Guide to an Effective Early Warning System
Seizing opportunities to motivate employees helps agencies improve communication and develop stronger teams from the top down. The most impactful EIS includes pre-disciplinary performance indicators and is part of an ongoing performance management process. The success or failure of any EWS/EIS to create a climate of accountability within a law enforcement agency begins with a strong commitment from the agency’s leadership to implement and constantly monitor the program.
First-line supervisors play a vital role in Early Intervention as no one knows an employee better than their immediate supervisor. These leaders must be able to see, analyze, and address EIS related data. With the proper insight, first-line supervisors can proactively engage officers about potential personal or professional problems that may be affecting job performance. Furthermore, because every officer is different, supervisors need flexible intervention options to meet a wide range of needs.
As Deputy Chief of the Buffalo Grove Police, Roy Bethge (Ret.) explains, “First-line supervisors have the essential role of caring for their employees. In today’s ever-changing and dynamic law enforcement agencies we have an obligation to make sure officers get home safe and healthy each day, each month, each year, and to the end of their careers. Early Intervention systems play a key role in ensuring the wellness of our officers as they change shifts, work special details, attend court, and are managed by different supervisors.
“At the highest levels in police organizations, we often become aware of problems or challenges that employees face only to learn that there were signs and symptoms where an early intervention could have dramatically improved the outcome for the officer and the agency. We have an obligation to care for our people so that they can serve and protect the public upholding their oath.”
With that in mind, it is essential to remember, although flags can signify the start of behavioral problems, Early Intervention systems are designed to evaluate data, not people. In some cases, the system will proactively flag events that warrant no action beyond analysis, monitoring, or affirmation. Therefore, supervisors must also consider the situational factors leading up to this behavior, while at the same time weighing any other circumstances that may explain the officer’s actions. In this sense, every flag presents an opportunity for a leader to engage their officers in conversation and offer strategies for growth.
It is important to note that Early Intervention Systems should never replace the human element of leadership and does not change the critical responsibility of leadership to directly monitor their officers. For example, engaged leaders do not need a trigger or threshold alert to take action following a critical incident that may or may not be part of preset early intervention triggers. Noticing and documenting critical incidents officers are involved in can serve as a marker-in-time to help identify what might have contributed to an officer struggling.
In our next blog post, we will be discussing ways to enhance a holistic environment by cultivating awareness and spotlighting high performers. We will also examine the practical use of an Early Intervention System.