What software agencies are using to accommodate new requirements like SB217
Law enforcement leaders across the country are quickly adapting to new requirements placed on them for reporting use of force. New standards like those for police agencies in Colorado require inputting significantly more data, including noting every field contact. This added workload can be burdensome for agencies if they don’t have the right tools to streamline the data entry and reporting. This article aims to provide context and guidance for police chiefs, sheriffs, and patrol division leads who are developing plans to meet new use of force requirements.
USE OF FORCE TRENDS
The national trends for use of force reporting have followed a familiar pattern: more detail, a lower standard for what is reported, and better categorized data. Federal standards have been driving this new robust reporting; however, many states and municipalities are going further by requiring even more information.
More agencies are finding that body cameras are required for their officers. The linking, storing, and rapid retrieval of video footage is an expectation. Digitized information is critical as administrators need crime statistics in real time.
The national trends, while they may appear burdensome, have many agency benefits. Agencies are finding with the increased reporting requirement comes the ability to demonstrate compliance with local and federal requirements. The added evidence has also proven helpful in justifying the officer’s actions. How to meet the new requirements with existing resources is a critical question for many agencies, however.
FEDERAL, STATE, AND DEPARTMENT STANDARDS
The FBI’s National Use of Force Data Collection was established in 2015, and while many agencies participate in the program, participation is voluntary. Collecting use of force statistics is not, as mandated by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.
National statistics, such as those reported for NIBRS, can provide important benchmarks for agencies and should be a guide for most states.
Many states, however, to respond to local requests for more transparency, are placing added requirements on their agencies. One of the more notable changes occurred in Colorado in June or 2020. One of the more controversial pieces of that legislation removed many qualified immunities for officers who used force in the discharge of their duties.
What did Colorado’s SB217 Legislation Do?
- Required body cameras for all agencies
- Eliminated qualified immunities for officers and agencies
- Limited the actions officers can take to protests and demonstrations
- Required the reporting of all field contacts
- Required reporting of use of force that resulted in death or serious bodily injury (redundant)
- Required reporting when officers resign when under investigation or violating departmental policy
- Required the reporting of all data related to the unannounced entry by an officer
- Created a database to collect key information on officers
Departmental Standards may be even more refined than federal and state requirements, driven largely by agency insurance. One of the struggles individual agencies face is unifying their definitions of use of force or knowing what “reporting all data,” includes. Lack of uniformity can make comparing agencies within a state difficult and misleading. Uncategorized data can make reporting extremely time consuming.
USE OF FORCE SOFTWARE MODULE
Because of federal requirements, use of force has been a longstanding feature for many software programs, including EFORCE’s RMS. However, new state legislation like SB217 has initiated further development with software companies. EFORCE, for instance, has greatly enhanced its digital conversion of data to eliminate nearly all, if not all, hand-written reports that officers may need to produce.
Enhancements to its mobile software ensure that the data can be reported immediately after an incident while the events can be easily recalled by the officers. These mobile enhancements also greatly reduce the data entry time for field contacts.
Administrators who need immediate access to statistics receive this and also an early warning detection system to identify possible issues of abuse, officer misconduct, or misreporting. Administrators also benefit from the ability to tie information together that was normally disassociated: complaints, incidents, people, officers, actions, and outcomes.
Agency’s who are grappling with new reporting requirements related to use of force may benefit from consulting with other agencies, such as those in Colorado, or connecting with software vendors and consultants like EFORCE. These partners can provide important perspective and share the success and stumbling of other agencies throughout the country who have implemented new data collection and reporting requirements for Use of Force.