So far, the 2020s have been a time of radical change in the expectations and scrutiny placed on law enforcement agencies. In light of this, agencies across the country have amended their modus operandi, many as a direct result of the flood of law enforcement-related legislation that’s been passed by states in the last three years.
A vast majority of laws have focused on police reform efforts, such as training standards, use of force, or transparency requirements. But other legislation has targeted improving officer wellness, access to mental health resources, and cooperation with other public safety entities. The approach taken has differed by state, with some passing all-encompassing bills, and others using a piecemeal strategy, passing individual bills for each area of focus.
The timing has also varied, with some states rushing to pass bills in the latter half of 2020 while others have only recently passed legislation. On the other hand, some states have yet to pass any bills that require change on the part of agencies.
At the federal level, Congress recently passed the Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training Act of 2022, signed into law by President Biden on Dec. 27, 2022. The act requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to develop training curriculums on topics including alternatives to the use of force, de-escalation, and responding to a person in crisis. It also requires the DOJ make funding available to states and law enforcement agencies that wish to utilize this training curriculum once available, as well as other related training programs.
The fact remains that adjusting to so much change in such a short period of time has been a challenge for law enforcement agencies around the country. Beyond just changing internal policies to match new requirements, agencies also need to find and engage with new tools to stay compliant, provide training on new standards to all officers and employees, and keep a close eye on new legislation as it’s introduced to ensure they’re ready when it’s passed and enforced.
Let’s take a closer look at how these legislative changes are impacting law enforcement agencies.
Ensuring every officer has a thorough understanding of your policies and procedures is integral to keeping your department running smoothly and without incident. However, that becomes exponentially harder when your policies are undergoing rapid change to account for new legislative requirements.
Take Washington State, for example. Washington has enacted laws in a variety of areas, tackling use-of-force standards, investigation procedures following uses of force, vehicle pursuits, and more.
In 2021, lawmakers enacted legislation detailing authorized uses of physical force and measures that are required prior to the use of force, including de-escalation tactics. As described in the legislation, “when practicable, peace officers will use the least amount of physical force necessary to overcome actual resistance under the circumstances.”
However, the following year lawmakers followed up with two new pieces of legislation that loosened the tight net on use of force imposed the previous year. In the first, lawmakers directly addressed the 2021 legislation, stating that the “complexities and nuances” of law enforcement and relevant laws had “posed implementation challenges” for some agencies within the state. Both pieces of legislation authorized additional situations that use of force could be utilized. The second also clarified that “physical force” does not include pat-downs, incidental touching, verbal commands, or compliant handcuffing where there is no physical pain or injury.
While Washington is an extreme example, agencies across the country have been impacted by rapidly changing legislative requirements and have had to make policy changes and provide training to match. Ensuring every officer knows exactly what is or is not permitted is essential to keeping your agency out of the news headlines.
Since 2020, a heightened focus has been placed on transparency in law enforcement. As a result, states have passed a variety of laws to increase oversight, such as requiring the use of body worn cameras, reporting training records to overseeing entities, or participating in data collection efforts. A handful of states went further, mandating the use of early intervention or early warning systems to track and monitor certain behaviors.
In addition to requiring policy changes and impacting the day-to-day responsibilities of officers out on the street, many of these laws require agencies find and implement new tools, often in the form of software, to stay compliant. The right solutions will save time and money in the long run, but in the short term, agencies are expected to select, pay for, and implement solutions, sometimes in only a matter of months to meet legislative requirements.
The good news is, Vector Solutions can help your agency achieve compliance, stay on target with newly mandated requirements, and do so quickly and effectively. Our suite of solutions are purpose-built for public safety, easy-to-use, and can reduce the burden on leaders and officers alike.
To learn more, watch our interactive webinar discussing proactive steps you can take to be successful in today’s rapidly evolving law enforcement landscape.