Risk Management: Raising the Performance Level and Lowering the Liability Threat

Arrows in different directions

For decades, the law enforcement profession has responded to external pressures (lawsuits, negative press, Department of Justice investigations, consent decrees, citizen review boards, public demonstrations, and riots) arising from interactions between the public and law enforcement officers. Policing is fraught with risks that are inherent in every call for service. Any incident has the potential to lead to the need for a search, a use of force, an arrest, or a pursuit. The risks of these incidents and the resulting actions cannot be eliminated, but they can be managed by the type and the quality of the response provided by the involved officer and by proactive steps taken by executives and managers.

The magnitude of a risk might be lessened by the skills the officer employs, such as the tone of voice and the words used to inquire into the incident and to give commands, the decision-making process employed to determine the cause of the event, the level of threat involved, the civil rights of those involved in the incident, the federal and state laws that apply, and the outcome the officer hopes to achieve related to the level of the offense in question. While not an exhaustive list, these elements are considerations that influence how the officer interacts with members of the public when responding to a call for service.