Two-Year Project Now a Reality: Local Government Center's Police Model Policy Manual

By Butch Burbank

Consider the following scenario:

A police officer stops a vehicle for speeding in Anytown, New Hampshire. As the officer approaches the vehicle, he is confronted by a driver who displays a firearm. The officer retreats to his vehicle, and the stopped vehicle leaves the scene at a high rate of speed. The officer notifies his dispatcher and takes pursuit. Soon, the vehicle crosses into another jurisdiction, and officers from that jurisdiction join in the pursuit. Shortly after pursuing the vehicle for approximately 50 miles, it crashes. The driver exits the vehicle with an object in his hand. The officers attempt to get the driver to drop the object, but he refuses and shouts, "Just kill me." Officers on the scene are joined by two New Hampshire state troopers.

As the driver becomes more agitated he advances toward the officers, raises his hand and points the object in his hand at the officer from Anytown. The officer fires his weapon, striking the driver in the chest. The driver falls to the ground and is taken into custody. The driver survives and files a federal Fourth Amendment suit against the police agencies and officers involved for excessive force and illegal seizure. He also alleges that the officer from Anytown had no authority to take action or deploy deadly force as the officer was out of his jurisdiction.

While the previously described incident is fictitious, it highlights the value of police departments having clear policies and procedures in place to guarantee that their officers are provided the guidance necessary to handle this type of scenario. The officers need to know, in this example, that their department's policies are current and meet local and national trends with regard to civil litigation.

Proactive Partnership
Having up-to-date police policies is a never ending challenge for the majority of New Hampshire's law enforcement agencies. In response to this challenge, New Hampshire Local Government Center's (LGC) Health and Safety Department began research in the fall of 2008 for the New Hampshire Local Government Center Police Model Policy Manual project, which would provide agencies with a base set of policies covering high-liability areas associated with the 12 high-risk critical tasks that law enforcement officers encounter.

In order to maintain this manual as a current and living document, assistance from an outside agency was sought. The partnering agency would not only draft the manual but provide three years of updates as New Hampshire laws change or United States and/or New Hampshire Supreme Courts decide cases affecting the policies.

The Public Agency Training Council's Legal Liability & Risk Management Institute (LLRMI) of Indianapolis, Ohio was ultimately selected for the job, and a contract was signed with the organization in January of 2010. Attorney Jack Ryan, LLRMI's co-director, took on the role as lead of the project.

Experience and Research
Jack is a former Rhode Island police captain who served the Providence Police Department for 20 years. He was responsible for the department's research and policy development and had an active role in training. Jack Ryan holds a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and a Masters in Administration of Justice, along with a Juris Doctorate from Suffolk University Law School. A member of both Rhode Island and Federal Bar associations, Jack has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in criminal procedure; constitutional law; police misconduct; and contemporary issues in the justice system. He also conducts training and audits for law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. In short, Jack was the perfect person to oversee the New Hampshire Local Government Center Police Model Policy Manual project.

Jack and his competent staff spent the spring of 2010 researching New Hampshire statutes, New Hampshire and U.S. Supreme Court decisions and mandated police policies before putting pen to paper. Contact was also made with the following state law enforcement organizations to solicit their input: New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council, New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police and the Northern New England Police Accreditation Coalition. Each organization was asked to supply at least one representative to sit on a committee to review the draft manual.

Committee Review
In early May of 2010, the 17-member committee met for an initial review of the manual. Subsequent meetings took place to fine-tune the manual, which was finalized and accepted by LGC's Health and Safety Department in December of 2010 for making available to all law enforcement agencies in New Hampshire.

The completed New Hampshire Local Government Center Police Model Policy Manual provides 38 policies covering high-liability areas such as Response to Resistance, Sexual Harassment, Stop, Arrest and Search of Persons. A statewide roll-out of the manual took place in early January of this year. Day-long sessions were held by LGC in Concord, Lancaster, Hampton and Dublin, which gave police departments an opportunity to review the manual, get the information needed to update their respective agency's current policy manual and provide training to their officers on its use.

"I was impressed with the amount of research and man hours that were committed to this very successful endeavor," says Gregory Murphy, who chairs the Northern New England Police Accreditation Coalition and served on the manual's review committee. Gregory describes the resulting document as "a clear and comprehensive guide to all law enforcement agencies seeking to create a policy manual or update existing policies."

Positive Response
Since its introduction, more than 125 police agency heads from across the state have requested and received electronic copies of the New Hampshire Local Government Center Police Model Policy Manual, including Lancaster Police Chief John R. Gardiner. "The Internet, exploding use of PDAs and cell phones are areas of concern for every administrator [because of] the opportunity for misapplication of these technologies ... so I welcome the [manual's] section on Internet postings and social networking. Thank you for your efforts," John wrote to LGC after receiving the manual via email.

Looking forward, our hope at LGC is that that the New Hampshire Local Government Center Police Model Policy Manual will become the basis for agencies to pursue New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police State Voluntary Accreditation and, eventually, national accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA®).

Butch Burbank is a health and safety advisor for New Hampshire Local Government Center. Police agencies wishing to obtain a copy of the manual should contact Butch by email or at 800.852.3358, ext. 316.

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