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Employee Early Warning Systems: Helping Supervisors Protect Citizens, Officers, and Agencies

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 69 Issue: 11 Dated: November 2002 Pages: 32-36
Lori Rhyons; David C. Brewster
Date Published
November 2002
5 pages
This article discusses the importance and characteristics of an employee "early warning system" for police agencies to help them identify officers with problems at an early stage of development, so as to provide appropriate intervention.
When an early warning system detects a significant event in an officer's statistics, such as a high number of use-of-force incidents, sick days, or vehicular pursuits, or a low number of arrests and citizen contacts, it sends a warning to managers. Supervisors can then investigate the irregularity. An example of such an early warning system is the Phoenix Police Department's (Arizona) personnel assessment system (PAS), which identifies employees who have developed a pattern of behavior that could result in negative consequences for the employee and/or the agency. The computer-based PAS system was designed by a development team that included representatives from police management, the department's professional standards bureau, employee groups, the city employee assistance program, the city attorney's office, and police department technical staff. The PAS is a compilation of numerous automated and manual systems that were already in place. Supervisors thus have a single place to go for historical information on an employee's activities. The system purges data that are more than 5 years old, except for awards and commendations. Key information is provided on overtime use, sick leave use, use of force, pursuits, arrest, discipline, involvement in significant events, industrial injuries and exposures, off-duty work, accidents, shootings, and training. The support of employees and employee groups or unions is critical to the success of any early warning system. Such groups should be involved in the design of the process that can help save the jobs and careers of employees. It is in the interests of all parties to identify an employee with problems in work performance so appropriate interventions can be conducted for the benefit of the employee, the agency, and the community.