Use of Force Policy a Plus for University Police
by Gene B. Burton, Director of Public Safety
Ball State University Department of Public Safety
When the Ball State University Department of Public Safety started the accreditation process in 2005, like many departments, we felt we were doing a good job for our university community, but we wanted to be better. We felt accreditation would help us reach the next level. It has done that and more. The accreditation process provided a clear blue print for applying the best law enforcement practices and a comprehensive review process to insure we followed those practices. The department has been CALEA Law Enforcement Accredited since November 2007.
One best practice that has been identified as particularly effective for us is our use of force policy. Through the accreditation process we were able to transform our use of force policy into an area of strength. All use of force incidents, which are clearly defined in policy, must be reported on a special Use of Force Form, in addition to the normal department reporting procedures. This form is then reviewed by the shift supervisor and forwarded to the department’s training coordinator for review to insure the incident is within department policy. That review is then forwarded to the chief of police for an administrative review.
This reporting and review procedure not only allows us to determine if the officers involved acted within policy, but it also allows us to review the techniques used in terms of officer safety. The review also allows us to identify officers who might need review of policy or refresher training. And finally, a comprehensive use of force incidents review is completed by our training coordinator annually and a report created. The report analyses a variety of information and the resulting information helps formulate future use of force training. This annual report has proven to be insightful and a valuable tool for the department.
While the number of use of force incidents has remained consistent from year to year, the number of officer injuries and citizen excessive force complaints has gone down. But perhaps the unintended plus to our use of force policy has been added credibility with our local media for being transparent with our use of force statistics.
Accreditation has been a very positive experience for the department. The university community has a high level of confidence in the department of public safety because we are an accredited law enforcement agency and our officers are valued and encouraged by the community support.