Joel Bolton, Project Manager, Gulf States Regional Center for Public Safety Innovation, Natchitoches, Louisiana; and Robert T. Wall, Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and Coordinator, IACP National Law Enforcement Challenge
n just a few short months, the winners of the 2006 IACP Law Enforcement Challenge will take the stage at the annual IACP conference, in New Orleans. Introduced at the awards ceremony will be police and sheriff’s departments, state police, highway patrols, and other agencies representing the best of the nation’s traffic safety programs.
Participating in the Law Enforcement Challenge benefits your agency in many ways. Simply reviewing the application helps assess whether or not your department has implemented the basic requirements of a comprehensive traffic safety program.
Purpose of the Challenge
Saving lives and preventing injuries from traffic crashes result from innovative police work targeting motorist safety. The Challenge recognizes sound, effective traffic safety programs by encouraging agencies to adopt good policies and enforcement guidelines; to conduct training for officers on traffic safety topics; to participate in national mobilizations; to inform and educate the public; to enforce the laws that affect motorist safety; and to evaluate the ongoing efforts toward identifying areas for improvement.
Agencies compete against other agencies of similar size and responsibility for first-, second-, and third-place honors in each category. In addition, special awards are presented for agencies that excel in specific traffic safety emphasis areas such as alcohol awareness, occupant protection, child passenger safety, speed enforcement, motor carrier issues, and technology. There is also an award for the best first-time entry in the Challenge.
Winning a national competition is a significant accomplishment, increasing the stature of your agency in the eyes of the public you serve. Simply competing shows your pride in your agency and boosts the morale of the men and women who serve the agency day in and day out.
The Challenge Judging Process
Each entry in the Challenge is reviewed by at least two members of a highly qualified panel of judges selected from law enforcement, traffic safety advocacy groups, national organizations, and corporate and government partners, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The process consumes a full week shortly after the closing period for applications.
Before assembling, each judge is required to review a 24-page manual that details the philosophy and scoring process for the Challenge. The manual opens by stating that the competition is a “means to encourage and reward new standards of creativity, commitment, and excellence in traffic safety education and enforcement” and that judges are to encourage and reward work done within agencies and with communities to increase traffic safety.
As completed Challenge applications arrive at IACP headquarters, they are sorted into the various categories based on agency type (municipal police, sheriff, state police, university police, international, state associations, military, and others) and size (10 different categories for municipal police and sheriff’s departments, and 5 for state police agencies).
The week designated for reviewing the entries begins with a meeting of all judges. The philosophy and purpose of the Challenge is reviewed, and an in-depth discussion of the scoring system is conducted to encourage uniformity. Categories assigned to the judges are reviewed to make sure there are no conflicts of interest.
Entries are judged in seven areas, six of which are identified on the application form (the seventh is discussed in the guide that accompanies the application). Judges award a number of points in each area; an exemplary application can receive a maximum of 190 total points. Policy and enforcement guidelines can gather up to 20 points; training of officers, 20 points; incentives and recognition, 15 points; and public information and education work, 40 points.
The 40 points available in the enforcement activity category are divided into four sets of 10 points each. The first three sets are awarded for occupant protection, DUI enforcement, and speed enforcement. Judges use a formula that considers the number of officers assigned to the patrol function to derive a rating that ensures uniformity in judging these areas. The final 10 points in this category are awarded based on overall enforcement activity, including detailed targeting of specific problems, special patrol efforts, or checkpoints.
The important sixth judging category, the overall effectiveness of an agency’s traffic safety program, has a total of 40 points available. The final category assigns a maximum of 15 points for “quality of submission,” to encourage agencies to follow the application criteria, complete each section, and make the information presented to the judges easy to find and comprehend.
Now is the time to start planning your entry in the 2007 Law Enforcement Challenge. Review your policies and policy statements that place importance on traffic safety. Ensure that your officers are receiving detailed training on safety belt, alcohol, and speed issues and are participating in national mobilizations. Check your public information work emphasizing traffic safety topics. Enforce the law and evaluate your effectiveness. Survey seat belt use rates, determine when and where crashes are occurring, and compare these numbers to previous time periods.
Join us in this space next month as we break down each of the judging categories further and offer tips that will help build your local traffic safety program into a life-saving (and perhaps award-winning) effort. Any Challenge entry that documents an agency’s dedication to a successful traffic safety program is a winner.■