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Public safety policies and community trust: How to bridge the gap

(BPT) - Public safety policy development is an inherently complex process that is often misunderstood. Many people outside public safety believe federal and state governments provide policies to law enforcement agencies and other first responder departments. The reality is that fire, police and emergency medical services agencies must develop their own policies using legislation, court decisions and federal, state and local laws.

While policy development is a challenge for public safety agencies, it also represents an opportunity. In many municipalities, trust between the community and public safety, especially law enforcement, is lacking. Involving community members in policy development allows first responders to foster meaningful relationships with the community. This partnership can build mutual understanding of the legitimacy and effectiveness of public safety policies.

A collaborative approach to public safety policy review and development also provides diverse experiences and voices that reflect the community's values, concerns and priorities. By incorporating various perspectives from the community, fire, EMS and law enforcement agencies can develop policies that better serve the needs of the people they protect, fostering trust and collaboration for a safer future.

The challenge lies in how to effectively incorporate community members into policy review.

5 key questions

To help public safety agencies and their communities, Lexipol - a leader in policy, training and wellness support for first responders and public servants - has identified five key questions for agencies to answer when bringing community members into the policy review process:

  1. What are we trying to accomplish? Before starting, all parties must agree on the purpose of the review process. If community members come into the process expecting to completely rewrite policy, they will be disappointed. At the same time, public safety leaders can't look at this as a 'check the box' process where no meaningful changes will be made.
  2. Who should be involved? Community members chosen for policy review should represent diverse perspectives and populations. As nearly all policy review committees are volunteer, they must be able to make a time commitment and a good faith commitment to the process.
  3. How should policy review be conducted? Lexipol recommends setting guidelines for the policy review process. For example, how will the committee reconcile differing recommendations? Also key is to focus the discussion on the needs and existing situation of the specific community. Too many policy discussions are derailed by emotional reactions to high-profile events in other communities.
  4. What policies should be reviewed? Most public safety agencies have policy manuals with hundreds of policies. Selecting the ones that matter most to community members will expedite the review process and make the most of the volunteer reviewers' time.
  5. What types of changes should be considered? Lexipol recommends looking at all proposed changes through a three-part lens: Is the policy change applicable, practical and functional? For instance, a community review board may suggest that all body camera footage be released immediately following incidents. That change is well-meaning, but unlikely to meet the practicality test, as issues of redaction, privacy and storage must be reconciled.

A strong starting point

Key to an effective policy review process involving the public is having a well-written, legally vetted process in place for the review board to work with. Lexipol public safety policy services and policy management software help law enforcement, corrections, fire and rescue, and local government by providing a starting point for policy development. The company provides comprehensive policies researched and written by public sector attorneys, practitioners and subject matter experts, then works with agencies to tailor policies to each community's specific needs.

As part of policy development services, Lexipol can help agencies design and implement a community review process. From establishing a committee to providing basic training to committee members, agencies will have the tools to involve their communities in public safety policy review and creation. Lexipol's platform allows users to involve community stakeholders so they can provide feedback during the process.

While policy reform can be a fraught and divisive subject, at the end of the day, first responders and community stakeholders want the same thing: safer and more resilient communities. To learn more about how Lexipol's policy services and online platform are helping achieve those goals, visit

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