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Keeping Officers Safe: Davidson PD Shows Value of New League Risk Assessment 

Ben Brown, NCLM Advocacy Communication Associate

The people of Davidson have a saying, according to Police Chief Jeanne Miller: “Every place should be like Davidson.” In one sense, that applies to recent work that Chief Miller’s department conducted with the League to ensure its police training and practices are the gold standard for reducing risk to officers and the public.

A key way that they have reached that standard is the Davidson Police Department’s pilot participation in the League’s recently launched Law Enforcement Risk Management Review, of which many law enforcement agencies
in North Carolina are now taking advantage.

According to Chief Miller, whom the League recently presented a plaque for
being the first to complete the review, the process “makes us reach for the
highest standards and strive to meet best practices in our profession.” That’s even as the department had already obtained national certification from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).

Reducing risk, on its face, is an obvious, never-ending goal. But it’s especially huge for police departments, said Bryan Leaird, the League’s director of risk management field services, an originator of the review.

“From a pool standpoint, these measures are put in place to reduce costs, to lower expenses for everybody in the pool,” Leaird said. “If you can bring down costs in one area, it makes the pool a more healthy insurance pool. That’s  from the business perspective. But I would say that an even more important aspect, from the League perspective, is about the safety of our officers and the citizens that they serve. And that ultimately is what this is about. The added benefit is we reduce cost.”

The idea for the comprehensive risk management review sprouted in 2013 when Leaird examined impacts on the League’s insurance pool and saw law enforcement areas in need of attention. An advisory committee of police chiefs formed to talk about it, review claims and discuss ideas to reduce injuries, accidents and future liability claims.

The chiefs determined that they could use a new tool that would allow their departments to inventory their current practices and policies – on police
pursuits, use of force, stop-and-frisk and other risk areas – and weigh them
against the potential risks.

The resulting risk-management review, endorsed by the N.C. Association of Chiefs of Police, is “a well thought-out product that is designed to address the areas where we were seeing problems,” said Leaird.

He and League Public Safety Risk Management Consultant Tom Anderson recently visited the Davidson City Council to highlight Chief Miller’s involvement with the assessment.

“We’re very proud to say that the Davidson Police Department met and
exceeded most of those (best-practices)categories,” Anderson told the council. He added: “The things that we’ve done here in Davidson, the lessons learned here in Davidson, I will take forth across the state, and great things will be happening for North Carolina law enforcement.”

Shortly after, Anderson and Leaird met with the Havelock Police Department, one of several others now involved with the review, which is meant to be a living tool that grows with new top-standards and measures in areas not previously covered. In one update from the original version, the review now includes best-practices with the deployment of spike strips, devices placed in the roadway to stop fleeing motorists. Deployment of the devices has led to officer injuries and deaths.

Beyond reducing insurance costs and protecting officers’ lives, Leaird said a
third plus of the review is to show the public how hard local police agencies
are working toward efficiency. “Success to me is ... giving the departments
the means to be able to say to their managers, say to their councils, ‘My
policies and my practices are within the industry’s best standards for these high liability areas,’” he said.

This is just one of many League offerings to local law enforcement agencies, which include onsite consulting, risk online training classes and soft body armor grants. To learn more, visit rms.nclm.org.