An Employee Disciplinary System That Makes Sense

Two years ago, the Washington State Patrol’s disciplinary process, according to some employees and their unions, was punitive and vindictive, lacked empathy, and seemed designed to “get” employees rather than correct deficiencies. Investigations were taking too long, even for minor complaints.

The agency responded by developing a new disciplinary system that other agencies may wish to consider. Formally adopted in November 2001, the system is designed (1) to allow accused employees to avoid a lengthy investigation either by admitting a mistake, receiving a sanction, and moving on or by volunteering information to exonerate themselves; (2) to deal with minor misconduct at the lowest possible level of the department; and (3) to ensure the predictability, reliability, and validity of punishment attached to certain behaviors and violations.