This article examines issues relating to identifying police officers who have potential problems; explains the essential components of early warning (EW) systems to identify such officers; and describes the characteristics, structure, and processes of a model program.
The identification of police officers who have potential problems has emerged as a popular approach for curbing police misconduct and achieving accountability. EW systems are data-driven programs whose purpose is to identify police officers whose behavior is problematic and to subject those officers to some kind of intervention, often in the form of counseling or training. EW systems are consistent with the new demands for performance evaluation raised by community policing and the effective strategic management of police agencies due to their potential for providing timely data on officer performance and giving police managers a framework for correcting unacceptable performance. The model elements of an effective and efficient system requires that the criteria for selecting officers to the EW system are linked to the agency’s needs, the intervention is linked to the officer’s needs, and the follow-up procedure links the officer’s problem behavior to the supervisor’s style and ability. The EW system in the City of Miami Police Department is a useful example of a model program because it has existed for 20 years and presumably has resolved the problems that inevitably beset new and complex administrative systems. Implementing EW systems requires considerable administrative attention. The analysis concludes that an EW system is only one part of a system accountability and can serve as one of several management tools to curb misconduct, increase public confidence in the police, and improve service quality. 14 references