The so-called early warning systems (EWS) were installed by some agencies to identify at-risk employees. The early warning system is definitely one of the best means by which supervisors and other police leaders can monitor the behavior of their officers. Such a system helps police agencies to proactively deal with repeated minor or unsubstantiated complaints that may lead to more serious problems. With an EWS, the supervisor can intervene with early prevention methods such as counseling or training.
Under the early warning systems, a referral for a psychological review can be relatively automatic when some events or series of events occur (e. g. , a set number of excessive force complaints within a specified time frame). The interview is a critical component in the EWS process as after meet¬ing with the officer, it may become apparent that the concerns are unfounded (More and Miller, 2007, p. 350).
Furthermore, some agencies, for example, will send domestic violence cases to the psychologist, whereas others will send it to the Employee Assistance Program and others will maintain that it is a legal problem that should be handled through the courts. Unfortunately, there is clearly no right answer on which behaviors should send up red flags, although training of supervisors in recognition of psychological problems is clearly essential. In Chicago, Block (1991) has pioneered the use of the “early warning system” for gang homicides.
By plotting each homicide incident and using sophisticated mapping and statistical clustering procedures, the early warning system allows police to identify potential neighborhood crisis areas at high risk for suffering a spurt of gang violence (Block, 1991). With rapid dissemination of information, police can intervene in hot spots to quell emerging trouble. Places may also be modified or watched so as to reduce the opportunities for crime to occur.
Additionally, the importance of EWS was illustrated by an example in Kansas City, Missouri, where a task force investigated use-of-force complaints against police officers. It was discovered that twenty-nine officers were involved in nearly 50 percent of the 756 complaints filed (KCPD, 2001). The department might have avoided more serious complaints had they developed a system of early detection (Ross, 2002). It is the supervisor’s responsibility to intervene in any situation that may result in a violation of departmental policy or law.
However, much of what an officer does during a shift may not be known by the supervisor; it is impossible for a supervisor to have first-hand knowledge of every call and activity of each officer during a shift. Therefore, supervisors must rely on a variety of other means to monitor officer performance and conduct, including review of reports, periodic field observation of calls, citizen commendations and complaints, conversations with the officers, and listening to what other officers and supervisors are saying about the officer.
Once the supervisor is informed of a problem, a plan must be developed to address it. In some cases the problem may be as obvious as the officer’s being involved in three traffic accidents within a threemonth period of time. In such a case, potential actions may include the recommendation of a driver’s school or even having the officer’s eyes checked. But what should be done with the officer who has no previous disciplinary record but has received four unsustained citizen complaints of being rude?
How might a supervisor deal with this situation? Initial counseling may reveal that this officer has a family or personal substance abuse problem that is affecting his or her conduct. Is this a disciplinary issue or something the supervisor should refer to professional counseling? Under the early warning systems, a referral for a psychological review can be relatively automatic when some events or series of events occur (e. g. , a set number of excessive force complaints within a specified time frame).
Furthermore, some agencies, for example, will send domestic violence cases to the psychologist, whereas others will send it to the Employee Assistance Program and others will maintain that it is a legal problem that should be handled through the courts. Unfortunately, there is clearly no right answer on which behaviors should send up red flags, although training of supervisors in recognition of psychological problems is clearly essential. Undoubtedly, an early warning system requires structural lines of communication within an organization as well as among organizations.
An early warning system, whether manual or computerized, is diagnostic and help-oriented rather than punitive (More and Miller, 2007, p. 351). The organization itself must have clear lines of communication, and the organization must have access to technology and other means of conveying information. when one speaks of a “system” of early warning, other factors, such as the level of trust among representatives of the organizations, must be taken into account. The source of information will in large part determine whether or not one believes it to be reliable.
The level of trust depends on two levels of familiarity: personal and institutional. References Block, C. (1991). Early Warning System for Street Gang Violence Crisis Areas: Automated Hot Spot Identification in Law Enforcement. Chicago: Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department (KCPD). ( 2001). Recommendation of the Task Force on the Use of Force. (January). More, H. W. and Miller, L. S. (2007). Effective Police Supervision. Anderson Publishing; 5 edition. Ross R. (March, 2002). Citizen Complaint Policy. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 21-22.