As we enter the second half of 2023, the busiest time of year for legislative change is now over. A majority of states have now concluded their regular sessions and adjourned for the year. However, we may still see additional pieces of law enforcement legislation being passed in states convening special sessions or in those states where sessions are still in progress.
As in recent years, legislators across the country considered numerous bills regarding law enforcement operations, including training mandates, uses of force, and data transparency requirements. In recent years, a vast majority of states have passed some sort of legislation that impacts operations at law enforcement agencies, large and small. Only a few states have yet to pass legislation in one of these six categories:
States continue to take varying approaches to legislating new mandates for law enforcement, with some passing sweeping reform bills and others passing legislation in one area at a time. For law enforcement agencies, the challenges they face are also much the same: adjusting to so much change in such a short period of time, amending policies and procedures to match new requirements, and providing the tools and training their officers need to be successful despite rapidly changing standards.
Maintaining seamless and incident-free operations requires that agencies ensure every officer has a comprehensive understanding of policies and procedures. However, this task becomes increasingly challenging when your policies must rapidly adapt to meet new legislative requirements.
When considering the safety of your officers and that of the public, confidence is key. An officer who feels confident in their decisions and knows exactly what they can or cannot do can act swiftly and decisively to protect themselves and their communities. In a critical situation, an officer who hesitates for even a fraction of a second could be severely injured or lose their life just because of confusion or uncertainty around standards.
Agencies have a responsibility to combat this deadly hesitation by providing officers with updated policies, procedures, and training on any new legislative mandates by the time they go into effect, not only for their safety but also to reduce liability. Some pieces of legislation go into effect immediately whereas others may not be effective for months or even years, creating additional confusion for officers if policies aren’t updated to match.
In addition to the risks associated with deadly hesitation, agencies may face legal liability if they fail to prepare their officers adequately. The consequences for non-compliance with legislative mandates varies depending on location and the legislation itself, but could include:
Staying informed of new developments and being proactive about implementing change is the best way agencies can reduce the challenges and risks associated with rapidly evolving law enforcement legislation.
Below we’ve shared a selection of noteworthy pieces of law enforcement legislation impacting law enforcement agencies passed since Jan. 1, 2023.
A recent area of legislative focus for lawmakers has been transparency and accountability in law enforcement. States have passed laws requiring the use of body worn cameras, mandating the reporting of certain types of records to overseeing entities, or participating in data collection efforts.
In a handful of states, lawmakers have taken it one step further by mandating the use of early intervention or early warning systems to track and monitor certain behaviors. Utah is the latest state to do so with the passage of S.B. 124, signed by Utah Governor Spencer Cox in March of this year.
An additional area of focus has been training. Over the last few years, lawmakers have set forth new mandates regarding the amount of training officers should receive, both in the academy and ongoing, as well as requiring training on certain topics like de-escalation, interacting with vulnerable populations, and crisis intervention. 2023 has continued this trend with a handful of states passing legislation in this area, including Arkansas (H.B. 1396 and H.B. 1458), Connecticut (S.B. 927), Indiana (H.B. 1321), and Washington (H.B. 1132), among others.
Use of force also continues to be a legislative hot topic, with Hawaii (S.B. 372), New Mexico (S.B. 19), Oklahoma (H.B. 1456), South Dakota (H.B. 1071), and Washington (S.B. 5352) passing legislation in this area.
Other topics addressed legislatively in 2023 include internal investigations (Georgia, Nevada, Montana, Tennessee, and Utah) and peer reporting (Hawaii and New Mexico).
Visit our map of recently approved law enforcement legislation to learn more about specific measures taken across the county.
Aside from necessitating policy changes and affecting officers' daily responsibilities in the field, some pieces of law enforcement legislation require agencies to adopt new tools, often in the form of software, to stay compliant. Although the right solutions prove cost and time-effective in the long run, agencies often face the challenge of swiftly selecting, funding, and implementing these solutions, sometimes within just a few months to meet legislative obligations.
To support law enforcement agencies, Vector Solutions offers solutions purpose-built for public safety to assist in achieving compliance and staying on track with newly mandated requirements. Our suite of solutions is user-friendly and built to meet the mission-critical needs of law enforcement agencies, ensuring a seamless transition and reducing the burden on both leaders and officers.
Vector Solutions’ suite of industry-leading software solutions for law enforcement includes training management systems, online training courses, FTO/PTO/CTO/live skill evaluations, and an early intervention and performance management system.