The implementation of a Police Performance Auditing program as a risk management tool provides city, county, and state governments, which have oversight for police functions, the ability to mitigate their risk exposure with lawsuits, consent decrees (CDs) or negotiated settlement agreements (NSAs), while contemporaneously adding public value to the police organization.
Police department’s across the country carry great responsibility within the public safety field. With that responsibility comes inherent risks with which police officers engage as part of their daily operations. Police officers are called to respond and confront situations that citizens would not fathom handling. Such incidents include but are not limited to, traffic stops, domestic violence, fugitives, gang fights and shootings, burglaries, and robberies, all of which oftentimes lead to contentious and violent outcomes, especially when someone is taken into custody.
The inherent risks police officers engage in are ubiquitous, and there is a need to test the internal controls involved in police operations so as to mitigate and address any potential risks for the officer, police department, and the city, county or state governmental entity. Some of these internal controls should be assessing work product that includes but is not limited to arrest reports, search warrants, use of force investigations, confidential informants, jail operations, property/evidence rooms, and complaint investigations. Lack of internal controls typically lead to litigation, and dependant upon how wide spread the lack of internal controls are, and whether violations of constitutional rights are a common practice, the state or federal department of justice (DOJ) may file a lawsuit, which may then lead to a CD or NSA. Such CDs/NSAs are in essence legal mandates by a judge, wherein the plaintiff (DOJ) and the defendant (city, county or state) “agree” to the mandates set forth. Such mandates will address the failures of internal controls that led to the onset of the issues, and oftentimes include other mandates the DOJ feels “compelled” to include. Consent decrees/negotiated settlement agreements usually range in five-year increments, and are very costly to government organizations because they involve litigation, and the hiring of an independent monitor to assess compliance with the mandates set forth in the CD/NSA. Such mandates have costs for the independent monitor alone, ranging in excess of $100 thousand to $11 million over the span of five years; the cost is of course dependant upon the size of the department, and the number of mandates contained within the CD/NSA. Moreover, the aforementioned does not include costs of litigation brought upon by the individuals who served as the impetus for the CD/NSA in the first place; such litigation costs will also range in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.
A Police Performance Auditing program is developed to assess internal controls within police operations, specifically the high-risk areas. The criteria for such internal controls may come from the law, such as in the case of assessing whether arrest reports articulate reasonable suspicion for detention of an individual, probable cause for arrest, proper Miranda Rights admonition, and legal search and seizure. Other criteria would come from the policies and procedures for the respective police department, wherein operations such as handling of evidence, arrestee booking, and complaint investigations are detailed. Yet in other instances, the Police Performance Audit itself may point out that policies and procedures that serve as criteria may be lacking, ambiguous, or contradicting, thus exposing the department to liability.
Although Police Performance Audits are unique with respect to their objectives in focusing on police operations, there is no difference as to how the audit report is handled upon its completion. If a Police Performance Audit is conducted proactively, meaning not under a CD/NSA, the findings are discussed with the auditee, which may be a lieutenant, captain, or chief of police, so as to afford them the opportunity to have input. The audit is then processed through the respective chain, depending upon the organization, holding the proper individuals accountable for plans of actions in response to the audit findings.
A Police Performance Audit serves as a risk management tool by identifying internal controls that are weak or non-existent, and by identifying police operations that may not be adhering to the policies and procedures set forth as the internal controls. A Police Performance Auditing program of course may also point out best practices and serve as benchmarks for other police operations. Such performance audits focusing on police operations allows the police department to address issues (if any) before they become serious.
As with any other type of audit, a Police Performance Auditing program provides transparency by demonstrating how police organizations are performing, and a level of accountability by addressing recommendations to those with the authority to respond to the audit findings. This process ultimately instills public value within the police department and its personnel, enabling stakeholders’ appreciation of the significance police officers bring to the community.
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