Road to Zero Grants Program Now Accepting Applications

The Road to Zero Coalition is once again launching applications to fund innovative efforts to improve traffic safety through programming and research. In previous years, the Road to Zero Community Traffic Safety Grants supported 26 grants totaling over $3 million. These new funds, once again provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will be awarded over three years to organizations and institutions committed to finding proven ways to reduce traffic fatalities.
 
Applications for the first year of funds, ranging from $50,000 to $250,000, close on Jan 7. Applicants must be a Road to Zero Coalition member (join free now) and proposed projects should have measurable objectives and generalizable results.
 
Join the Road to Zero Coalition on December 7th at 2 PM Eastern for a short webinar to learn more about this grant opportunity.
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New Toolkit Helps Consumers Avoid Scams While Holiday Shopping

The holiday shopping season is underway and the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) is launching a new holiday shopping toolkit to help consumers protect themselves from substandard or even hazardous counterfeit toys, electronics, cosmetics and other products.

The holiday shopping toolkit includes online shopping do’s and don’ts, ways to protect financial and banking information, educational videos and infographics, and general information on how to spot fake merchandise.

“For most, the holidays represent a season of good will and giving, but for criminals, it’s the season to lure in unsuspecting holiday shoppers,” said IPR Center Director Matt Allen. “One of the key principles of crime prevention is education, and this holiday guide ensures consumers are equipped with advice from experts on how to protect their personal financial data and avoid buying gifts that can be harmful to their loved ones.”

IPR Center partners Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and The Toy Association are teaming up to ensure consumers can make educated decisions when searching for the best deals this season.

“Criminals don’t take the holidays off, so it’s important for consumers to be aware of ways they can protect themselves this busy season,” said Acting Deputy Assistant Director Carlton Peeples of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI collaborates with our law enforcement and private sector partners at the IPR Center year-round to combat the sale of counterfeit goods, which threaten public health and safety and impose high costs to the U.S. economy. Everyone can help identify and thwart counterfeiters, and this year, we encourage the public to use our holiday shopping toolkit to avoid becoming a scammer’s next victim.”

What’s the risk of buying counterfeit products? Counterfeit electronics can overheat and explode, bicycle helmets can break upon impact, phony cosmetics and health care products can be made with dangerous or unsanitary ingredients that should not be applied to the skin, and seasonal items for the home, like holiday lights, can be poorly wired and ignite fires.

Counterfeit goods not only cheat the consumer with substandard and potentially hazardous products, but the websites used can also put shoppers at risk of having their personal and financial data stolen for other nefarious purposes. Online shopping is particularly vulnerable to scams that trick the user into buying counterfeit and pirated goods.

“When it comes to fake toys, there are significant safety concerns,” said Steve Pasierb, president & CEO of The Toy Association. “Counterfeit and knockoff toys sold by unreputable sellers are highly unlikely to comply with strict toy safety laws that are designed to protect children at play. These fake, noncompliant products might have small parts that can break off, may not be age-graded appropriately, or may pose other risks to children. When shopping online, families need to carefully scrutinize listings, and purchase only from reputable sellers and known brands, whose legitimate toys comply with the more than 100 different safety standards and tests required by law.”

Among the tips the IPR Center is providing for holiday shopping:

  • Purchase goods only from reputable retailers and be wary of third-party vendors.
  • Read product reviews on websites and research companies you aren’t familiar with.
  • Check seller reviews and verify there is a working phone number and address for the seller, in case you have questions about the legitimacy of a product.
  • If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Don’t buy expensive items from third party websites.
  • Take advantage of security features. Passwords and other security tools add layers of protection if used appropriately.
  • Check privacy policies. Take precautions when providing information, and make sure to check published privacy policies to see how a company will use or distribute your information.
  • Check your statements. Keep a record of your purchases and copies of confirmation pages and compare them to your bank statements. If there is a discrepancy, report it immediately.

Sold online and in stores, counterfeit goods hurt the U.S. economy, cost Americans their jobs, threaten consumer health and safety, and fund criminal activity. Every year, the U.S. government seizes millions of counterfeit goods from countries around the world, worth billions of dollars, as part of its mission to protect U.S. businesses, as well as the health and safety of consumers.

“Fake goods pose real dangers to your health and safety and jeopardize the U.S. economy,” said AnnMarie Highsmith, Executive Assistant Commissioner of CBP’s Office of Trade. “Between October 1, 2020 and July of this year, CBP made 22,849 seizures worth $2.5 billion. That’s $2.5 billion dollars in legitimate revenue that has been taken from the pockets of law-abiding American businesses to line the pockets of criminals and criminal organizations.”

The IPR Center, working collaboratively with its 27 public and private sector partners, stands at the forefront of the United States government’s response to combatting global intellectual property theft and enforcing intellectual properties rights violations. The IPR Center was established to combat global intellectual property theft and, accordingly, has a significant role policing the sale and distribution of counterfeit goods on websites, social media, and the dark web.

These efforts protect U.S. industry, the U.S. consumer, and the safety of the American public from the adverse economic impact and health dangers posed from introducing counterfeit products into U.S. commerce. Intellectual property rights violations can be reported to the IPR Center at www.iprcenter.gov.

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Handling Casualties at Active Shooter Incidents: Who Goes In? When?

By Scott Buhrmaster for Calibre Press

After our article, Active Shooter: Coming to a Theater Near You? Advice From the Front Line, we received the following response from recently retired Director of Public Safety, Richard Fairburn in Canton, IL. Richard’s insights come backed with 40 years of expansive law enforcement experience. That said, we felt it was important to share his thoughts with all of you.

He writes:

When the mass shooting at the Century 16 theater in Aurora occurred, I was traveling/training a lot with BowMac Educational Services. A fellow instructor was Gerry Hammernick, a retired Fire Chief from Oak Creek, WI.  This suburb of Milwaukee is the site of their international airport and has a long history of critical incidents.  They have handled two active shooter events, one several years ago in a hotel near the airport and somewhat later the much more widely known Sikh Temple Shooting. 

After the Aurora shooting, Gerry received some feedback from fire resources who responded to the theatre and I had some intel from officers who were there as well. They all described the treatment of casualties at the scene as a total mess.  The fire commanders refused to allow the medics to go into the “hot zone” to treat casualties, following their 20+ year history of not going into a police-dangerous scene until the scene is “declared safe,” which often takes 8-12 hours after a complete search has been accomplished by SWAT.

Gerry and I compiled our intel and co-wrote an article that argued for a change in the FD policy of not sending medics into a hot zone until it was declared safe. 

Our proposal was to train a Task Force (in FD terminology any mix of dissimilar specialists is a “task force”) combining well-armed cops who would use the Rapid Deployment technique of a Contact Team to escort a team of specially equipped medics (helmets/hard body armor) into the hot zone to drastically decrease the amount of time casualties get potentially getting lifesaving treatment.  At Aurora, several of the most seriously wounded casualties were thrown into the trunks of squad cars and driven out medics waiting in the Cold Zone.

When our article was published, MANY Paramedics/EMTs in the fire service loudly agreed with us.  The medics WANTED to get in there and save lives. It was the trepidatious Fire Chiefs who were holding them back.  Many of the medics had served as combat medics in Iraq and Afghanistan where they had handled similar casualties in much more dangerous environments.

Turning the Fire Service is normally a lot like turning a battleship. Mighty slow.  But within a year a Rescue Task Force (RTF) curriculum had been developed which spread rapidly and widely.  Here in Illinois, Jeff Chudwin at Illinois Tactical Officers Association and Ed Mohn at the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System SWAT team got grants and did Train the Trainer sessions.  The first wave of training for police and fire went around Illinois in early to mid-2018 I believe. 

FEEDBACK TO SHARE? E-mail us at: editor@calibrepress.com

About the Author

Scott Buhrmaster is the CEO of Calibre Press, one of the leading law enforcement training and information providers in the industry. Scott’s tenure began in 1989 when he originally signed on with Calibre where he was involved in the creation and marketing of the organization’s popular training courses and award-winning textbooks, videos and online publications. At core, he was involved with the overall enhancement and expansion of the organization and he proudly continues that work today.
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Police Research: 1,000 Cops Address Non-Compliance During Traffic Stops

By Nancy Perry for Police1

Traffic stops and vehicle contacts put police officers at a tactical disadvantage, with officer safety further compromised when faced with non-compliant drivers. To better understand officers’ experiences, perceptions, training and tactics for non-compliance during traffic stops, Police1 surveyed more than 1,000 patrol officers. 

To view the complete results, fill out the form below to download the survey.

SURVEY METHODOLOGY AND RESPONDENT DEMOGRAPHICS

Police1 developed a 29-question survey, open from April 22, 2021, to May 4, 2021. A total of 1,036 responses were collected using a Microsoft Form. 

Respondents were fairly evenly divided regarding location and years served in law enforcement. Of those surveyed, 24% serve a rural response area, 42% serve a suburban response area and 34% serve an urban response area.

A third of respondents had 10-20 years of law enforcement experience and a quarter had 21-30 years of experience; a third had nine years or less on the job and 10% had more than 30 years on the job.

TRAFFIC STOP ACTIVITY

We asked respondents to rank the most common reason for traffic stops in their jurisdiction. Not surprisingly, especially since COVID-19 lockdowns, speeding was overwhelmingly listed as the number one reason for traffic stops at 43% followed by equipment violations at 24%. Only 13% of respondents rated distracted driving as the number one reason for traffic stops, pretext stops and hazardous driving were rated number one by only 9% and 7% of respondents respectively.

While 2020 saw a huge increase in speeding violations nationwide, in regard to non-speeding traffic violations, 41% of respondents said they had decreased in the past year and 17% had stayed the same. Forty-two percent said they had increased.

We wanted to know if officers had changed their behavior regarding traffic stops since 2019 and nearly two-thirds (59%) of those who responded said they were less likely to stop a vehicle in violation of traffic laws while on patrol than two years ago, while a third (36%) said there was no change. Only 2% were more likely to stop a vehicle.

COMPLIANCE BEHAVIORS

We asked how compliance behaviors during traffic stops had changed over the past year. While half of the respondents said it had stayed the same, 49% said compliance had worsened. 

We asked respondents to select the types of traffic stops most likely to result in non-compliance. Suspicion of criminal intent and impaired driving were selected most often, with 76% and 66% of respondents selecting one or both. Just over a third of respondents said hazardous driving, equipment violations and speeding were likely to result in non-compliance. Just over one in five respondents selected distracted driving and just over 10% selected failure to wear a seatbelt.

The most common non-compliance behavior encountered was a failure to follow commands (42%) followed by a failure to answer questions (24%). Around 10% of respondents said refusal to show a driver’s license and other documents or furtive movements.

We asked respondents to list the actions they did at every traffic stop, whether as a result of personal habits or policies. Nearly all the respondents indicated that they notify dispatch they are on a traffic stop and tell the driver the reason they were stopped. They also request the driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance and scan the vehicle interior for hazards. Two-thirds of the respondents activate their body-worn camera during traffic stops and 57% active the dash camera; 62% percent conduct a license plate check before contact. Half of those surveyed touch the vehicle to leave their prints, while only 4% of the officers who answered this survey call for backup.

We asked respondents if there is a non-compliance red flag – a specific action, behavior, or response – they want every police officer to be aware of. Respondents contributed more than 500 red flag actions and behaviors. We compiled the top responses and themes in this article “Officers identify red flags for non-compliance during traffic stops” for verified officers access only.

TRAFFIC STOP POLICIES

We asked respondents if their department had made changes to their traffic stop policy in the last year. The majority (78%) said no, while a fifth (19%) said yes. 

For the 24% of respondents whose agencies had implemented policy changes, many indicated those changes were due to social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. A summary of additional changes is listed here:

  • Mandatory camera and mandatory paperwork to track driver race.
  • Only make stops if the violations are hazardous to other drivers. Not allowed to stop for any type of license plate or registration offenses.
  • Colorado House Bill requires a list of information to be provided for every stop. Agency policy mirrors this and requires that we provide the info we have prior to the stop in addition to the info collected while in contact with the driver, including the “perceived race” of the driver prior to the stop. Officers, in general, are afraid of stopping violators of certain races for fear of lawsuits or civil action.
  • Chemical agents and pepper ball deployment are now allowed for non-compliant drivers. We are no longer allowed to pursue for traffic violations.
  • Unless the violation is one in which the violator has done something so unsafe that it places public safety in jeopardy, i.e., a very dangerous or egregious act, we are not to ignore it, but rather re-evaluate the risks in making the traffic stop and weigh assigned primary responsibilities against the need to deal with a minor traffic law infringement.
  • No more “performance standard” (20 stops a month).
  • No more custodial in most situations.
  • No longer can give a verbal warning. You must write a citation or written warning.
  • Reduced stops on minor infractions.
  • Became policy to issue stop receipts to motorists stopped.
  • Changes made to what we do when in contact with firearms during a traffic stop.
  • No pretext stops unless there is an abundance of reasonable suspicion or probable cause.
  • Patrol vehicles now have video cameras.
  • We must now include the race of the vehicle operator for all stops and have bodycams activated. We also have a new stricter pursuit policy.
  • Can’t make someone exit the vehicle unless you have PC.
  • No vehicle (or pedestrian) contacts unless witnessing a violent crime.
  • Force not to be used to get a person out of the vehicle for the sole purpose of towing the vehicle.
  • The policy changed from a “should” activate body-worn cameras during traffic stops to a “shall” activate body-worn cameras when you know you are going to stop a vehicle.
  • Some arrestable offenses such as driving on a suspended license are now prohibited in most cases. Policy requires us to consider the least intrusive or financially impactful course of action was also implemented. It basically says to ticket drivers less or not at all.
  • The Sandra Bland Act tightens racial profile reporting resulting in more data gathering and reporting.
  • Call in to dispatch with all traffic stops.
  • Beginning July 1, 2020, Virginia House Bill 1250, commonly known as the Community Policing Act, became law. It requires local law enforcement agencies to collect and report certain data pertaining to drivers to the Virginia State Police during a motor vehicle (traffic) stop.
  • Can no longer tell someone to not make phone calls during traffic stops.
  • About a year or two ago, they started requiring us to introduce ourselves by name and department and the reason for the stop at the initial contact.
  • Must attempt to deescalate and talk before using force, but there is no definition of how long you need to talk and deescalate before you can step up force. 
  • Reduced pursuit of fleeing vehicles to violent felonies only.
  • Pit maneuver made a use of deadly force.
  • We only request licenses from operators as registration and insurance information can be obtained via DMV now.
  • A demographic form required on any self-initiated stop that states race, gender, age, the reason for stop and action taken.
  • Non-enforcement of suspended driving violations.
  • If the subject doesn’t pull over for the traffic stop and continues to drive on, but you don’t have an exigent circumstance to continue into a vehicle pursuit, then the officer must shut down his equipment and let the vehicle go.
  • No longer able to ask if there are drugs or weapons in the car unless that was the reason we stop them.
  • Explain the reason for the stop prior to getting ID.
  • Equipment violations have become a secondary violation only by law, can no longer arrest the driver for refusal to sign the traffic ticket. A requirement to issue warning cards where we previously just verbally warned the driver.
  • Discourage officers from making stops purely for equipment and non-safety-related violations believing this will reduce negative contacts with violators.
  • The list of primary offenses we can stop for has gotten considerably smaller. Required use of bodycams (new to department) and in-car video. More of an emphasis on issuing warnings unless it’s for offenses that are “hot button” like texting while driving or driving without a seatbelt.
  • Addresses signing or not signing the citation, and now involves a supervisor to decide if the party can be booked for the charge.

Only 16% of respondents said their department’s traffic stop policy specifically addresses driver non-compliance; 68% said their policy does not address non-compliance and 14% were unsure.

If the department’s traffic stop policy specifically addresses driver non-compliance, responders were asked to explain how the policy addresses non-compliance. Reasons listed include: 

  • Supervisors must respond to the scene before a refusal to sign can be taken into custody.
  • Call for a cover unit.
  • It encourages officers to consider the overall circumstances and make a decision on whether the non-compliance is a critical matter requiring immediate action such as an arrest or can be ignored or worked through to complete the task without undue hazard to the officer or traffic offender.
  • Chemical agents can be used for drivers refusing to exit the vehicle and we can now use glass breaker rounds from a pepper ball gun to break windows.
  • If you can issue the citation, issue it. Don’t escalate the stop.
  • Request supervisor and additional unit.
  • Immediately call for backup. Stall and attempt to talk to the person and diffuse if possible or maintain status quo conversation until backup arrives. Then escalate as needed to identify and detain the driver to permit further investigation into the reason behind non-compliance.
  • If someone refuses to identify themselves and refuses to step out of the vehicle we are to call a supervisor before we can break a window out. If the driver takes off in the vehicle we are not allowed to pursue unless they have committed a violent felony.
  • We have a process of verbal cues we make before going hands-on, the last being, “Is there anything I can do or say to get you to comply?” When that’s said, everyone knows hands-on is coming immediately.
  • If the driver refuses to sign a summons our policy requires a supervisor (or uninvolved officer if a supervisor is unavailable) to respond and attempt to communicate to the recipient of the summons the requirement by law.
  • If the driver fails to comply with any directives they are informed of the law authorizing officers to use reasonable force to remove them from the vehicle and they are given time to comply after they have been educated on the law. If they continue to remain non-compliant they are forcibly removed and arrested.

We asked if department policy encourages that, when conditions allow, traffic stop approaches are made at specific locations, such as a well-lit convenience store or near a firehouse, even if it means following a vehicle for a short while. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (59%) said no, just over a third (37%) said yes and 5% were unsure.

REASSIGNING TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT

While there has been a lot of discussion among legislators and community groups about reducing the role of police in enforcing traffic laws, only 7% of survey respondents support such proposals. The majority (87%) do not support such proposals and 6% were unsure.

We asked respondents what traffic enforcement tasks should be reassigned from law enforcement to another agency. Here is a sampling of some of the responses we received: 

  • We should not be stopping vehicles for a broken windshield, distracted driving, broken equipment, expired plates and seatbelt use.
  • Car crashes not involving death or DWI should not be a police matter. Anything regarding abandoned cars and parking complaints. Police should ONLY address specific violations related to unsafe driving that threatens public safety.
  • Speeding, registration.
  • Stop sign violations.
  • Parking.
  • All traffic with the exception of pretext and DUI.
  • Reckless driving when the complainant calls in but not available to interview.
  • Red light camera violations along with speed enforcement cameras where citations are sent to the offenders where no interaction from law enforcement at all.
  • Registration compliance.

IMPROVING OFFICER SAFETY, TRAINING

We wanted to know how much traffic-stop training was provided to respondents. The majority (50%) receive yearly training, while 42% do not receive any training. Only 6% receive monthly training.

Respondents were asked to select the types of training received for traffic stops with non-compliant drivers since 2019. Many respondents selected more than one method, with online training, legal case reviews, roll call briefings and classroom lectures are the most common type of training formats. Hands-on training and simulation are not as frequently encountered.

Nearly half of respondents believe they have not received adequate department-provided training for traffic stops involving non-compliant drivers, while a quarter strongly agrees or agree they had received adequate training.

Despite that lack of training, most respondents (84%) indicated they are confident in their ability to handle a non-compliant driver during a traffic stop. 

We asked a series of questions regarding the type of training respondents had received regarding responding to non-compliant drivers during traffic stops.

Only a quarter (24%) had received hands-on training in removing a non-compliance driver from their vehicle, 35% have completed simulator or hands-on training on using less lethal tools (i.e., pepper spray or an ECW) with a non-compliant driver, and 37% have completed simulation or range training on reacting to a driver or vehicle occupant who shoots from the vehicle.

We asked respondents for their recommendations for other police officers to improve officer safety and reduce liability risks when stopping a non-compliant driver. We compiled the top responses and themes in this article, “Improving officer safety and reducing risk during non-compliant traffic stops” for verified officers only.

ADDITIONAL FINDINGS FROM THE SURVEY

To view the complete results of this survey, fill out the form below to download a PDF report.

DOWNLOAD THE SURVEY RESULTS

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By submitting this form, you are granting permission to send you periodic informational messages.

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Mental Health Care Shouldn’t Come in a Police Car

Story By Stephanie Hepburn for #CrisisTalk 

There are police departments throughout the United States that no longer answer calls they believe could result in “suicide by cop.” Around 100 shootings like this happen each year, making up roughly 10% of fatal police shootings. Ron Bruno, executive director of CIT Utah and 2nd vice president at CIT International, says this is a philosophy taking hold in law enforcement agencies all over the country, but he quickly points out, people can’t just be left in distress. “Something has to be done, and that’s why we need to examine our crisis response system as a whole, carving out clear roles for law enforcement and mental health services.” Bruno says that law enforcement has a critical part to play in the mental health crisis response system, but it needs to be in a position of support to the mental healthcare system and only when necessary. “We have to challenge the belief that mental health crisis services must come in a police car.”

While there are law enforcement agencies selectively unresponsive to some mental health calls, others are doubling down on their involvement. The impetus, says Bruno, is that, historically, mental health services haven’t been appropriately funded and so law enforcement became the de facto mental health crisis response system. “It fell to us, but we aren’t the best solution or help to a person in an escalated state.” Bruno travels around the world, speaking to audiences on de-escalation and advocating for clearly defined roles for criminal justice and behavioral health services to create a more effective crisis response system. At some point during a presentation, he often asks the audience to raise their hand if they’ve ever been pulled over by a police officer. Most of the hands raise. Then, he’ll instruct them to keep their hands up if the experience increased their anxiety level. Hands remain raised. “Every time a police officer goes out to a crisis situation, it’s going to escalate the person’s emotional state. Yes, we can and will train officers to de-escalate situations, but often, their mere presence is stressful, and the person in crisis can become fearful and enter flight or fight. That’s when we see major problems.” 

Estimates suggest that 25-50% of fatal encounters with law enforcement involve a person experiencing mental illness. Bruno says that in most cases, the interaction between law enforcement and the person in crisis is unnecessary. Just like audiences raised their hands to indicate the distress they felt when pulled over by a police officer, in de-escalation training, officers share that, in the majority of cases where they were called out, the situation didn’t warrant it. Bruno says having law enforcement be the go-to for mental health crisis care appears and feels criminalizing to the person in need. “Most departments have a policy that the person in crisis will be handcuffed, placed in the back of a caged police vehicle, and taken to an ER. This is traumatizing for the person and will make it so that they are reluctant to call for help the next time they are in crisis.” The result is that people in distress, and their families, allow further decompensation than they should before reaching out for help because they don’t want to interact with law enforcement. “With officers declining calls and people not wanting to interface with law enforcement when they or a family member is in crisis, it highlights that something is wrong with the current system.”

The solution, says Bruno, isn’t complicated (see image below). When a call goes into the Emergency Communication Center—911 dispatch—operators can be trained to triage those calls and identify whether the person in crisis is a danger to her or himself or an immediate threat to someone else. If not, then the person can be passed along to appropriate care in the mental health crisis system through a warm handoff to the crisis line. At that point, says Bruno, the crisis line can also do a secondary triage and determine whether it’s still a safe situation. If they decide that it’s unsafe, Bruno says they can do a warm handoff back to law enforcement, and law enforcement can send out Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) trained officers to go out and respond to those situations. “Most calls that go through 911 don’t require a law enforcement response and can be transferred to a crisis line where we know the majority of calls, 80% and upward, are resolved at that level, and there’s no need for police involvement.”

Dedicated Mental Health Crisis Response Model

If an officer on the street comes across a person in crisis and assesses that the person is safe, she or he should reach out to mobile crisis. The challenge is that each community is unique, and many don’t have a robust continuum of crisis care. Bruno says that’s why each community needs to take a hard (and holistic) look at what’s happening in their public mental health system, addressing potential funding and geographical challenges. Ironically, says Bruno, many communities are defaulting to the least economical solution, using law enforcement as the primary form of mental health crisis services or embedded co-responder models, where law enforcement agencies dedicate personnel and partner them with clinicians to respond. “It’s expensive because now you have dedicated law enforcement officers waiting around for mental health crisis calls or, in some agencies, a clinician rides around with a police officer who is handling unrelated calls.” 

Bruno says it’s time for public mental health to return to the community and allow people in crisis to be treated within it, instead of removing them from their support systems by taking them out of their day-to-day lives and roles. “It’s easier for people to transition back into their lives if they’re never fully yanked out of them in the first place and can be treated in the community.” He says by retraining people to call a crisis line instead of 911, it allows people to be treated in the least intrusive manner as opposed to the highest. “We’ve trained people to think that if a loved one is in crisis, they need to contact law enforcement who will come out and take the person into protective custody. He or she will be handcuffed, put in the back of the police car, and taken to the ER. That’s what we’ve told people is the cost of stabilization.” He says it’s a grueling, stress-inducing process, that more often than not, was unnecessary. A crisis line can help decrease a person’s distress, and if they are unable to, they can send out a clinician and certified peer specialist to talk to the person, and, when necessary, the support of a CIT trained police officer. The idea, says Bruno, is to maximize the use of a person’s natural supports into their stabilization plan. “By doing this, we are going to retrain community members to think, ‘If I become symptomatic, I contact the crisis line. If the specialist deems it appropriate, they will hand me off to a warmline. However, if necessary, they can also send out a professional who can talk to me.” 

Bruno says it’s time for a change, “Let’s treat crisis in the most compassionate and least intrusive manner.”

Want to see a flowchart that gives a clear example of risk assessment? Take a look at the recently released Broome County 911 call diversion emotionally distressed caller risk assessment in the CIT best practices guide.

Visiit CrisisTalk for more information.

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BJS Releases the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) Dashboard (N-DASH)

The NCVS Dashboard (N-DASH), a dynamic analysis tool, allows you to examine National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) data on both personal and property victimization, by select victim, household, and incident characteristics.

Based on BJS’s National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), the N-DASH is the first of its kind at BJS. This dynamic analysis tool allows users to examine NCVS data on both personal and property victimization, by select victim, household, and incident characteristics. The N-DASH modernizes public access to NCVS data in a new, interactive online data visualization dashboard. The N-DASH replaces and enhances the core functionality of the previous NCVS Victimization Analysis Tool (NVAT), increases the speed of conducting analyses, contains new data elements, and provides capability for custom graphics and other modern visualization features. The dashboard provides direct and user-friendly access to the largest collection of data on criminal victimization in the United States, beginning in 1993.

The NCVS is the nation’s primary source of information on criminal victimization. It is an annual data collection sponsored by BJS. The NCVS collects information from a nationally representative sample of U.S. households on nonfatal crimes, reported and not reported to the police, against persons age 12 or older.

The N-DASH was created by BJS Statisticians Grace Kena, Erika Harrell, and Alexandra Thompson, in partnership with staff from RTI International under award number 2020-85-CX-K017. BJS Lead Information Technology Specialist John Popham provided additional technical support.

Access the N-DASH

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US Overdose Deaths Topped 100,000 in One Year, Officials Say

This is what a lethal dose of fentanyl looks like. Drug overdoses now surpass deaths from car crashes, guns and flu and pneumonia.

By Mike Stobbe Medical Writer | Police1.com

An estimated 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in one year, a never-before-seen milestone that health officials say is tied to the COVID-19 pandemic and a more dangerous drug supply.

Overdose deaths have been rising for more than two decades, accelerated in the past two years and, according to new data posted Wednesday, jumped nearly 30% in the latest year.

Experts believe the top drivers are the growing prevalence of deadly fentanyl in the illicit drug supply and the COVID-19 pandemic, which left many drug users socially isolated and unable to get treatment or other support.

The number is “devastating,” said Katherine Keyes, a Columbia University expert on drug abuse issues. “It’s a magnitude of overdose death that we haven’t seen in this country.”

Drug overdoses now surpass deaths from car crashes, guns and even flu and pneumonia. The total is close to that for diabetes, the nation’s No. 7 cause of death.

Drawing from the latest available death certificate data, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 100,300 Americans died of drug overdoses from May 2020 to April 2021. It’s not an official count. It can take many months for death investigations involving drug fatalities to become final, so the agency made the estimate based on 98,000 reports it has received so far.

The CDC previously reported there were about 93,000 overdose deaths in 2020, the highest number recorded in a calendar year. Robert Anderson, the CDC’s chief of mortality statistics, said the 2021 tally is likely to surpass 100,000.

“2021 is going to be terrible,” agreed Dr. Daniel Ciccarone, a drug policy expert at the University of California, San Francisco.

The new data shows many of the deaths involve illicit fentanyl, a highly lethal opioid that five years ago surpassed heroin as the type of drug involved in the most overdose deaths. Dealers have mixed fentanyl with other drugs — one reason that deaths from methamphetamines and cocaine also are rising.

The CDC has not yet calculated racial and ethnic breakdowns of the overdose victims.

It found the estimated death toll rose in all but four states — Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey and South Dakota — compared with the same period a year earlier. The states with largest increases were Vermont (70%), West Virginia (62%) and Kentucky (55%).

Minnesota saw an increase of about 39%, with estimated overdose deaths rising to 1,188 in May 2020 through April 2021 from 858 in the previous 12-month period.

The area around the city of Mankato has seen its count of overdose deaths rise from two in 2019, to six last year to 16 so far this year, said police Lt. Jeff Wersal, who leads a regional drug task force.

“I honestly don’t see it getting better, not soon,” he said.

Among the year’s victims was Travis Gustavson, who died in February at the age of 21 in Mankato. His blood was found to show signs of fentanyl, heroin, marijuana and the sedative Xanax, Wersal said.

Gustavson was close to his mother, two brothers and the rest of his family, said his grandmother, Nancy Sack.

He was known for his easy smile, she said. “He could be crying when he was a little guy, but if someone smiled at him, he immediately stopped crying and smiled back,” she recalled.

Gustavson first tried drugs as kid and had been to drug treatment as a teenager, Sack said. He struggled with anxiety and depression, but mainly used marijuana and different kinds of pills, she said.

The morning of the day he died, Travis had a tooth pulled, but he wasn’t prescribed strong painkillers because of his drug history, Sack said. He told his mother he would just stay home and ride out the pain with ibuprofen. He was expecting a visit from his girlfriend that night to watch a movie, she said.

But Gustavson contacted Max Leo Miller, also 21, who provided him a bag containing heroin and fentanyl, according to police.

Some details of what happened are in dispute, but all accounts suggest Gustavson was new to heroin and fentanyl.

Police say Gustavson and Miller exchanged messages on social media. At one point, Gustavson sent a photo of a line of a white substance on a brown table and asked if he was taking the right amount and then wrote “Or bigger?”

According to a police report, Miller responded: “Smaller bro” and “Be careful plz!”

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Active Shooter: Coming to a Theater Near You? Advice From the Front Line

By Scott Buhrmaster | Calibre Press

The mass shooting at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, CO in 2012 stands as one of the most murderous events in recent memory. 12 people were killed and 70 were injured after tactically clad active shooter James Holmes opened fire on terrified theatergoers during a midnight screening of the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises.

The incident was not only deadly, it was also tactically eye-opening. As law enforcement, EMS and fire responded to the theater, unexpected issues surfaced that every first response agency can learn from.

As part of this year’s Calibre Press-sponsored Patrol Tactics Conference, Aurora PD Commander Jad Lanigan and former Aurora SWAT Commander Mike Dailey—both key players in leading the response to this incident—shared the insider insights they’re now cleared to discuss. Their experiences and advice can help you and your partner first-response agencies be better prepared to navigate a crisis like this.

Here are a few areas of consideration they focused on:

Sound. Throughout the incident, the Batman movie kept running which added to the chaos. The high volume of the theatre sound system on top of the sounds of gunfire, fire alarms going off and terrified people screaming compounded the cacophony and contributed to overall confusion and sensory overload for both victims and first responders. On one of the 911 tapes, a terrified theatergoer yells through the phone, “You need to stop the movie!!!”

As would be expected, when the gunfire erupted, theater workers fled leaving no one to power down the sound/projection system.

When you’re planning for active shooter event response, consider what large venues might be targeted and what issues like this might surface. If there are theaters in your community, would you know how to access the control rooms? Do you know where the stereo controls are in your local nightclubs? How about the lighting controls? Think about the lighting nightmare officers and escaping theatergoers needed to navigate in that dark theater with a movie flashing.

Consider every possible factor that could make your job more difficult and intensify victims’ panic and determine ahead of time how you might control them. Take the time to check out locations like this and have a plan for quickly controlling the atmosphere as best you can in a crisis.

Gas. During his attack, Holmes deployed OC canisters in the theater which required officers to don gas masks which further reduced their visibility in the smokey, low-light situation. During their presentation, Jad and Mike noted that OC and smoke are becoming increasingly common tools to use against police.

During active threat training (as well as protest management etc.) be sure you’re training for reality. Use theatrical smoke and force officers to navigate chaotic situations while wearing gas masks. Being prepared to deal with the sensory oddities that come with wearing a mask can make a critical difference to the safety and success of your response.

And speaking of gas masks…where is yours? When’s the last time you practiced with it? It needs to be in your car, and you need to be ready to use it. “Gas can happen at any time,” Jad cautioned. Be prepared.

Command decisions. At the time of the incident, Mike was Aurora PD’s SWAT Commander. Prior to his arrival at the scene, Jad controlled incident command but Aurora’s departmental policy dictated that when the SWAT Commander arrives on scene, incident command is immediately transferred to that individual.

In this instance, Mike made a decision to have Jad remain in his command role in the interest of preserving leadership consistency and avoiding even the slightest tweak to the responding officers’ focus. “Jad was doing an excellent job and I didn’t want to distract our guys by suddenly adding a new voice to the mix,” said Mike. “There was no need. I’ve always felt it’s a bad idea to change horses in mid-stream if you don’t need to.”

Dispatchers. A couple of valuable lessons were learned regarding dispatchers’ roles in active threat response. The first dealt with threat recognition.

During their presentation, Jad and Mike played audio of one of the first 911 calls to hit the dispatch center. As the exasperated caller tries to explain what is happening you can clearly hear gunfire in the background.

32 rounds were fired during that call, which would be an immediate tip-off that a mass shooting was in progress…to those who recognize the sound of gunfire. Problem is, over the phone that dispatcher didn’t recognize those sounds as rounds being fired and the caller couldn’t be heard clearly enough to understand what she was calling to report.

Jad and Mike suggested that in an effort to ensure that your dispatchers can recognize the sound of gunfire over the phone, go to the range, call them and fire rounds in the background so they can hear what that sounds like. Do not assume everyone knows what gunfire sounds like, particularly over the phone.

The second lesson had to do with unintentionally asking leading questions. In another clip of 911 audio, a caller tells the dispatcher someone is shooting in the theater. That dispatcher can then be heard asking, “Where are they? Where did they go?” The caller then responds something to the effect of, “They’re at the exit door!”

By saying “they” the dispatcher unwittingly caused the caller to parrot her reference to multiple attackers. There was only one, but responding officers were now going to hear “they” and assume there were multiple attackers. Although you should always assume there are more than one attacker until it’s proven otherwise, ideally every piece of information that is relayed by dispatch is as accurate as possible. If the caller had been asked, “How many people are shooting?” or asked, “Tell me exactly what’s happening,” the inaccurate reference to multiple shooters may have been avoided.

Train realistically in every way. The officers who responded to this shooting were immediately blasted with an extraordinary amount of stress and forced to navigate hordes of panicked people—many who were in pain—while trying to locate the suspect. Jad and Mike shared that these officers had to cast aside terrified people who literally grabbed on to them and desperately pleaded for protection…including children (think back to the Sandy Hook grade school tragedy.) They had to step over bodies. They had to overlook the injured while trying to locate and engage the threat. The emotional stress of this on officers was incredible but unavoidable.

In an effort to be best prepared to deal with this kind of experience, Jad and Mike recommend adding elements to your training like people grabbing on to your responding officers and pleading for their lives, injured people screaming in pain and begging for you to help them, child victims, etc.

Imagine the most emotionally challenging scenarios you can conjure up and train for them.

Know what it looks like—and what to do—when an officer is mentally overloading. It goes without saying the stress of this attack pushed officers to their mental and emotional limits. At one point, Jad recalled looking over at an officer who was what he called “a rock star” and noticing the officer’s eyes and face looked different. “That officer was checking out,” he said. The officer was sliding into emotional overload.

Be prepared to recognize what that looks like and have a plan for how you’re going to handle it. How are you going to ensure that the officer is safe and, if at all possible, helped back from the brink so they can continue to meet their professional responsibilities?

Another heartbreaking recollection Jad shared involved an officer who came upon the lifeless body of 6-year-old Veronica Mosher-Sullivan, the youngest of Holmes’ victims. Given the circumstances of the still uncontrolled situation, officers were forced to stay focused on locating the threat while delaying their ability to help the injured and tend to the dead.

This officer, however, simply couldn’t step over the body of this child. He picked her up and completely broke down. “He was completely gone,” Jad said. “Sobbing uncontrollably.”

Although deeply empathetic with this officer, Jad knew he needed to get that officer dialed back in, as painful as that would be. Jad’s response was to firmly order the officer to deliver this young girl to nearby EMS personnel and return to the scene.

“I can’t,” he sobbed. “I just don’t know what to do.” Devastating.

However, that officer was needed, so Jad increased the level of intensity of his demand that the officer relinquish Veronica to EMS and return to the mission of ending the threat and securing this scene. This time it worked. The officer mentally returned to duty.

When you’re discussing and planning for active threat response be sure to advise your officers that in the most severe cases, emotional breakdowns may happen. Cops are human. We all know that. The key is to quickly recognize when an officer is reaching, or has reached, his or her limit and be prepared to handle that.

Communication, communication, communication. James Holmes was in custody less than 10 minutes after the shooting started but dispatch and most officers didn’t know that. Not surprisingly, radio traffic was extremely heavy and that crucial transmission from the arresting officers was buried in the noise. When you’re training for active threat response, have a plan for making sure all critical announcements are heard.

Along those lines, both Jad and Mike strongly recommend wearing form-fitting radio earpieces that facilitate your ability to hear transmissions in high-volume situations. Relying on your ability to hear a radio strapped to your lapel is not a wise idea in their experienced opinion.

Working well with the others. Interoperability between fire, EMS and police proved to be lacking in this incident, Jad and Mike explained. Several serious issues surfaced that proved extremely challenging at the scene and caused considerable contention during post-event debriefing.

Among them were extended staging distances from the scene for fire and EMS, hesitation to share equipment, clashes and decision-making delays between the different departmental command structures and an inability/unwillingness for non-command level personnel to make spontaneous, discretionary decisions that impacted the handling of the injured.

Be sure your police, fire and EMS agencies are meeting regularly to discuss exactly how things will be handled in a crisis situation like this.

Consider things like:

Staging: How close to the scene are fire and EMS willing to come if police tell them it is safe and necessary for them to move in? Will they be so far away, transporting the injured to them will prove unnecessarily difficult?

Equipment: One problem in Aurora involved an officer who approached EMS and asked for a backboard so he could deal with one of the injured. EMS initially refused citing their need to always have their equipment in their possession and fully accounted for.

Command structure and decision-making: Jad and Mike explained that police officers are used to making immediate, independent decisions based on the circumstances of a rapidly changing, high-stress, high-demand situation like this. In this instance, decisions made by fire personnel were always dictated by the Battalion Chief who, given the magnitude of this incident, was quickly inundated with decisions that needed to be made extremely quickly.

Locate alternative entry/exit points before you need them. The parking lot at the theatre in Aurora was extremely chaotic and getting response vehicles through the front entrance was virtually impossible. Thankfully, officers were aware of alternative routes to get into the area surrounding the building quickly.

As part of your active threat response plan, make locating and utilizing alternative access/egress points at potential at-risk venues a priority. Also, be sure to share that information with other responding agencies – including fire & EMS. During the Aurora incident, that proved to be a problem.

Remember to have a way of indicating that a room has been cleared. Every one of the 16 theaters at the Aurora scene had to be cleared and officers quickly began that process. However, it became apparent that the clearing process became duplicative because there were no obvious indications that a theater had been cleared after the process had been completed.

As a result, officers cleared theaters multiple times because they didn’t know they had been cleared previously. To avoid this, consider ways to indicate a space has been cleared, like positioning a chair at the door or running tape across the entry.

Have a plan for reunification logistics. In Aurora, there were more than 1,000 people who needed to be temporarily held for interviews and their cars needed to stay in the parking lot. Aurora PD called in buses to transport them to a nearby school after which they could be reunified with their families.

That’s a lot of people coming to one location. Plan for that. Where are people heading to reconnect with their loved ones going to park? How are the lines of people going to flow? Be sure you have a plan for where and how mass reunification might work.

As with every tragic incident, looking for lessons that can help fellow officers and other first responders be better prepared and more effective is critical. The aftermath of the Aurora mass shooting was devastating for the families of those who were killed, the community of Aurora and many officers who, not long after the experience, found themselves dealing with considerable post-event trauma.

Thanks to the efforts of Jad and Mike who have completely dedicated themselves to sharing these lessons across the country, their suffering is not in vain. For that, we’re all deeply grateful.

Have additional tips to share or an experience that other officers can learn from? E-mail us at: editor@calibrepress.com

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About the Author

Scott Buhrmaster

Scott Buhrmaster is the CEO of Calibre Press, one of the leading law enforcement training and information providers in the industry. Scott’s tenure began in 1989 when he originally signed on with Calibre where he was involved in the creation and marketing of the organization’s popular training courses and award-winning textbooks, videos and online publications. At core, he was involved with the overall enhancement and expansion of the organization and he proudly continues that work today.
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Five Reminders for Dealing with Wheelchairs

There are several important points to remember when dealing with someone in a wheelchair.

 

By Calibre Press

Handling subjects in wheelchairs can be a sensitive and rarely discussed subject in law enforcement.  Yet encounters with people in wheelchairs can pose officer safety risks for officers. It’s important to remember that although most people in wheelchairs are generally regular people dealing with a challenging situation, that’s definitely not the case with all of them.

Recent statistics indicate there are roughly 3 million people in wheelchairs in the U.S., a number that will likely continue to grow. Just by sheer numbers, it’s increasingly likely you will have line-of-duty contact with a person in a wheelchair.

With that, keep these points in mind when dealing with a person in a wheelchair:

1. Not all people in wheelchairs are permanently bound to one. In some instances, the wheelchair is just used to assist them in getting around but is not absolutely necessary for them to move. Don’t assume that if you turn your back on a subject sitting in a wheelchair, they’ll be in the same position when you turn back around. A wheelchair is a piece of medical equipment, not a restraining device. The subject may be fully capable of getting out of the chair and moving to a position of advantage over you.

Also, remember that some individuals may use wheelchairs as a deceptive means of eliciting sympathy and donations. They may be fully capable of functioning without it. Don’t immediately assume the person in the wheelchair needs to be there.

In legitimate situations, wheelchairs are customized to fit the individual. By performing a quick visual scan to see if the chair is too big or too small for the individual, you may be able to recognize those who are staging their need for the chair.

2. Wheelchairs can be effective for hiding weapons. Knives and guns can be taped to the underside of the seat. Razor blades can be taped to the spokes of the wheels. Weapons can be hidden in pouches attached to the chairs or in purses, backpacks or other bags carried on the lap of the person. When searching, be sure to thoroughly check the individual AND the chair.

Also, be sure to watch the subject’s hands during your encounter. Be alert to any movements toward the bottom of the seat or the armrests, a carrying pouch or under the subject. Be sure to check under any lap blankets.

3. Even wheelchairs themselves can be used as effective weapons. They can pivot and accelerate very quickly, particularly if they’re motorized. Metal footrests can be sharpened to an edge which can cause serious injury to an officer if slammed into the shins. If a criminally minded person in a wheelchair knocks you to the ground, they may have the opportunity to jump on top of you. Keep in mind that many wheelchair subjects have incredible upper body strength. They can be just as capable, if not more capable in some instances, of seriously injuring or even killing you in a ground fight as someone who is fully mobile.

4. Lookout potential. On crime-in-progress calls, don’t overlook seemingly handicapped individuals. They are very capable of acting as lookouts…and may even be the suspect you’re looking for.

5. Consider a traffic stop-like approach. When approaching a wheelchair, use the same approach as you would on a traffic stop. Approach from behind and remain alert to suspicious hand movements or attempts to retrieve or hide something. As in the initial stages of a traffic stop field interview, consider remaining in a position of advantage behind the chair. If two officers are present, one should remain behind the chair acting as a cover officer watching the movements of the subject while the contact officer conducts business with him.

For more information, watch Calibre’s video Gun Grab from a Wheelchair! Life-or-Death Struggle Spotlights Crucial Survival Reminders

Have more thoughts on this incident to share? Additional tips? E-mail us at: editor@calibrepress.com.

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What Does it Mean to Be an Ethical Supervisor?

Public safety personnel generally come to the job with strong ethics and values, but supervisory ethics adds a different dimension.

By Rex M. Scism for Police1.com

When I sat down to write this month’s article on ethics, I tried to envision something a bit unconventional (and more philosophical). People working in public safety generally have unquestionable ethics. Fast-forward a few years after the academy and these same employees work their way into supervisory positions, bringing strong values and ethics with them. So, why do we even need to address the concept of ethics among leaders working in the public safety realm?

The answer is simple – because we are human. Harvard Professor Max Bazerman points out how people sometimes respond differently when confronted with ethical dilemmas. Social scientists, he writes, “have shown that environment and psychological processes can lead us to engage in ethically questionable behavior even if it violates our own values.” This bounded rationality essentially “sees managers as wanting to be rational but influenced by biases and other cognitive limitations that get in the way.” [1]

The point is that even with the grandest of intentions, the human condition and noise of the day can sometimes create barriers that impact our ability to make ethical decisions when it comes to leading those under our charge.

It's important not to lose sight of how your individual ethics can impact those around you.
It’s important not to lose sight of how your individual ethics can impact those around you. (Photo/Police1)

WHAT IS SUPERVISORY ETHICS?

Even though it was decades ago, I remember one wise academy instructor telling our class that ethics “is what you do when no one is around.” The same instructor posed a simple question to the class: “If your son or daughter were watching over your shoulder, would you make the same decision or do the same thing?”

Those simple phrases stuck with me over time and illustrate the importance of making good decisions, even when we don’t have an audience. One definition of ethical leadership is “the process of influencing employees through values, principles and beliefs that extensively border on the accepted norms in the organizational behaviors.” [2] Other definitions go further, noting how ethical leadership “is directed by respect for ethical beliefs and values and for the dignity and rights of others.” [3]

We clearly understand this from a public service standpoint. In fact, derivatives of these two definitions are commonly inferred within the oath of office or our agency mission statements. But what about leadership ethics within the supervisor-subordinate context? Do we sometimes take our own people for granted, and can our motives and intentions sometimes be brought into question?

ETHICS IN THE WORKPLACE

We’ve all seen good leaders who empowered their people, led by example, and leveraged the abilities of subordinates to accomplish organizational goals and objectives. Conversely, we’ve witnessed weak leaders who made decisions based on what was easy, popular, or even in that leader’s own best interest. Often, these decisions are considered unethical since they betray the subordinate’s trust and faith in leadership.

While conducting research for this article, I came across an interesting perspective worthy of consideration because the very nature of public safety often requires decisions made in fractions of a second. Bazerman, the Harvard professor noted above, outlines two very different modes of decision-making: System 1 and System 2. We make most of our decisions using System 1, an intuitive process that is fast, automatic, effortless, and emotional. System 2 requires more deliberative thinking, which is slower, conscious, effortful, and logical. [1] Humans are much closer to rationality when using System 2, but how often are we in situations where timing negates the use of System 2 logic? Could some leaders exhibit what appear as questionable ethics even if their motives and intentions are on the right track?

Conflict can also arise between the supervisor and subordinate when a leader’s motives appear to be more in line with agency expectations rather than the employee’s expectations. In the International Journal of Business and Management, Alshammari et al note how “the dimension of ethical leadership should focus on moral values and fairness in decision making while at the same time considering the impact such decisions will have on the organization.” [2] In other words, agency leaders must consider the impact of their decisions within the workplace; however, to avoid the perception of questionable loyalty or ethics, it’s incumbent on leaders to regularly communicate with subordinates so there is clear understanding. The authors also suggest that “ethical leaders participate in creating the right environment and the necessary condition for a culture of success, transparency and accountability” – a condition that fosters moral development within the workforce and enhances productivity. [2]

Interestingly, research has shown how strong ethics among leaders in the workplace can not only enhance employee productivity, but create an environment where employees are more adaptable to change. Writing in the Frontiers of Psychology, Metwally et al note how “ethical leadership fosters quality social exchange relationships and perceptions of a sense of oneness with the leader and/or the unit or organization that the leader represents.” The researchers also note five key value dimensions that naturally evolve within the workplace: [4]

  1. Change management: Employees are better equipped for change and more adaptable
  2. Goal achievement: Everyone works together to accomplish organizational objectives
  3. Coordinated teamwork: Working together as a team to accomplish the mission
  4. Customer orientation: Enhanced customer service
  5. Shared values and beliefs: Synergy between leadership and subordinates

WHY ETHICS MATTER

Thinking back to what drew you to this career in the first place, it likely had to do with being part of something bigger than yourself. That shouldn’t change just because stripes, bars, or stars are added to the equation. As Alshammari et al point out, “the qualities of an ethical leader play a leading role in developing the transformational goal of leadership concerned with expressing the mission of the organization and laying the necessary foundation for the policies, strategies and procedures for leadership.”[2] Bazerman reminds us that “people follow the behavior of others, particularly those in positions of power and prestige.”[1] Think about the impact professional athletes and movie stars have on people. You have the same influence among your colleagues with the norms you set.

Ethics also matter when it comes to:

  • Career survival: Bad employees typically don’t make it until retirement; rather, they continue to progress to levels of deviance that lead to severe disciplinary actions, dismissal, and sometimes even incarceration.
  • Career development: Problem employees don’t typically elevate within their careers; instead, they compromise the trust of coworkers, supervisors, the agency and the community.
  • Media coverage: Simply put, bad employees make good press and undermine the effectiveness of the entire public service community.
  • Community view of agency: How well an agency polices itself is scrutinized by the community. Recruiting efforts can become undermined by poor community relationships. A lack of trust means the community will avoid contact with members of the organization.
  • In-house dissension: Bad employees break down morale within the agency and cause resentment toward the chain of command and organizational administration.
  • Peace of mind: Knowing you are doing the right thing, all the time, provides confidence and reassurance. This is especially important in public safety, where positive outcomes are not always possible, even when we do the right thing.

It’s easy to rationalize any decision and there are many theoretical interpretations of how individuals interact based on various ethical dilemmas. One person may not even consider doing something another wouldn’t think twice about, given the right set of key variables. Like anything else, leadership ethics is based on the leader’s best interpretation of what decision is necessary at that moment in time. Rely on what you know and focus on the interests of others when making decisions. Follow your policy and remain steadfast in your pursuit of organizational goals and objectives. C.W. Von Bergen, professor of Management at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, offers five tips that exemplify supervisory ethics: [5]

  1. Ethical leaders respect others: Respect yourself, those you supervise and those above you. Listen to and respect other points of view.
  2. Ethical leaders serve others: To public safety professionals, servant leadership is second nature.
  3. Ethical leaders are just: Fairness and impartiality are key watchwords; set aside individual bias and keep an open mind.
  4. Ethical leaders are honest: Regular communication is key; remember that when you lie to others, you are essentially demonstrating the will to manipulate your relationship with your subordinates.
  5. Ethical leaders build community: This means selfless service to not only the community but also your subordinates. Search for goals that are compatible with everyone but still serve the organization’s best interest.

BE AWARE OF YOUR IMPACT

None of this is new information, nor are there any startling revelations to those in public safety. But as you become a leader, it’s important not to lose sight of how your individual ethics can impact those around you. Even with the best intentions, personal ethics can cause conflict in the workplace. Research conducted by Alshammari et al highlights how “the role of ethical leadership in influencing the performance of the employees rests on the pedestal of behavioral motivation, inspiration and individualized consideration.” [2]

In the words of Mayar Ramgir, “Your actions define your character, your words define your wisdom, but your treatment of others defines the real you.”

REFERENCES

1. Bazerman MH. (2020) A New Model for Ethical Leadership. Harvard Business Review.

2. Alshammari A, Almutairi N, Fahad Thuwaini S. (2015) Ethical Leadership: The Effect on Employees. International Journal of Business and Management, 10(3)108–116. 

3. Kuligowski K. How to Be an Ethical Leader: 7 Tips for Success. Business News Daily, October 13, 2020.

4. Metwally D, Ruiz-Palomino P, Metwally M, et al. (2019). How Ethical Leadership Shapes Employees’ Readiness to Change: The Mediating Role of an Organizational Culture of Effectiveness. Frontiers in Psychology. 

5. Von Bergen CW. (2012) Principles of Ethical Leadership. Unpublished manuscript. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is the seventh part of a series, Finding the Leader in You, which addresses key concepts in public safety leadership. Read part one here, part two here, part three here, part four here, part five here and part six here.

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