allow them to communicate across jurisdictional and discipline lines.


To cut down on delays and problems clearing cases, he also implemented new guidelines that require deputies to have reports done in three days. Then they get submitted to a supervisor for review. Once needed changes are made and the reports are approved, they’ll be sent to the chief deputy for final approval before being submitted to the prosecutor.


In addition, Justin Ersham returned to Barton County to work as chief deputy and he brought his K-9 Barrett with him. The two have already been called out numerous times in their own county and others.


Sheriff Simpson said the biggest “surprise/headache” he faced after taking office was the jail.
“As a dispatcher, I helped in the jail, so I had a little experience — but not near enough, I quickly found out,” he said. “Staffing has been an ongoing problem. We’re down to two fulltime and two part-time employees in the jail. I need to hire at least two more fulltime and also have two openings for patrol deputies. That doesn’t sound like a big deal but when you only have five, it is. I’ve been working the road, as has my chief deputy, just to make sure it’s covered.”


The condition of his 27-bed jail is also a conundrum. Built in 1937, the antiquated facility has multiple problems that can’t easily be fixed.


“It’s old and worn out. It’s steel and concrete and the steel is rusting and the plumbing is leaking in the concrete. There have been no updates that I can remember in the last 22 years,” he said. “We’ve closed it to make repairs, but before we start, I want to bring the community in to take a look. I’d like to get their input on whether we should sink money into repairs or instead work on a plan to replace it. I believe that if we build it right and we build it large enough to house for other agencies, we can ease the burden on Barton County and on our taxpayers — but we have strong support from our community, so I want them involved in the process.”


And he knows his community. In addition to being a lifelong member of Barton County, he’s served the past eight years on the Liberal R-2 Board of Education, and he’s served on the Barton County Ambulance District Board of Directors. When he’s not working, he and his wife Shasta, who is his biggest supporter, are cheering on their two youngest at football, baseball, softball, basketball and volleyball games.


“I have to miss some of them, and that’s tough, but the kids understand. I took this job because I care about my community. I consider it an honor and a privilege to serve as sheriff and as long as I’m here, I plan to do everything I can to make this an even better and safer place to live.”

By Nancy Zoellner

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Why We Must Move ‘Move Over’ Up the Agenda

As law enforcement officers continue to be killed on our nation’s roadways, we must continue to message about the importance of “Move Over” laws. Every state now has move over laws on their books, generally requiring drivers to give a one-lane buffer to stopped emergency vehicles. (Getty Images)

 

Story By Rob Lawrence for Police1.com

On Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, emergency services responded to the scene of a vehicle crash on the northbound lanes of Interstate 27 in Lubbock, Texas. While working at the scene, Lieutenant David Hill, another firefighter and a police officer were hit by a passing vehicle.

Lieutenant Hill and the firefighter were immediately transported to the hospital, where Lieutenant Hill passed away from the injuries he sustained. The other firefighter was initially listed in critical condition and the police officer died at the scene.

I thought this tragic event alone was going to be the basis of my move over article and commentary, but sadly this one case is not a one-off. In the first two weeks of 2020, seven first responders were hit and killed while doing their jobs on roadways across the country. 

Sadly, roadway incidents have continued to claim the lives of officers. On October 2, 2021, Memphis police officer Darrell Adams was struck by an 18-wheeler while responding to a crash on the interstate. On October 11, 2021, Sgt. Michael Rudd was killed after he exited his cruiser after a pursuit and was struck by a commercial vehicle in Arizona. 

SPEED, INTOXICATION, DISTRACTION: CRASH CAUSATION

More than 150 law enforcement officers have been killed since 1997 after being struck by vehicles along America’s highways. Traffic-related incidents, including vehicle crashes, are one of the leading causes of death for law enforcement officers. There are weekly stories of tow truck drivers being struck while engaging in vehicle recovery from our highways. This is all a tragedy and, while I suspect not completely preventable, steps must be taken to reduce risk and ensure the safety of our public safety workforce.

For a sobering view of the sheer number of issues, visit the Facebook page of the National Move Over Day where they collate news stories that demonstrate there is an epidemic of first responder injuries, near misses and deaths on our nation’s roadways.

Every state now has move over laws on their books, generally requiring drivers to give a one-lane buffer to stopped emergency vehicles. These laws require drivers approaching stationary emergency vehicles that are displaying flashing lights – including wreckers or utility vehicles displaying flashing lights traveling in the same direction – to vacate the lane closest if safe and possible to do so, or to at least slow down. Some states also include municipal vehicles, utility vehicles and DOT vehicles displaying flashing lights as well. Individual state laws can be found here.

While the laws may be in place to assist with the safety of those who must respond to and on our highways, the death and injury toll keeps rising. The question, therefore, is what we can do?  Before we get to the takeaways, a small examination of crash causation may provide some clues.

  • Distracted driving. Distracted driving is the most common cause of road accidents in the United States. Nine percent of fatal crashes in 2017 were reported as distraction-affected crashes, and every year this surpasses speeding, drunk driving and other major accident causes. Some of the leading causes of distracted driving accidents include using a cellphone while driving. From 2017 data, a total of 434 people died in fatal crashes that involved cell-phone-related activities as distractions.  Additionally, distraction was caused by eating food or drinking from a mug or bottle while behind the wheel. Data from 2017 also indicated there were 599 non-occupants (pedestrians, bicyclists and others) killed in distraction-affected crashes and, as we know, some of these were first responders.
  • Speed. Motor vehicle accidents that involve speeding are also a major cause of fatal road injuries. Driving above the speed limit is a common practice for many motorists. Even a small increase in speed can result in a much higher risk of being involved in a collision or other type of accident.
  • Intoxication. All 50 states have a .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit, above which drivers are driving while under the influence of alcohol (DUI). For many motorists, even a small amount of alcohol can be enough to produce a significant increase in accident risk.
  • Reckless driving. Speeding, changing lanes without looking, tailgating other motorists and ignoring road signs are all classic signs of reckless driving. It is an illegal driving habit, often performed in combination with DUI, by an intoxicated motorist impatient to get to their destination.
  • Weather. It may not come as a surprise to many readers who have spent their fair share of time responding to highway incidents and accidents, but rain is one of the leading causes of traffic incidents. Wet weather driving risks are often amplified by poor car maintenance, such as tires that don’t provide a deep enough grip or aren’t properly inflated. Because of the safety risks associated with driving in intense rain, it’s important to be alert and aware of road conditions, speed limits and traffic during rainy weather.

ROADSIDE SAFETY TAKEAWAYS AND TO-DOS

As has been said about the opioid crisis – we are not going to arrest our way out of this. The key is education, awareness, constant reinforcement and possibly, stronger legislation of the message:

  • Cell phone laws. Laws to at least keep the eyes off the phone and hands on the wheel do not exist nationwide. Positively, 20 states plus Washington, D.C., do prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. Additionally, 36 states and Washington, D.C., ban all cell phone use by newer drivers. There is an opportunity across half the country to at least regulate cell phone use on the move.
  • Increasing punishment. Additionally, the deterrence value of fines and incarceration could be affected via legislative change. Last year, Virginia enhanced the penalties for non-compliance with its existing move-over laws, increasing punishment for drivers who violate the existing VA Move Over law. Before the amendment, the first offense was a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of no more than $250, and a second offense punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. The revision made all offenses reckless driving, and therefore a Class 1 misdemeanor.

    The impetus for Virginia’s legislative change came after the tragic death of Fire Lieutenant Brad Clark who was killed, and three other firefighters injured when a driver of a tractor-trailer drove into their fire truck as Clark and his crew assisted other drivers involved in an accident. Virginia’s law change was heroically championed by Lieutenant Clark’s widow, Melanie. From her tragedy came a change, but we should not wait till after the fact to create the conditions to enhance highway safety.

    The Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state and territorial highway safety offices that implement federal grant programs to address behavioral highway safety issues, maintains and updates a useful chart that identifies the current move over and distracted driving laws. If your state has a gap in its legislation, perhaps it’s time to lobby for change.

 

  • Education. Move over law education and enforcement campaigns are regularly delivered across the country (perhaps we could all rally under a National Move Over Day as described above). There are many resources available online to assist departments in creating their campaigns, including NHTSA and the (other) AAA: The American Automobile Association. Additionally, NHTSA administers over $500 million in grant programs annually. NHTSA awards grants for occupant protection, state traffic safety information systems, impaired driving countermeasures, distracted driving, motorcyclist safety, state graduated driver licensing laws and non-motorized safety. 
  • Traffic incident management (TIM). You should be familiar with the traffic incident management process and be a participant. TIM consists of a planned and coordinated multi-disciplinary process to detect, respond to and clear traffic incidents so that traffic flow may be restored as safely and quickly as possible. Effective TIM reduces the duration and impacts of traffic incidents and improves the safety of motorists, crash victims, and emergency responders.
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How Law Enforcement Can Identify the Symptoms of Depression

Officers, for all their discipline and strength, are at greater risk of debilitating depression and suicide than the general public. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, major depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States. (Getty Images)

 

By Althea Olson and Mike Wasilewski for Police1.com

October seems to be a particularly significant month for a lot of people, many who even claim it as their favorite. October heralds the transition from summer to fall in much of North America, with its gentle shift in clime and color. Football and all its associated fun is in full swing, both creating and sparking memories for kids and adults. It is the perfect time for hiking, running, climbing and biking before winter takes hold. Halloween is a favorite of many, ushering in the holiday season, and, of course, ‘tis the start of all things pumpkin spice.

But for all its glory, this month has a more serious significance, and one all in law enforcement should be mindful of: October is Depression Awareness Month. Awareness and management of depression is something very important to us as law enforcement writers – especially with one of us being a psychotherapist and the other a working street cop – and it’s a message we’ll keep bringing up because of its significance. Police officers, apart from mental health providers, will see and deal with depression more than any other profession, so it is important to have knowledge, resources and tools readily available. 

But you and those closest to you are not immune to depression. In fact, the pressures and demands of the job you do can easily make you susceptible to falling victim to depression’s grip. Officers, for all their discipline and strength, are at greater risk of debilitating depression and suicide than the general public. Even if it doesn’t touch you or your immediate family, it is crushing someone you work with and care for right now, even if you are completely unaware. 

THE SCOPE OF DEPRESSIVE DISORDERS 

Compounding the direct problem of depression is the continuing stigma attached to those suffering from mental illness and the belief that it is not a real illness. Since mental illness is of the mind, many refuse to consider it as an organic disease like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, psoriasis or any other dysfunction of any other organ. Perhaps this is because the products of the minds – our thoughts, feelings and perceptions – seem abstract or somehow disconnected from organic function. 

What that abstraction ignores is that the mind springs directly from the brain, the command center, and our most complex and delicately balanced organ. Like any other organ, things can go awry and lead to diseases ranging from mild and easily corrected to life-threatening. Of these diseases, depressive disorders are extremely common, with major depression wreaking the most havoc.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, major depression is a serious medical illness affecting 15 million American adults, or approximately 5-8 percent of the adult population in a given year. Unlike normal emotional experiences of sadness, loss or passing mood states, major depression is persistent and can significantly interfere with an individual’s thoughts, behavior, mood, activity and physical health. Among all medical illnesses, major depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States.” 

Research into depression and its genesis has illuminated both the scope of the problem and its roots in genetic and biological etiology. We now know individuals coping with depression have a higher level of stress hormones present in their bodies, and brain scans of depressed patients show decreased activity in some areas of the brain. Depressed people have a lack of or overproduction of certain chemicals needed in the brain to be released into the bloodstream to stabilize a person’s mood. Without the proper chemical balance a person’s mood will fluctuate and go to lows from which a person cannot rebound back without the proper medical help and interventions.

Consider too that there are other types of serious depressive disorders, such as bipolar disorder, dysthymia (a chronic low-grade depression often lasting for months or years) and adjustment disorders with depressed mood, and the number of people suffering from depression grows by millions more. Not all depression looks or feels the same. It can come and go or fluctuate in severity and affects people in myriad ways. At its worst, depression is deadly, leading to suicide and frequent (and arguably deliberate, if even subconsciously) self-destructive habits. In less severe forms it impairs functioning, happiness and success, often leading to a self-inhibiting feedback loop. 

DEPRESSION IS HIGHLY TREATABLE WITH EFFECTIVE INTERVENTION

The good news is depressive disorders are highly treatable. The earlier someone seeks intervention, the quicker and more complete the response to treatment. Research has shown that depression treatment has as high as a 90 percent success rate when a licensed counselor and a psychiatrist, who can prescribe medication, are working in conjunction, with people generally reporting they feel more like their old selves in as little as three to six weeks. The counselor will identify behaviors and cognitive patterns that increase vulnerability to depression and then challenge and motivate the patient to begin changing out those old patterns with new behaviors and cognitions. They teach how putting the good behaviors into practice, over time, causes good feelings to eventually follow and that it is the repetitiveness of good behaviors that finally begins to heal the depression. 

Psychiatric intervention in the form of medication therapy is often indicated. Medication therapy most often treats the lack of serotonin (a hormone necessary to regulate mood) in the blood stream, or the body’s inefficient use of the serotonin it does have, and may address other known biochemical causes of mood disorders.

Stigma surrounding the use of medications to treat mental illnesses sadly remains in the law enforcement community, but if your life and well-being were threatened by another disease that could be easily treated with medications, would you refuse them?   

DO I, OR SOMEONE I CARE ABOUT, SUFFER FROM DEPRESSION?

Before depression can be treated it must be detected and diagnosed, and helping that cause is one of the major focal points of Depression Awareness Month. Recognizing some of the common symptoms of depression is important. Below are some of the indicators most commonly used by mental health practitioners. When you are experiencing any of the following, and it’s affecting your quality of life and functioning, it is time to look for help:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or empty feelings.
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism.
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness.
  • Irritability or restlessness.
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex.
  • Fatigue and decreased energy.
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions.
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness or excessive sleeping.
  • Overeating, or appetite loss.
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts.
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.
  • Mood swings.
  • Change in motivation or getting things done.

These are all markers that are easily used for a quick self-assessment. One of the simplest but most revealing indicators we use is the answer to the following question: Are you having more bad days than good?

If the answer is “Yes” then seeking help is definitely indicated. There is a strong possibility depression is the culprit.

Depression can strike anyone and often out of the blue. While five to eight percent of the population experiencing major depression in any given year might not concern you personally, consider that as many as 45 percent of us will experience a mental health disorder at some point in our lives, with depression being a very likely component. No one is immune. And remember, even if it is not you, someone you know and care about is suffering from depression right now.  Awareness also involves looking out for those around us. 

Be well, stay safe and help us fight this silent destroyer of lives and happiness.  

This article, originally published October 2016, has been updated.

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‘Do something. Do the right thing.’ An Evaluation of the Impact of Active Bystandership Training

Story from the National Police Foundation, Advancing Policing Through Innovation and Science

 

In this article, we present part of an ongoing evaluation of Active Bystandership (AB) training that has been conducted in the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) through the recently-launched Ethical Policing is Courageous (EPIC) program – an agency-level initiative designed to facilitate and empower officers to effectively intervene during potentially harmful situations.

To evaluate the impact of EPIC training within the BPD, and to inform potential future AB training in other police departments, we conducted an officer survey immediately post-training, which resulted in 1,753 responses. Overall, EPIC training was perceived positively by respondents. Respondents generally found the training to be useful and indicated that it would promote and facilitate ethical conduct. Respondents indicated somewhat less confidence in intervening with their supervisors compared to peers. Written comments indicated that officers wanted more AB training and more scenario-based training.

BACKGROUND

A bystander is defined as a witness who is in a position to know what is happening and can take positive action; an active bystander is someone that recognizes when action is needed, decides to act, and consequently intervenes. It is believed that active bystandership can be a facilitated or encouraged behavior. In law enforcement, AB training is designed to enhance peer intervention and (1) prevent misconduct, (2) avoid mistakes and (3) promote officer health and wellness.

The first known implementation of AB training by a law enforcement agency was in the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), who initially created the EPIC program in partnership with researchers and community partners. The training was developed to teach officers peer intervention skills, promote an organizational culture of transparency by engaging the leadership staff and normalize AB by establishing protections for officers who intervene.

Most recently, building upon EPIC, the Innovative Policing Program at Georgetown University Law Center developed the Active Bystandership in Law Enforcement (ABLE) Project to provide police agencies with practical, scenario-based training in the principles of AB and strategies for effective peer intervention. The stated goals of ABLE training include:

  • Reducing unnecessary harm to civilians
  • Reducing unnecessary harm to officers
  • Reducing the risk of officers losing their jobs
  • Reducing the risk of lawsuits against the department, the city, and officers
  • Improving police/community relations
  • Improving officer health and wellness
  • Improving officer job satisfaction
  • Improving citizen satisfaction with their law enforcement agency.

DATA AND METHODOLOGY

A survey was designed to assess the following dimensions: perceptions about the training, application of the training to the job, willingness to address ethical challenges, confidence in the ability to intervene in a variety of situations, and an open-ended section to capture general comments about the use and quality of the training.

The survey was disseminated to the officers after completing EPIC training. A total of 2,029 participants completed EPIC training; 1,996 surveys were submitted (98.4% of the total trainees); 1,753 submissions (87.8% of survey responses; 86.4% of all training participants) provided useable data.

RESULTS

Was the training likely to promote active bystandership and ethical behavior?

  • More than 80% of the respondents indicated that they thought the training was likely to promote ethical conduct (81%).
  • A large majority of respondents indicated a greater likelihood of intervening after completing the training (82%) and having confidence in their ability to intervene with peers (86%) and supervisors (79%).
  • Most respondents were confident that fellow officers would support them in intervening (76%), but the percentage of respondents indicating they would receive support from a supervising officer was slightly lower (70%).
  • As a result of training, most officers were thinking about the benefits of intervention to prevent misconduct (82%) and promote the health and safety of their coworkers (84%).

When would officers intervene?

Officers indicated a willingness to intervene across a wide variety of scenarios, including confronting fellow officers who had violated departmental policy, appeared to be making an unjustifiable search, or were demonstrating unusual behavior or moods. They were also likely to refer coworkers to behavioral health services. Agreement with these questions ranged from 73% to 84%. Officers were slightly less likely to report willingness to intervene with supervisors, but the difference was small (usually less than 10%).

How willing are officers to confront moral challenges?

Officers indicated a strong willingness to face moral or ethical challenges. Most respondents (70%) were willing to take on ethical challenges even if they might incur negative consequences, hold their ground on moral matters (85%), and think they acted morally even in conflicts with supervisors (80%). Two-thirds of respondents indicated that they were never or seldom swayed from acting morally by fear or other negative emotions (69%). Forty-two percent of respondents indicated that they would bring moral issues forward even if it put themselves or others in jeopardy.

How confident are officers in intervening?

Officers indicated considerable confidence in their ability to intervene in a wide variety of situations. They were most confident in responding to co-workers using excessive force (86%) and in peer-to-peer verbal altercations. There was slightly less confidence reported in responding to supervisors that show up for work hungover (66.7%).

WHAT DID WE LEARN?

Officers generally perceived the training as useful and likely to promote ethical conduct. They consistently indicated that they felt more confident and willing to intervene because of the training. Respondents also indicated that they recognize the benefits of AB for the health and safety of their coworkers.

Officers indicated that there were more concerns with intervening with supervisors compared to peers. The strongly hierarchical nature of law enforcement agencies makes it understandable that people may find it challenging to intervene up the chain of command. It may be necessary to better emphasize, in-class and reinforced through future communications, the application of peer intervention in a way that is agnostic to rank. It is also likely that an organizational perception of willingness, and appropriateness, of intervening with supervisors may take considerable time to develop. A longer-term follow-up on this issue is warranted.

Open-ended respondents suggested that many participants were interested in more training on AB and more scenario-based training specifically. Future iterations of the training should ensure that participants have sufficient time to practice intervention skills in a controlled setting. AB training should also be integrated with other training that is part of routine academy or in-service training. For example, use of force, de-escalation and procedural justice training are opportunities to reinforce key concepts associated with AB.


Police performance: Developing a culture of accountability

Police performance: Developing a culture of accountability

Download Police1’s latest digital edition to learn how agencies can weave the duty to intercede throughout their policies and training


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Fight Over Probation Fees Not Ready for Ruling

After considering the matter for nearly a year, a split Missouri Supreme Court said a man’s claim that he is exempt from the cost of his supervised probation needs more time to develop. 

On Oct. 5, the court ruled 4-3 that it is “purely speculative and hypothetical” whether parole officials will require Randall Graves to pay a $30 monthly “intervention fee” out of his federal supplemental security income, or SSI.

The ruling delays but doesn’t deny Graves’ underlying contention that requiring such payments from individuals on SSI is forbidden by federal law. Matthew Mueller of MGM Law in St. Louis, an attorney for Graves, said a ruling in his client’s favor could have affected numerous people across the state who face the possibility of prison for failing to make payments out of meager income that should be protected.

“Do we really have to wait for poor Mr. Graves to be revoked and sent to the Department of Corrections before he can actually raise this as a viable claim?” he said. “That doesn’t make much sense.”

Graves is serving a five-year term of probation after pleading guilty in 2018 to receiving stolen property. Two months into his probation, he received a letter from the Missouri Department of Corrections’ probation and parole division informing him that he was required to pay a monthly intervention fee of $30 for the duration of his supervision. The letter said he had an overdue balance of $60 and that he could face collection efforts and the revocation of his probation if he didn’t make timely payments. 

Graves filed a declaratory judgment action, alleging that his only income is $771 a month in SSI and that forcing him to pay the intervention fee would violate a federal anti-attachment provision that bars SSI from being subject to garnishment or “other legal process.”

Writing for the majority, Judge W. Brent Powell said Graves’ claim isn’t ripe because the probation division hasn’t taken any definitive steps to force Graves to pay the fee or to revoke his probation for lack of payment. Powell went so far as to check the status on Case.net of Graves’ underlying criminal proceedings in Platte County Circuit Court, which shows no violation reports since he was placed on probation in early 2019.

“Graves’ case could be ripe if the Division made a concrete, binding, immediate decision to classify him with violation status should his nonpayment continue or the Division took other definitive action to collect the fee,” Powell wrote. “But the Division has made no effort to collect the fee other than sending the letter to Graves, and the letter itself was non-binding. It had no legal effect on Graves’ rights.”

The majority dismissed the case but specified that Graves could refile it if his situation changes.

In a dissent, Judge Patricia Breckenridge, joined by Judges Mary R. Russell and George W. Draper III, argued that Graves’ claim should be allowed to proceed. Breckenridge wrote that “the controversy relates to what the division has already done in imposing monthly intervention fees as a condition of Mr. Graves’ probation, not what it may do in the future.”

“No further factual development is necessary for a court to make an accurate determination of the facts and resolve, with specific relief of a conclusive nature, whether the imposition of intervention fees as a condition of Mr. Graves’ supervised probation violates” the federal anti-attachment law. “Mr. Graves is not required to subject himself to the risk of sanctions, as the principal opinion holds, before he can maintain an action for declaratory judgment.”

The ruling came out almost a year to the day after it was argued on Oct. 6, 2020. Since then, the court has seen a change in personnel: Judge Laura Denvir Stith retired in March after taking part in last year’s argument, and Gov. Mike Parson appointed Judge Robin Ransom in May to succeed her. 

According to court records, Stith was briefly named to the case as a senior judge, but that order was almost immediately rescinded. Instead, the court said in July that it was considering the case on the basis of the submitted briefs, a procedural move that allowed Ransom to vote on the case. She sided with the majority. 

Mueller said he believed the case would have come out differently if Stith were still on the court — particularly as the Supreme Court’s ruling mirrors a 2020 decision in the Court of Appeals Western District. Had the then-majority of the Supreme Court agreed with the result in that case, Mueller reasoned, there would have been no reason to accept his case on transfer.

In the meantime, Mueller urged public defenders to watch for opportunities to make a similar argument on behalf of clients whose fees already are coming from their SSI.

“They’re not shooting down my claim,” he said. “They’re basically saying we’re going to wait for a better case, someone who is actually at risk of being revoked for not paying.”

The attorney general’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The case is Graves v. Missouri Department of Corrections, SC98501. 

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U.S. Marshals Deputize Clay County Sheriff’s Deputies

United States Marshal Mark S. James forged a new partnership with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.


Over the summer, U.S. Marshal Mark James swore in five members of the Clay County Sheriff’s Fugitive Apprehension Unit as Special Deputy U.S. Marshals. This collaboration is part of the ongoing effort to address violent crime in the Kansas City metro area. As special deputy marshals, sheriff’s deputies will join with other area law enforcement officers who participate in the U.S. Marshals Midwest Violent Fugitive Task Force. “The Clay County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshals have always worked together to bring violent criminals to justice, their special deputation today further solidifies an already on-going effort to combine our resources to protect the citizens of Clay County and beyond. I appreciate Sheriff Akin’s leadership in bringing this strategic partnership to fruition,” said U.S. Marshal Mark James.

The U.S. Marshals Midwest Violent Fugitive Task Force-Kansas City Division, operates in conjunction with members of the Kansas City, Independence and St. Joseph Missouri Police Departments, Jackson, Cass, Clay and Buchanan County Sheriff’s Offices, Missouri State Highway Patrol and other federal law enforcement partners. The task force objectives are to seek out and arrest fugitives charged with violent crimes, drug offenses, sex offenders and other serious felonies. It also provides direct support to law enforcement agencies in tracking down and recovering missing children. Nationally the United States Marshals Service fugitive programs are carried out with local law enforcement in 94 district offices, 67 local fugitive task forces, 8 regional task forces, as well as a growing network of offices in foreign countries.

Tips can be submitted anonymously to the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers via the TIPS hotline at 816-474-8477, on the internet at KCcrimestoppers.com or on the free mobile app available at P3Tips.com. Tips can also be submitted to the U.S. Marshals service directly by downloading the USMS Tips app to your Apple or Android device. It can also be accessed online at https://www.usmarshals.gov/tips/index.html. Follow the latest news and updates about the U.S. Marshals Service on Twitter: @USMarshalsHQ.

Additional information about the U.S. Marshals Service can be found at http://www.usmarshals.gov.

 

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Facing Challenges, Rising Up

Sheriff Will Akin left a nightmare to live a dream — in Missouri.

Clay County Sheriff Will Akin is an overcomer. His dad left when he was 3. He, his little brother, and mom were homeless by the time he was 8. He was working when he was 12, and at 16, he dropped out of high school, worked three jobs to take care of his mom and brother – and started hanging with the wrong crowd. After a guy in that crowd shot someone, he knew he had to get out, so he earned his GED and in October 1994, joined the Army. He became a helicopter pilot but at 26, he was diagnosed with adult-onset asthma, grounded, and told he had to leave the military.


“That was devastating but I had a family to support so I started looking for a job. I had never considered law enforcement because in the neighborhoods where I grew up, we never had positive interactions with cops. But law enforcement presented an opportunity and I figured I was already used to structure so I’d give it a shot,” he said.


He got on with the Phoenix Police Department in 2002, went through the academy in April 2003 and worked there five years before taking a job with the South Bend, Indiana PD. One year later, he went to Afghanistan, first teaching members of the Afghan National Police, then working with the Family Response Unit investigating crimes against women and children. That’s where he met and became friends with former Clay County Sheriff Paul Vescovo.


“After Paul finished his contract, he returned to the states, ran for sheriff in Clay County and asked me to come to work with him if he won. My response was ‘Missouri? Are you out of your mind?’”


But Sheriff Vescovo was persistent so in the summer of 2012, while home on leave, he and his wife Jennifer drove from Columbus, Ohio to Liberty, Missouri to check things out — and they liked what they saw.


“I had to go back to Afghanistan but near the end of my third contract, I talked with my wife and said ‘Let’s rethink this. Why not move to Liberty, Missouri and work for the Clay County Sheriff’s Office?’


We decided there was no good reason not to. I had moved 38 times in 45 years, living in 10 states and three countries and the move to Clay County was the best move — personally and professionally — I’ve ever made. This is home.”


When he took the job, he told Sheriff Vescovo he would stay as long as he was sheriff, then he was moving on. He had always tailored his career to becoming a police chief.


“Then one day, Paul came to me, said he was going to retire at the end of his term and asked me to rethink what I had said about moving on. By that time, I had been here six years and had grown to love the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and Clay County. After discussing it with my wife, we decided this was the right course of action. I had a lot of support from the community, the campaign went really well, and the rest is history,” he laughed, adding that he recently learned that, at 45, he is the youngest sheriff to ever serve in Clay County.


Before being elected he was captain over the Emergency Preparedness Division and director of Emergency Management for Clay County and felt he had a good grasp of the operations of the sheriff’s office, “But on Day 1 I was overwhelmed by how much I didn’t know! Thankfully I’ve got a great team of commanders.”


His biggest challenge since taking office has been managing 230 personalities with 230 different opinions. And Sheriff Akin has given them plenty to think about!


He restructured the office and split the Field Operations Division into Patrol, which includes road deputies, a dedicated K-9, and traffic unit; and Investigations, which includes all task force deputies. He established a Professional Standards Division to pursue accreditation through CALEA and handle training, policies and procedures, background investigations, and internal affairs. In addition, the county absorbed park rangers who are now lake deputies.

He also made changes in the jail. Staff went to 12-hour shifts, which allows detention officers and deputies on the housing floor and in booking to get every other weekend off, and he worked with commissioners to implement a two-phase salary restructure to increase salaries — some as much as 17 percent. He’s working with Tri-County Mental Health to hire a social worker who will make sure school resource deputies, the civil unit and deputies know about the resources available to them, and with non-profit groups who will help inmates overcome barriers, obtain jobs and change their lifestyle after release from jail. To top it off, they’re “rebranding” their look with new uniforms.


When Sheriff Akin isn’t working, he enjoys CrossFit, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and mountain biking.

“I’m very active, but I’m also actively involved in doing everything I can to make our community better. It wasn’t until I got into law enforcement that I realized my experiences growing up would help me relate and connect with the spectrum of people in the community,” he said. “It’s what drives me today. I earned my associates degree while I was in the military, my bachelor’s degree while I was in Afghanistan, went straight into the master’s program and just graduated last year with my doctorate. Now I teach at a university here. I feel like I have made it. I share stories and tell people, ‘If I can do it, I know you can do it too.’”

By Nancy Zoellner

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Kansas City Plan to Reallocate Police Funds Violated State Law, Judge Rules

The police board filed a lawsuit after the mayor sought to reduce its budget by 18 percent. Unsplash photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm.

 

Story By Glenn E. Rice The Kansas City Star | Police1.com

A Jackson County judge ruled on Tuesday that the Kansas City City Council overstepped and violated state law with its plan to reallocate millions in funding for the city police department.

The police board filed a lawsuit in May in Jackson County Circuit Court after the city council approved a measure cutting the police budget back to 20% of the city’s general fund, the minimum required by state law.

The lawsuit was in response to the City Council’s approval of two ordinances orchestrated by Mayor Quinton Lucas that sought to reduce the Kansas City Police Department’s budget by $42.3 million. It placed that money, about 18% of KCPD’s $239 million budget, in a separate fund and its use would be the matter for City Manager Brian Platt and police commissioners to negotiate.

Under the measure the city would reallocate the money to a newly formed “Community Services and Prevention Fund.”

Lucas, in a statement after the ruling, said the city would weigh its options going forward, including the possibility of an appeal.

“The decision announced by the Court today has provided a pathway forward for the City to require the Kansas City Police Department to engage in discussions related to crime prevention throughout future budget cycles, should the Department seek to receive funds in excess of 20 percent of the City’s General Fund Revenue,” Lucas said in the statement.

“I will continue working with the City and Department leadership to ensure every taxpayer funded entity in our City shares a role in working to prevent violent crime and create better outcomes for all people in all of our neighborhoods.”

In July, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a brief opposing the council’s measure, which would have effectively given the city more control over the police department’s budget.

Schmitt said in a statement after the ruling on Tuesday: “This is a huge win for the people of Kansas City and law enforcement officers who work every single day to keep their communities safe. I will always stand up for Missouri’s law enforcement and fight back against craven attempts to defund the police.”

In his ruling, Judge Patrick Campbell wrote that the judgment is not a determination of the values of “defunding the police.”

“This judgment does not resolve whether citizens of Kansas City should exert direct political control over their law enforcement agency,” he wrote. “It is not a referendum on the Chief of Police, the Mayor, or any other appointed or elected official.

“These are subjects of vigorous social debate and should be finally resolved by a healthy democracy. However, they are not legal issues pending before this Court.”

During a previous hearing in the case, Kristine Reiter, KCPD’s budget manager, said if the ordinances went into effect as approved by the city council and KCPD continued to spend funds, the board would run out of money by December.

The police department, she said, would be forced to lay off 1,000 sworn officers and staff to ensure there was enough money until the end of the year. It would force reductions in patrol divisions located in the city’s urban core, she said.

Lucas disputed the department’s claims, saying they are “totally incorrect.” He said the city recently sought to increase police funding to pay for an academy class and raises for officers.

Tara Kelly, an attorney for the city, said the city council acted within the bounds of its constitutional and statutory authority in withdrawing a portion of the money it allocates annually to the police department.

Just recently, the police board purchased body cameras for officers and paid for a new academy class.

Police board lawyer Patrick McInerney has previously said that the city’s police spending could be changed during budget discussions in March, but not later. “When that board approves that budget, the door slams and nobody else can reach in, grab money, adjust money, or do whatever they want,” he said during the court hearing.

Any spending above the state-required 20% threshold is fully “discretionary” for the city council, lawyers said during the hearing.

Council members who supported the budget measure said the city has no say in how tax dollars are spent.

Critics of the plan, including four members of the Kansas City City Council who represent Northland districts, have tried to portray the measure as “defunding the police” despite the ordinances calling for Platt to negotiate with KCPD and no other city department.

Local civil rights leaders tried to intervene in the lawsuit.

Urban League of Greater Kansas City president Gwen Grant alleged in a court filing that the current policing structure is a “Taxation Without Representation” scheme that violates a citizens’ initiative that limits state revenues and local taxes.

The ordinances earmarked an additional $3 million in police funding for use in hiring a new class of recruits from the police academy, something that Police Chief Rick Smith had said he has not been able to do since February 2020.

The police commissioners contended that the ordinances provided no means to return money to the police department if an agreement was not reached, leading them to seek to prevent the city council from reallocating the money.

Kansas City leaders, however, called claims in the lawsuit legally and factually false. City leaders argued that the city council acted within bounds of its constitutional and statutory authority.

The police commissioners have oversight on KCPD operations while the City Council sets the police department’s annual budget.

With an exception for a brief period, the police department has been under state control, a product of the Civil War, the Confederacy and white supremacy, historians say.

Lucas has said the city had a legal argument under the Equal Protection Clause under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which says people have to be treated the same under the law.

The city also maintained it followed the appropriation process to fund the police department and that Missouri provides it the authority to revisit any money that exceeds the state funding requirement of 20% of the city’s general revenue.

(The Kansas City Star’s Robert Cronkleton and Luke Nozicka contributed to this report.)

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Preparing for Pistol Qualification: Reducing Anxiety and Passing The Test

Don’t be afraid to ask one of the instructors to take you to the range for live-fire practice a couple of weeks before qualifications. Then invest in yourself by practicing a few times before your test day.

 

Story By Kyle Sumpter for Police1.com

One of my favorite professional assignments was being a law enforcement firearms instructor. Occasionally I still pay my own way to instructor classes because I enjoy learning (and relearning). Also, occasionally I get an opportunity to work privately with a police officer who struggles to achieve qualified status. These good protectors often self-diagnose as someone who suffers from test anxiety.

This article summarizes some things I work on with them. If you experience anxiety associated with pistol qualification, I hope you extract some helpful tips.

If you confidently look forward to your next pistol qualification, this article isn’t for you. 

CALM YOUR MIND, INCREASE SHOOTING CONFIDENCE

My subjective goals for you are these:

  • Calm your shooting mind; and
  • Increase your shooting confidence.

First of all, you must believe the gun itself is faithful. It is a mindless machine. As such, it will repetitively deliver what its operator inputs. If there is anything about that machine that is unreliable, get the weapon checked by an armorer or switch guns. Your service pistol must function reliably, first and foremost, and you must believe it will. This includes ensuring the sights are aligned with the bore.

Second, qualification is a skills test. It is not a gunfight. In the basic academy, you learned and demonstrated all the fundamentals and skills necessary to pass your test. Your struggles aren’t due to a lack of knowledge. Shooting is rather simple – there isn’t a secret to success that your instructors hold back for themselves. You already know about grip, stance, sight alignment and all the essentials.

One main source of qualification anxiety comes from an officer’s wandering imagination. Imaginations are powerful and can cause real fear, even when there is no objective threat. Fear of embarrassment is common. Another fear is losing one’s job due to failure. Fear causes psychological and physical reactions. We can reduce those reactions by reducing the fear, which begins by controlling our imagination.

Without diminishing or losing track of any safety techniques, for your next pistol skills test I want you to think about performing two behaviors. Focus your mind only on the two actions I am about to describe. Whenever your pre-test imagination goes elsewhere, and especially during the test if your thoughts wander off, constrain your thoughts to what you will do during the test. Specifically, looking through the sight window and operating the trigger.

The brain can effectively focus cognitive attention on one topic at a time. When you think about your test result, the score, what it means if you fail, or any other outcome, you’re making it worse. Worse, you are not focusing your attention on the two behaviors that will help you. Corral your thoughts. Change them by envisioning yourself performing the two behaviors as they are described below.  

LOOK THROUGH THE SIGHT WINDOW

For LEOs using a red dot sight the window is obvious and literal. The window is the actual lens of the optical sight. When you bring the weapon up into the firing position, look through that lens. Don’t try to align the dot with your front sight post or in the rear sight notch. Ignore the fixed sights – they are distractions that drain your limited attentional capacity. Just look at the target through the red dot as it sits in its window.

For LEOs using traditional notch/post sights, the window is figurative and is located in the same place on top of the slide where the fixed sights are. Look through those. Look through the front sight as if it is a red dot. If you tense up your face or neck or squint your eyes while looking through the notch/post window, you are trying too hard and your attention is draining into the wrong behavior. Relax your face, relax your vision and look through the sights at the target.

In the academy, you were probably trained to focus on the front sight. Yes, that works well for precision shooting, especially when the target holds perfectly still. That makes front-sight-focus fine for firing at the 25-yard line, but looking through the sights is sufficient at closer distances. And looking through the sights is easier.

I said your mind can only attend effectively to one detail at a time, but I gave you two behaviors. Looking through the sight window is passive. Look through the sight window without dedicating conscious thought to it. You will put your active attention on the second behavior, which I will describe shortly.

To “aim” a car you look through the windshield. You don’t squint (unless the sun is in your eyes). You don’t tense up your face or your neck. You passively look through the windshield. That frees up the cognitive space in your mind to attend to what is occurring beyond the car. Aiming the car (keeping the vehicle between the lines and making turns), with all its ongoing micro-adjustments, occurs subconsciously while your attention engages on what’s occurring outside the vehicle.

Do the same with your firearm. Just look through the sight window and trust your subconscious mind to do the aiming. If you change visual focus to the front sight for 25-yard testing purposes, then do that without purposely struggling to aim the gun. Trust your subconscious mind to do the aiming so your attention is available for operating the trigger.

OPERATE THE TRIGGER

This behavior is where you focus your active attention. Focus your cognitive awareness on what the trigger feels like as you operate it.   

Think of a trigger press as a two-step process. Focus your attention on:

  1. Touching the wall; then
  2. Pressing the trigger.

The first part of a service pistol’s trigger pull is “slack.” Slack varies widely between gun types. On a striker-fired trigger, the slack is displaced with about a pound of rearward pressure on the trigger.

After depressing the slack, the first substantial resistance point is called the “wall.” If your striker-fired pistol requires 6 pounds of pressure to pull all the way through to its breaking point (the point at which the trigger snaps backward, spring-releasing the firing pin to discharge the weapon), then with about 5 pounds of pressure you figuratively start climbing over the wall of resistance. As you add a sixth pound of pressure your trigger finger gets over the wall and you get the “trigger break.”

You could do that all at once. You could “snatch the trigger” in one brisk motion, going from zero to 6+ pounds of pressure in an instant. Some moments call for that, especially in close-distance combat. But we’re talking about passing an administrative test here, so stick to this two-step process.

Concentrate on the trigger movement, all of it, and on your finger pressure as it applies to the trigger. To help direct and keep your attention on that I recommend you say these words aloud as you learn to do it: “Touch the wall, [then] press the trigger.”

Doing this reigns in your imagination and channels your thoughts on the trigger instead of outcome or consequences or results.  If it helps during testing, then say it out loud then, too.

When time limits are generous (as they often are at the 25-yard line), recite the entire phrase: “Touch the wall, [then] press the trigger.” When time limits are short, abbreviate it. For multiple rapid shots: “Touch – press, touch – press, etc.” When you move the weapon quickly to the firing position, shooting at that pace is fast enough.

RACE TO THE WALL

If you lollygag in the process you won’t make the time limits, especially at closer distances where times are shorter. So, race to the wall.

No matter how much time you have, when you get the start signal, move the window into your line of sight as fast as you can. As the gun enters its firing position – after it is pointed downrange in the direction of the target – prepare the trigger by applying that first pound of pressure so you get to the wall quickly. The trigger should be prepped and ready for step two when you see the target through the sight window.

All of that should be done quickly, as fast as you can. It’s the last step, pressing the trigger – in fact, it is the final pound of that step, the sixth pound on a 6-pound trigger break – that matters most for controlled impact on the target.

Draw quickly. When you decide to discharge the weapon, present the weapon quickly toward the target – get the window into your view as fast as you can. Touch the wall quickly. Moving quickly to the wall won’t disturb the shot; whereas, rushing the press may. You are racing to get to the wall. Then slow down just enough to feel the rest of the trigger press.

POSITIVE SELF-TALK

As soon as you recognize your mind is dwelling on the upcoming test, change your thoughts to the positive actions you will take. As soon as you sense you are worrying about the outcome, refocus your attention on the process of shooting. During the test, you should do the same thing.

Focus your attention away from embarrassments, results and outcomes by reciting any of these to yourself:

  • “The gun is faithful. It will repetitively deliver what I input. The process is faithful. It will repetitively input what the gun needs for success.”
  •  “The process works. I will follow the process.”

The process is: [1]

  • “I will look through the sight window as I touch the trigger to its wall, and then I will feel the trigger as I press it rearward.”
  • “I will concentrate on what the trigger feels like during its rearward motion.”
  • “Touch the wall, press the trigger.” Repeat. 

CONCLUSION: PREPARE

The more prepared you are, the less anxiety you’ll have. The more prepared you are, the easier the test will be.

Qualification usually isn’t a secret. Typically, you know your test date in advance, and you often know the content. So, invest in yourself by practicing a few times before your test day. Ammunition is expensive. Dry practice is a strong alternative, so there is no excuse for anyone to arrive at their test unprepared.

My final tip is this. Ask one of the instructors to take you to the range for live-fire practice a couple of weeks before qualifications. Firearms instructors want you to be successful for at least three reasons: 1) it makes their job easier on test day; 2) your success makes them feel better about their mostly thankless assignment and long days at the range; and most importantly, 3) they want you to win your gunfights. They want to prepare you. That’s why they chose the assignment. An alternative is to ask your commander to get someone to help you prepare.

We all want you to be successful. In fact, as commanders, that’s our job. Please initiate by asking for the extra support you need to win.

REFERENCE

1. For more on this topic see Joel Turner’s archery book, Controlled Process Shooting: The Science of Target Panic, or google his name for informative videos.

Deputy Chief Kyle Sumpter has 30 years of law enforcement service. He was a patrol officer, FTO, training coordinator, major crimes detective, firearms instructor, SWAT officer and team commander, and graduated from the FBINA session 237. Kyle was on two seasons of the reality shooting competition show Top Shot. He teaches deadly force, de-escalation and resolving lethal situations to law enforcement officers throughout the state of Washington. Reach him at kyles@cityoffederalway.com

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Four-Step Road Map to Maximize Your Cybersecurity ROI

Focus your cybersecurity investment on initiatives that create more effort for the attacker. (Photo/Pixabay)

 

Story By Rick Simonds for Police1.com

Public safety agencies continue to be hit hard by ransomware attacks. News of police departments unable to access critical information, having their 911 centers temporarily knocked offline, or facing sensitive information being released to the public has become all too common.

There is no simple solution. Cybersecurity spending continues to rise, but cybercrime isn’t slowing down. While there’s no shortage of new technologies to invest in, the reality is that there’s no silver bullet solution to protect your department from a cyberattack.

Since it’s impossible to prevent a cyberattack, a more realistic destination is cyber resiliency – the ability to prepare for and adapt to changing conditions so you can withstand and recover rapidly from disruptions. This can be achieved by implementing a holistic and mature cybersecurity program throughout your agency.

But developing a mature cybersecurity program takes time and can be overwhelming. Organizations just getting started can be unsure of where to begin. We are often asked, “How much do we need to spend, and how do we measure the return on investments we make in cybersecurity?”

The current threat environment will influence your investment strategy. Ransomware as a service (RaaS) is a thriving global services economy that has changed the game for criminals around the world. RaaS providers aren’t just operating on the dark web – a good number sell services on commercial websites. Many model themselves after commercial IT services providers, working with resellers, offering tiered pricing and providing help desk support. Little technological expertise is needed to become a successful cybercriminal.

[View this on-demand webinar on the growing threat of ransomware attacks on public safety agencies]

The good news is most of these attacks are not targeted, they are automated, opportunistic attacks. Attackers want to get the most amount of money for the least amount of effort. For this reason, focus your cybersecurity investment on initiatives that create more effort for the attacker. At a minimum, every program should contain the following three items:

  1. Patching critical vulnerabilities.
  2. Remove administrative privileges.
  3. Strong passwords with multi-factor authentication.

Once these controls are in place, continue to maximize your cybersecurity ROI by following this roadmap.

1. FIND ACTIVE THREATS

Left unchecked, network infections can propagate across infrastructure environments and questionable network activity only increases the likelihood that an organization will eventually be victimized by a breach or compromise.

Automated threat detection is not enough. Organizations must proactively hunt for threats on their network daily. A managed threat detection service that employs security analysts to identify and confirm threats 24×7 can allow you to cost-effectively leverage all the cybersecurity advantages that an in-house threat hunting team delivers.

Investing in a managed threat detection service provides tangible results almost immediately with little disruption to your business processes. You will pinpoint suspicious activities putting you at risk and receive guidance on how to mitigate those risks. 

2. DEVELOP AN ACTION PLAN

It’s important to understand your current state so you can prioritize your path forward. A great tool to help evaluate your organization’s cybersecurity readiness is the Cybersecurity Framework issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The Framework enables organizations – regardless of size, degree of cybersecurity risk, or cybersecurity sophistication – to apply the principles and best practices of risk management to improve security and business resilience.

Gaps in your program are identified by analyzing the current state of your control environment against the Framework’s objectives. Then an action plan can be developed to move your organization forward realistically and cost-effectively on a path to cybersecurity maturity, while maintaining a balance of productivity and operational effectiveness. 

3. BUILD A FOUNDATION

Initial investments should be for foundational elements that can mature over time. We recommend taking a risk-based approach to determine a strategic plan as it relates to investment in cybersecurity. You need to balance risk against rewards and manage cybersecurity risk in a way that is consistent with your department’s objectives.

Foundational elements of a robust cybersecurity program include:

  • An Incident Response Plan that provides a well-defined, consistent and organized approach for handling incidents and ensuring cyber resiliency. Periodically practice your plan using tabletop exercises to ensure you are prepared when a real event occurs.
  • End-user security awareness training for your employees. Build a workforce that understands the fundamentals of cybersecurity, so that they can make everyday choices to promote it and defend your information assets.
  • An effective cybersecurity review program for your third-party service providers.
  • A process to identify system and device-specific vulnerabilities through vulnerability scanning and penetration testing.

4. TRACK YOUR SUCCESS

Metrics are used to track success throughout many facets of business, and cybersecurity is no exception. When you understand what’s working and what’s not, you can make better business choices around what you invest in.

A multitude of data points in your cybersecurity program can be leveraged to help guide, inform and improve your security program. Choose what makes sense for your business and get started.


About the author
Rick has over 25 years of business, information technology and cybersecurity experience, and has earned multiple certifications. He began his career at Tyler Cybersecurity (formerly Sage Data Security) in 2003 as an Information Security Architect where he worked with clients providing a full range of services from technical testing to Board of Director briefings. In 2008 he was promoted to Chief Technology Officer, a position he held until 2015 when he took over managing the day-to-day operations. Tyler Cybersecurity became part of the Tyler Technologies family in 2018 and offers a range of cybersecurity solutions, including advisory services, assurance testing and managed threat detection to the public sector.

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