The author presents preliminary findings on the use of Sentinel Event Review methodology in law enforcement organizations with the ultimate goal of increasing community trust in police.
With this report, the author addresses the decreased sense of trust and legitimacy that communities hold for law enforcement. The goal of this project was to test and learn from the application of Sentinel Event Review (SER) methodology and to learn how SERs can be sustained by local law enforcement organizations when working in a multi-stakeholder environment. SER framework is based on the underlying principles of nonblaming; key stakeholders participate; and that it is a fluid, ongoing process. The project originally included three separate police departments to serve as learning communities that designed and carried out their SERs and a cross-site learning team enabled knowledge sharing among the departments. The author lays out project implementation challenges and design shifts that had to be carried out, which rather than causing setbacks, offered additional insights on unforeseen challenges and their potential solutions. Data analysis for the project was grounded in Systems Theory and builds on the Exploration, Preparation, Implementation, and Sustainment (EPIS) conceptual framework, and features the Dynamic Adaptation Process (DAP). The findings from the project demonstrate the feasibility and success of SERs in the criminal justice system in certain situations and highlight the challenges of implementing a relatively new paradigm in a system that has not embraced the constraints of implementing SERs. The author discusses some preliminary findings that show the importance of: police agency support, involvement of leadership staff, and administrative support; identifying and keeping intact the SER team; stakeholder engagement; the recognition of real-time schedules and unexpected real-world events; the existence of data access and collection challenges. The author concludes that evidence shows that SERs can be used to create learning and transparent culture within the social context in which police operate.