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INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC SAFETY ASSOCIATION
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Public Safety Column

The IPSA's Public Safety Column is an opportunity for our members and corporate sponsors to provide thought leadership articles about all topics facing public safety. 

The articles we publish are not necessarily the views of the IPSA, rather they are opinions shared by each contributor.


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  • 25 Jan 2022 8:43 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Gregory L. Walterhouse, Associate Teaching Professor, Bowling Green State University

    What is benchmarking?

    Simply stated, benchmarking are points of reference from which measurement are made. There are several types of benchmarking, the first being corporate style benchmarking, predicated on the belief that superior results are the product of best practices that can be emulated from others. The second type is visioning initiatives whereby a vision is established leading to the creation of results-oriented targets. Visioning initiatives are like strategic planning. The third type of benchmarking, and the focus for this article is the comparison of performance statistics. In this type of benchmarking, an organization compares their own statistics to either national standards or data sets from other similar organizations.

    Benchmarking can identify top performers within a data set and highlight relative strengths and weaknesses within an organization but does not identify best practices. However, there are some challenges to benchmarking. Relative to the public sector, the inconsistency in the ways that municipalities measure and report their data can make benchmarking challenging. Another challenge is turning benchmarking data into actions to improve service. This will require data-driven decision-making and transitioning from traditional models of service delivery to more innovative models, in other words, change, which is often difficult for some, particularly in the fire service to embrace.  

    Another challenge is the interpretation of data. For example, a higher cost per incident rather than a lower cost may seem counter intuitive. Nevertheless, a city that has fewer incidents will have a higher cost, perhaps because prevention efforts receive more funding indicating a more efficient use of available funds. One report suggests that comparing one fire department to another may not be the most accurate metric due to different demographics and that comparing response service to prevention service within the same agency may provide a more accurate measure of efficiency.

    Benefits of benchmarking

    Several benefits can result from benchmarking. First, benchmarking helps develop standardized metrics against which a department can evaluate their performance. Second, benchmarking assists in developing performance expectations for the department. Next, benchmarking helps establish a culture of continuous improvement for fire departments and provides a basis for department administrators to identifying and correct performance gaps. As elected officials are becoming more data driven, benchmarking can provide the data needed to support budget and staffing requests, equipment purchases, and new or expanded programs. Benchmarking is also a useful tool when developing strategic plans.

    National standards

    The National Fire Protection Association “Standard (1710) for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments” provides national consensus standard metrics that departments can use for self-evaluation.

    NFPA “Standard (1720) for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Volunteer Fire Departments” provides similar metrics for volunteer and on-call fire departments. Some examples of standardized metrics contained within the NFPA standards include alarm processing time, turnout time, travel time, total response time, staffing and more.

    Another of several examples is NPFA “Standard (1410) on Training for Initial Emergency Scene Operations.” This standard provides required performance metrics for deploying hand lines, master streams, automatic sprinkler system support, and truck company operations. Bearing in mind that national standards are minimum standards of performance, comparing a department’s performance to similarly situated departments at the regional, state or national level may be more informative regarding efficiency of operations.

    Data

    Compiling a data set for comparison is complex, as well as time, and labor-intensive. Employing an existing data set will simplify the process of benchmarking.

    One source is the ICMA that offers free open access benchmarking that is a software-neutral data set with over 20,000 data points that facilitates comparing local government performance metrics. ICMA’s benchmarking service focuses on key performance indicators, with corresponding definitions. Some examples of operational performance indicators for fire and EMS include total BLS and ALS responses, average response times, total expenditures for fire/EMS personnel and operations, percentage of residential fires confined to object or room of origin, and percentage of cardiac patients with pulsatile rhythms upon delivery to a hospital.

    Demographic performance indicators include, residential population served, square miles served, median household income, percentage of population below the poverty level, percentage of vacant housing units, respondent ratings of fire service quality and more.

    There are also performance indicators related to fire service human resources including, hours paid including overtime, sick leave hours used, turnover rates, and worker’s compensation days lost due to injury. 

    Though less focused compared to the ICMA data set, the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) at the U.S. Fire Administration offers a free data set of more than two million fire incidents annually. The data sets are available on CD by request and include categories of all incidents, fire incidents and fire and hazardous materials incidents. Though the data will facilitate a comparison to national data, it is not conducive to making comparisons to individual departments. Users of this data must also be aware that participation in NFIRS is not mandatory and therefore is not a complete census of all fire incidents and NFIRS is prone to reporting errors, though the National Fire Data Center performs internal quality checks to identify and correct errors. 

    Third parties

    With many departments struggling with reduce staffing and budget constraints, finding the time and resources to perform benchmarking can be challenging.

    One solution is a benchmarking analysis performed by a third party. The Emergency Services Consulting International (ESCI), which is the consulting arm of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), has teamed with ISO to produce the Community Fire Service Performance Review for Structural Fire Protection. This is a peer-review benchmark analysis that fire departments and municipalities can use to make comparisons. The review compares a department to 15-25 accurate peer organizations along with regional and national averages based on 32 data points. ISO compiles the points into four main sections: emergency communications, fire services, water systems, and community risk reduction. The focus of this third party benchmarking analysis is narrower in scope focusing on how departments can improve their ISO Public Protection Classification rating. 

    Summary

    In summary, benchmarking is important to the fire service. As data is increasingly driving decision-making in the public sector, comparing fire service delivery to both national standards and similarly situated municipalities is critical to providing cost effective and efficient service. Benchmarking identifies areas of needed improvement, strengths, and helps restore trust in government by using data to make decisions and uncovering innovative ways to elevate performance. Benchmarking also provides information that may lead to mid-course adjustments or terminating programs that are not producing intended outcomes. Data-driven decision-making leads to greater accountability and transparency, encourages continuous improvement and improves consistency.

    About the Author

    Greg Walterhouse is an Associate Teaching Professor in the Fire Administration and master’s in public administration programs at Bowling Green State University. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Management from Oakland University, a Master’s degree in Legal Studies from the University of Illinois, a Master’s degree in Management from Central Michigan University, and a Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership from Bowling Green State University. Before joining BGSU, Greg had over 35 years’ experience in various aspects of public safety with 18 years in upper management. The author may be contacted at waltegl@bgsu.edu.

  • 25 Jan 2022 8:17 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Dale Stockton

    Public safety agencies across the country are benefiting from mobile technologies, most often smartphones and tablets, because they result in connected first responders. In law enforcement, that means officers who can better engage with the community because they’re no longer tethered to a computer mounted in a patrol car. In fire services, going mobile allows for better command and control, and utilization of powerful situational awareness tools. For EMS, mobile technology dramatically improves patient care with quicker access to essential patient information and near-instant transmission of vital signs.

    The Launch of Connecting Heroes

    In May 2020, Mike Sievert, the CEO of T-Mobile, announced the launch of Connecting Heroes, an ambitious and unparalleled ten-year commitment to support public safety agencies by providing free unlimited talk, text and smartphone data to local, county, state, and tribal agencies that provide police, fire, EMS, or PSAP services. In a special introductory video, Sievert emphasized Connecting Heroes is not a temporary promotion and will remain available to first responder agencies for ten years. Even though agencies provide (or acquire) the mobile devices, the savings have proven to be substantial. There are also plans that are discounted and provide free 5G devices. Sievert estimates the budgetary savings for emergency service agencies that use Connecting Heroes could amount to $7.7 billion over the duration of the program.

    The Public Safety Team

    Connecting Heroes was designed to help agencies make the most of their technology budgets, acquiring mobile capabilities that serve as true force multipliers. And T-Mobile for Government has brought in a team of veteran public safety leaders as a resource to help departments effectively engage. Craig Martinez, a retired Utah police chief, is the Senior Public Safety Administrator for T-Mobile and coordinates four other public safety veterans, all of whom have more than 30 years of public safety experience. Members of the team include Amy Sinnott, who served in Florida law enforcement; Eric Olsen, who worked for NYPD and New York State University Police; David Brown, a retired Kansas police chief; and Gary Giles, who served with law enforcement agencies in Texas and Utah. 

    “It’s an honor to work with these professionals,” said Martinez. “The depth and breadth of their experience is incredible and they’re helping agencies to participate in the Connecting Heroes program. It’s a gamechanger for public safety and makes it possible for more departments to leverage mobile technology and become more effective.”

    Connecting Heroes Helps Two Agencies Go Mobile

    Some of the biggest challenges in delivering public safety services can be found in rural areas where first responders are often challenged with limited cellular coverage. Such was the case with the Hampton Valley Forge Volunteer Fire Department  in Tennessee.  Frustrated by the limited coverage of their previous carrier,  the agency contacted T-Mobile about trying out devices and services after hearing about Connecting Heroes. The coverage was found to be solid, making it possible for nearly 40 firefighters to stay connected to each other and their headquarters in areas they previously considered dead zones. Each firetruck is now equipped with a T-Mobile-powered smartphone that runs ATAK (Android Team Awareness Kit). Operating on the T-Mobile 5G network, ATAK allows firefighters to locate each other easily and have real-time access to critical data like elevation tools, heat maps, and routing options. “The T-Mobile Connecting Heroes program is amazing, knowing that there’s a company out there looking to have your back – that’s huge for us,” said Firefighter Amos Halava.

    Like many small agencies, the Bay Minette Police Department in Alabama must carefully manage their budget to ensure the basics get covered. BMPD worked with a non-profit foundation, Spirit of Blue, to acquire smartphones and then used the Connecting Heroes program to obtain free unlimited talk, text, and data on those devices. BMPD Chief Al Tolbert says that the idea of having officers equipped with smartphones was previously unachievable but now officers are using the phones extensively, including managing their body worn cameras. He has been especially pleased with the operational benefit for the school resource officers (SROs). "Four of the phones went to SROs," Tolbert explained. "Previously, we were unable to get cell coverage inside the school buildings due to the type of construction – the signal just wasn't getting through. The smartphones running on T-Mobile's network are working really well within the school properties and buildings and this allows dispatch to contact the officers with ease,” he said.

    The Largest 5G Network

    A month before the announcement of Connecting Heroes, T-Mobile finalized its merger with Sprint, resulting in an opportunity to combine cellular networks. It’s now America’s largest 5G network, offering robust performance and supporting capabilities like real-time sensor notification, facilitated emergency vehicle response through congested traffic, and the potential for autonomous drone operation. T-Mobile for Government also understands the importance of a network that’s reliable and offers priority access and preemption to any first responder agency that has qualified for the Wireless Priority Service administered by the Department of Homeland Security.

    Opportunities

    Going mobile dramatically expands capabilities and improves efficiency for public safety agencies. T-Mobile’s commitment to support first responders is clearly demonstrated by the Connecting Heroes program and the personnel dedicated to this effort. You can learn much more about how to enroll in the Connecting Heroes program and discover how other agencies are improving operational effectiveness by visiting the T-Mobile for Government web site.

    About the Author

    Dale Stockton is a 32-year-veteran of law enforcement, having worked in all areas of police operations and retiring as a police captain from Carlsbad, California. He taught criminal justice classes for more than 20 years and is the former Editor-in-Chief of Law Officer Magazine and LawOfficer.com. Stockton is the founder of Below 100, an award-winning officer-safety initiative designed to reduce police line-of-duty deaths and has been involved in the presentation of the program across North America. Stockton is an accomplished technology practitioner and has managed major technology projects for public safety including personnel-locate devices and license plate recognition systems.


  • 25 Jan 2022 8:11 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Juan Pereira Volunteer First Responder with Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support, IPSA member

    Studies document that women in law enforcement continually face a variety of obstacles, including discrimination, sexual harassment and negative attitudes by their peers. Disparities continue to reveal this despite a long history of positive reforms in law enforcement.

    These imbalances delay the long-existing efforts toward positive reforms in policing. Even though minor challenges still exist, Canadian law enforcement has committed efforts to bridge gender disparities, thus offering good grounds for a benchmark.

    Recent reports and commentaries on women reveal a nationwide outcry over disproportionate enjoyment of freedom, and often, overt gender and racial discrimination galvanize demands for more committed efforts towards police reform. 

    Below are three specific challenges facing women in today’s police force.

    1. Gender disparities: Gender disparities in law enforcement result from socially prescribed norms of police personality, male officer resistance, discrimination and job promotion, and advancement. These attitudes develop during everyday interactions. Society generally perceives law enforcement as a gendered occupation or a complete form of hegemonic masculinity because the occupation demands physicality, an aggressive and violent character, competitiveness, heterosexual orientations (such as patriarchal views and terminology on women), and strict and clear in-group/outgroup variations. These behavioral norms and cultural expectations end up discriminating against women entering law enforcement. They make it difficult and stressful for women’s full integration. The dominance of inferior attitudes about women and gender stereotypes in the policing occupation further hamstrings the profession’s ability to hire, retain, and promote women officers.

    2. Unequal representation in the workforce: The first time a major American police department had a woman chief was in 1964 when the Portland (Oregon) Police Bureau appointed Chief Penny Harrington. Throughout her career, Harrington, who found only twelve women officers in the department, faced widespread challenges, including sexism and blatant harassment. Hundreds of her gender discrimination lawsuits and complaints in Portland, Oregon, initiated changes significantly. The Rodney King beating of 1991 in Los Angeles resulted in the founding of the Cristopher Commission. The Commission largely reformed the Los Angeles Police Department, including a proposal to hire 50 percent women in the department that increased women's representation for several years.

      Legislation such as the Federal Equal Employment Law, Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, Justice System Improvement Act of 1978, and Equal Employment Opportunity Act have forced many employers to adopt affirmative action measures to create equal employment
      opportunities for both women and marginalized groups in policing. As a result, the number of women and racial minorities employed in the police force has improved. Nevertheless, scholars continue to regard U.S. law enforcement as one of the most gendered occupations in modern society. The percentage of sworn women officers (13 percent of the law enforcement) is way under the general labor force. Policing organizations not only underrepresent women; they are also underutilizing them. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) reports that despite women making up more than the U.S. population, the U.S. justice system usually deploys most of the 13 percent women officers in urban areas, large law enforcement agencies and communities with high levels of ethnic and racial diversities. Certain populations tend to lack trust in law enforcement because they feel a lack of equal representation in the system.

    3. Diverse community settings: The behaviors and interactions that occur within the canteen culture also promote expressive talk encouraging racist and sexist canteen (backstage interaction area) banters. In a highly masculine, white, heterosexual police force, these behaviors contribute to differential treatment of women officers. These officers continue to re-express the attitudes held toward the formerly recognized marginalized groups, thus forming the interior culture. Sexist and racist behaviors within the informal police interactions develop two sets of dominant perspectives. On the one hand, the heterosexual, male officers resent institutionalized diversity. On the other hand, the women, minority, ethnic, lesbian, and gay officers hold a persistent imperious, male, heterosexist view. These deeply rooted perspectives and practices continually influence police organization and culture.

    Two possible interventions

    1. Understanding of the context of police work: Various scholars on diversity in law enforcement have suggested possible interventions to decrease barriers and challenges women encounter in policing. On December 3rd and 4th, 2018, approximately 100 women researchers attended the Research Summit on Women in Policing in Washington, D.C., and suggested, among other measures, support networks, sponsorship, mentoring, and enforcing and strengthening harassment policies. The Women’s Leadership Academy in Newark, New Jersey is successful support to enable women applicants to meet academic and physical fitness requirements while enhancing peer networks of women officers supporting individuals’ success. Building networks increase peer support and mentorships, which have been essential in retaining women, African American, and Hispanic officers in Nevada, Las Vegas, and the Southeastern U.S .within law enforcement.

    2. Policy development: Research repeatedly identifies Canada as an example of a country committed to removing gender barriers in policing. The country has introduced affirmative action plans which establish positive discrimination by providing special opportunities from minority groups. For example, the Equity Employment Act of Canada mandates employers to proactively seek minority candidates (including women, aboriginals, and visible minorities) as a measure to increase workplace diversity. The employment equity and affirmative actions that target employment equity by recruitment of visible minority candidates have increased diversity in law enforcement.

    Conclusion

    Women entering policing services are at a disadvantage because of their gender and racial or ethnic backgrounds. Studies have shown that the greatest barriers for women in law enforcement are the attitudes and perceptions of women. Law enforcement agencies establish policies aiming at increasing the number of women in policing while overlooking the longstanding barriers remaining within. As the two groups have learned throughout history, change is a long process that needs persistence and full success needs persistence. More importantly, women are vital assets to any law enforcement organization and through dedication and hard work to recognize their contributions, they need to receive equal respect as their male counterparts do. Therefore, women ought to recognize and acknowledge the significant victories in their endeavor to realize fairness and recognition within the law enforcement profession.

    About the Author

    Juan Pereira received his education background in Police Foundations from Centennial College. He is a student at Wilfred Laurier University working on his BA in Criminology and Policing he hopes to complete his bachelor’s and to dive into his Master of Public Safety with Wilfred Laurier University. He has seven years of experience as a volunteer first responder in various public safety organization. He has also been a volunteer with Police Organizations and Crime Stopper Programs. He also has taken on Youth Coordinator Positions and Youth mentorships with other organizations. Email him at  juangregoriopereira19990@gmail.com.


  • 03 Nov 2021 11:18 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Sarah Saunders, Telecommunicator, Grays Harbor E-911, IPSA Member

    If you have worked in a 9-1-1 center, you can probably think of a few times when the center door has closed behind a co-worker and someone in the room immediately had something to say about them. Sometimes it is just a quick snarky comment, but sometimes it continues the entire time the person is out of the room. Gossip is one of the most detrimental things a co-worker can do. It brings down the morale of the center, causes rifts between employees and never brings anything positive to the work environment. Gossip is a waste of time, energy and focus. Gossip causes hurt feelings, irreparable damage to someone’s reputation and it can damage the reputation of the agency.

    Gossip has existed a long time, but Socrates challenged others to think about the need for gossip when he said, “Gossip dies when it hits a wise person’s ears.” The truth is, gossip has probably existed as long as there have been humans around to hear it. It will probably continue as long as there are people alive to hear and discuss it. That doesn’t mean you can’t stop it from happening in your presence.  When someone is brave enough to challenge others to stop using vicious and damaging words, it also challenges them to think about their need to gossip. 

    So how do you effectively stop gossip? Let’s talk about how dispatchers can wise-up and kill gossip the moment it starts. Here are seven tips and methods to stop gossip in its tracks and help your communications center thrive and survive in a gossip-free dispatch environment.

    Seven tips to stop gossip

    1. Change the subject. Dispatchers have been taught to veer away from certain conversations with callers when it is detrimental to the call. This is no different. Allowing these conversations to take place is detrimental to the work environment.

    2. Remember your goals. Dispatchers want to be the best they can be at their jobs. They want to excel and grow, serve the public and make a difference. So, with those goals in mind, remove yourself from the conversation. Idle minds tend to gossip, so don’t lose track of your goals and ambitions. Keep yourself busy, and you will inevitably remove yourself from these painful conversations.

    3. Ignore it. Dispatchers don’t have to engage with co-workers when they chose to talk about someone else. While it’s not uncommon to want to be included in the room conversations, it can be guaranteed that at some point, you will also fall victim to your co-worker’s gossip and vicious words. If they are talking about one dispatcher, they are likely talking about all dispatchers, so don’t engage with them.

    4. Walk away. Have a plan or exit strategy in place ahead of time. If other’s start to gossip just walk away, or if you are inside the communications center, just turn away, back to your console.

    5. Focus on solutions, not problems. Not only do we have to treat our co-workers with empathy and compassion, but if someone is truly having a problem, we should try to help the employee and not just gossip about them. How can you help them to be better? If someone has been showing up to work late consistently the last two weeks, maybe your co-workers are right to be upset or concerned, but did anyone ask why? Did anyone ask what they can do to help him/her get there on time? Dispatchers don’t need to act above their wage, or step on the toes of a supervisor. Just treat your co-worker with compassion and help them problem solve. You might just be able to save their sanity or their job.

    6. Be the example. One of the best ways to stop gossip in the communications center, is to not get involved. It is impossible for anyone to stop gossip if they are an active participant. When someone starts in about a person’s sudden interest in dating a fellow first responder, just stop them in their tracks.

    7. Encourage positive conversation. By encouraging positive gossip, it satisfies the innate human “need to know” while keeping a positive environment and improving morale. Some examples of positive gossip include, “Hey, did you hear so-and-so had a CPR save yesterday? He/she did telephonic CPR for 10 minutes and he made it! I know he/she will be excited to get a lifesaving pin.” Or “I heard so-and-so got called into the Director’s office yesterday. Someone sent in a letter and flowers for his/her compassion during that difficult call.” Celebrate the successes and the victories of your co-workers.

    It doesn’t matter which of these seven tips or methods you choose to take out of your dispatcher toolbox and use, all that matters is that you use them to stop gossip in its tracks. Everyone has an important decision to make every day, what kind of day will today be? Do we choose to think the best about people, about our co-workers around us, or do we make assumptions that everyone is out to make us have a bad day?  Do we hold each other to a standard that doesn’t include or allow gossip or do we attack those very people that are there with you through thick and thin?

    You have a choice to make every day. Choose to be kind, empathetic and compassionate with your co-workers.

    Choose to be great.


    About the Author

    Sarah Saunders first sat behind a dispatch console at thirteen years old and has been dispatching full-time since 2001. Throughout her career, she has worked in multiple roles in Arizona and Washington, including dispatcher, trainer, supervisor, training coordinator, tactical dispatch team supervisor, certified instructor, systems security officer and CISM team member.

    If you have any tips to share or want to provide feedback, email her at improvethroughkindness@gmail.com or ssaunders@gh911.org.


  • 05 Oct 2021 9:19 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Juan Pereira Volunteer First Responder with Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support, IPSA member

    Law enforcement officers work in an ever-changing environment characterized by legal and technological changes and incessant public scrutiny. Such a demanding environment can be draining, even to the most passionate of officers. While law enforcement officers receive training on how to serve and protect per their duty, advanced education is a necessity to navigate the changing environment and increase their efficiency in conducting their duties.

    Law enforcement training in Canada has tremendously improved over the years, as agencies and educational institutions introduce more programs that suit the needs of the modern work environment. Higher education has several benefits that empower offices to be more adept and serving the public.

    Below are five reasons how higher education benefits law enforcement.

    1. Leadership Skills: Higher education offers opportunities for career growth and development, including in the policing sector. Education advances individual’s skills and knowledge in their area of expertise. They gain abstract reasoning, specialized knowledge, and analytical thinking skills that promote their credibility. Consequently, higher education empowers officers to be more proficient in completing their tasks, enabling them to take on leadership roles in their organizations. Examples of such roles are: 

    • Chief of Police/Commissioner/Chief Constable
    • Deputy Chief of Police/Deputy Chief Constable
    • Staff Superintendent
    • Superintendent
    • Staff Inspector
    • Inspector
    • Sergeant Major
    • Staff Sergeant
    • Sergeant/Detective
    • Police Constable 1stClass/Detective Constable

    These advances come with more responsibility, not to mention the increase in remunerations. Further, the officers can participate in policy development to address some of the challenges facing the profession. While looking for higher education programs to enroll in, officers should concentrate on finding those that are relevant to the profession but do not duplicate the skills in which they are already proficient. Such criteria will impart them with gainful value.

    2. Promotion of public trust in police work: One of the challenges of being a law enforcement officer is that the intense public scrutiny can pave the way for undervaluation. When citizens lack faith in the body mandated to serve and protect them, law enforcement officers are constrained from effectively fulfilling their duties. Several professions that serve citizens like nursing, engineering and teaching require people to attain university degrees. However, post-secondary education qualification is often enough to succeed during law enforcement training. This results in a situation where the public perceives policing as a low-quality job. Law enforcement institutions also face more crises in this era of publicizing discriminatory activities. These further dampen public trust. Therefore, it is necessary for more law enforcement officers to be empowered to change the status quo. Education plays a central role in achieving this end. Education cultivates officers to make well-informed professional judgments in different situations, and they have a wide range of knowledge and skills.

    3. Ability to work in diverse community settings: The modern environment is characterized by different forms of diversity. Cultural differences are one of the issues that distinguish one community from another. The experience of police officers varies greatly when working in different neighborhoods. In some instances, officers find themselves conflicting with citizens as they handle issues differently from the norm. Such occurrences can create undesirable friction between the police department and the public. Officers need to establish an understanding of the local community that allows them to perform their duties. Higher education helps them to achieve this through various mechanisms. For instance, it allows officers to develop cultural competency skills, diverse policing models, and problem-solving skills. Additionally, it boosts their communication skills and enables them to navigate conflicts with ease.

    4. Better understanding of the context of police work: The portrayal of police officers in mainstream entertainment corrupts the idea of policing in the minds of young recruits. These individuals are often unprepared for other aspects of police work, such as the documentation of the investigative journey. This issue is magnified by gaps in the system, such as the absence of a mechanism to facilitate accountability by ensuring all officers receive adequate training before enrollment. It is necessary to bridge the gap between perceptions and reality to enable the profession to attract suitable individuals for the job. Addressing the accountability challenge necessitates a definition of core policing and the development of institutions where the officers understand their role. Higher education facilitates this as it has more in-depth training than post-secondary education. The training provided is also research-based, such that it enables officers to achieve desirable ends effectively.

    5. Less likely to use force: Higher education enhances the competence of the forces as it cultivates officers who are more problem-oriented. These individuals are less likely to resort to violent means of resolving conflict. Social media highlights the rampant use of such tactics, which further deteriorate the relationship between the public and the police. Higher education trains officers to think critically and use different policing approaches depending on the situation. As a result, these officers are 30 percent less likely to shoot at suspects or citizens while on duty.

    The benefits of higher education among law enforcement officers are endless. Educated officers make better professionals as they learn several policing approaches that fit modern contexts. They integrate well with diverse communities, cultivating a healthy relationship between citizens and officers. Moreover, officers willing to advance their education do not need to attend physical classes that clash with their work.

    Online programs are available such that officers can learn while obtaining on-the-job skills. The Canadian Association of Police Educators, CAPE, offers a multitude of programs and resources that empower officers with advanced training. As the population is set to increase over the coming years, the country will need more educated officers to serve and protect citizens.

    About the Author

    Juan Pereira received his education background in Police Foundations from Centennial College. He is a student at Wilfred Laurier University working on his BA in Criminology and Policing he hopes to complete his bachelor’s and to dive into his Master of Public Safety with Wilfred Laurier University. He has seven years experience as a volunteer first responder in various public safety organization. He has also been a volunteer with Police Organizations and Crime Stopper Programs. He also has taken on Youth Coordinator Positions and Youth mentorships with other organizations. Email him at  juangregoriopereira19990@gmail.com.


  • 10 Sep 2021 10:08 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    Time often has a healing effect. Memory of historic events often fades, but we must never forget the horrific events of 9/11. As we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom, we also remember where we were on that tragic day and how it's changed our futures as public safety professionals. 

    IPSA Board Chair and Assistant Chief J. Scott Quirarte recalls where he was on 9/11/2001

    “I was a new fire captain on duty. When the second plane hit the towers we knew we were being attacked. We watched in disbelief; how could this be happening. I quickly realized the crew was looking at me for direction. Honestly, I had no idea what to do so we starting talking about the possibility of an attack on the west coast and what we would do.

    The attack occurred close to shift change so we kept both shifts on duty ready to respond in county or mutual aid outside the county. We waited and watched for the next two days.

    This was the first time I realized we did not really know our counterparts in law enforcement or emergency management. For a handful of us on the department this was the start of our slow road to better integrated response.”

    IPSA Board Member and Ret. Chief Scott Edson remembers 9/11/2001

    "I was a Lieutenant for the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department at the time and was at home preparing for work when the first plane hit the twin tower. I watched on TV in horror when the second plane hit. It was now clear to me we were under attack.

    My duties at the time we're managing the largest law enforcement Data Network in the nation and of course I was now even more concerned with the cyber-terrorism threat. In 2001 cyber-terrorism was fairly new and unfortunately, terrorism was already growing across the Nation. Today, some 20 years later, cyber-terrorism is most popular terrorism because of the veil of secrecy and an attack will likely have many victims."

    IPSA Board Member and Ret. Fire Captain Brad Havrilla recalls 9/11/2001

    “I was on duty as a Firefighter Paramedic on our Special Operations Team at Palm Beach County Fire Rescue doing morning equipment checks at the fire station when we saw the first plane crash into the tower. We were all glued to the tv. My thoughts were with the firefighters that I had ridden with in New York while attending the National Fire Academy. I rode with Rescue 1 and Rescue 3 on our weekend break. Our instructors met us at the WTC and gave us a tour and discussed the1993 terrorist bombing response. When the first tower fell one of the firefighters asked if I thought there were crews still in the building. Unfortunately, I knew they definitely were. Days later, some of my closest friends would be working ground zero as members of the USAR team and the US Marshals Service searching for survivors.

    After 9/11 I decided that what I was doing as a Special Operations Firefighter/Paramedic was not enough. I made a commitment that night to branch into Law Enforcement as a Tactical Medic. It wasn’t easy back then, but I finally was successful. As a Firefighter I attended the National Firefighter Memorial in Washington DC the next year as a member of our departments Honor Guard. I am proud that I could honor those brave Firefighters and their families. I surrounded myself with people who “Never Forgot” and stayed committed to improving the Fire Service.”

    IPSA Board Member and Lt. Bob Marland remembers 9/11/2001

    “I was assigned as an Administrative Lt at our Headquarters. I was watching the news and saw the first plane strike the tower. I had a bad feeling that this wasn’t an accident. I continued to watch thinking through possible operational responses if this wasn’t an accident and then I watched the second plane hit. I was assigned to go through all the courts to locate officers and send them back to their units. I was assigned with deploying units to exterior security at the Federal Reserve, City Hall and the Virginia Capital.”

    IPSA Board Member and Lt. George Steiner remembers 9/11/2001

    “I was living in Chicago in the Wrigleyville neighborhood when 9/11 happened. I remember people leaving the city because we were unsure if there would be any more attacks. The streets were empty, businesses were closed there was an uncomfortable quietness. My wife and I had just started dating a week before 9/11.”

    IPSA Board Member Gregory Walterhouse recalls 9/11/2001

    “On 9/11 I was Deputy Chief of Operations with the Rochester Hills Fire Department and was in a city staff meeting when the first plane struck the World Trade Center. When the second plane struck the south tower, it was apparent it was a terrorist attack and not knowing the extent immediately secured all city buildings. How public safety trains and responds to incidents was forever changed that day.”

    IPSA Board Member Wren Nealy remembers 9/11/2001

    “On 9/11, I was at training with the Houston FBI, supporting them as a tactical medic. I remember this vividly when the Supervisory Agent abruptly stopped the firearms training and called in the team. He told us of the attack and called an end to the training. He advised we were all on standby for deployment. The thought of being deployed to ground zero caused everyone to pause. Going home to pack and explain and tell my family I was deploying was difficult. Even though I couldn’t tell them, they had watched the news and knew where I was going. Being in this ready deployment state for what ended up being 24-hours, only to be stood down, was stressful and something I will never forget.”

    Working together

    Collectively as a nation, we have made significant progress since 9/11 to keep our country safe. This includes improved intelligence collection, information sharing and inter-agency cooperation through Fusion Centers and other means; improved public safety communications, the development of the National Incident Management System, increased funding to state and local governments through the Homeland Security Grant Program and more.

    We have also collectively been successful in averting a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. However, our nation must not rest on a false sense of security.

    We must remain diligent and continue to collect, analyze and share intelligence information between federal, state and local agencies, and protect critical infrastructure against physical and cyber-attack.

    Accomplishing this requires that all public safety disciplines work together cooperatively and synergistically at the federal, state, and local levels as well as internationally with our foreign allies.

  • 17 Aug 2021 9:58 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Juan Pereira Volunteer First Responder with Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support, IPSA member

    Public safety personnel (e.g., border patrol, telecommunicators, corrections officers, firefighters, emergency personnel, ambulance crews, law enforcement and frontline medical workers) are frequently subjected to various psychologically traumatic events (PPTEs). These events include witnessing violent behavior and moments of accident. Other employment constraints that may impact public safety mental health include shift work, tight scrutiny, occupational stigma, intimidation and harassment.

    Regardless of the high prevalence of exposure, few scientifically validated strategies and programs are in place to prevent post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSIs) in public safety.

    Anxiety and depression, melancholy, physiological reactivity, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicide ideation and attempts, and regressive survival techniques, such as drug and alcohol usage or avoidance can all result from PPTE interactions.

    Public safety personnel deserve medication and services that are efficient, timely and cost-effective. This article investigates peer support as a viable technique for first responders who have PTSD and operational stress injuries in the public safety sector. Although many businesses offer mental health resources, stigma and concerns about confidentiality can hinder public safety personnel from taking advantage of these services.

    Peer support groups

    Public safety personnel are more inclined to communicate their sentiments and problems with someone who has gone through comparable situations, like firefights, than with people who have not.

    Peer support groups rely on experienced counterparts to form a beneficial bond with people who have endured terrible events by providing empathic and behavioral assistance, support, and optimism.

    A physician specialist or a colleague can lead the support group approach. Gatherings typically comprise only 10 to 15 individuals and regularly assemble, such as once a month, to enable and provide a welcoming forum for engaged conversation. Individuals may be members of a weekly meeting session or be eligible to join on a drop-in basis, depending on the organization's setup.

    Some organizations serve a diverse community, while others target a specific subgroup, such as women or individuals with disabilities. Engaging in a social or peer support group can encourage people to trade healing and survival skills with others going through the same thing. Group sessions can also be utilized to initiate a one-on-one dialogue with an expert or group figurehead.

    Support for operational stress injury program coordinators, for example, meet with RCMP workers and members one-on-one to address their issues and provide information about pertinent recovery and surviving choices. As a result, these support groups are valuable since many people feel better after airing their concerns, issues, and experiences and discussing them.

    This support group effort uses similar experiences to foster connection, decrease discrimination and create a long-term platform for receiving aid and sharing information about assistance programs and constructive recovery and survival skills. Simply by providing a place for discussion, support group activities can promote awareness and reduce discrimination among the intended demographics.

    Because of similar circumstances, peer support group members "converse in similar dialect" as those they are aiding, promoting an atmosphere of sincerity and trust. As a result, group members are more likely to notice changes in a member's behavior and manner. Social support groups are also vital for organizational coherence and management competency, both required for PTSD rehabilitation.

    Stigma reduction

    Peer support groups, through a national strategy for OSI, can encourage first responders and the public to talk about mental and emotional wellbeing and the risks that come with it to raise awareness and make it acceptable. According to BC First Responders Mental Health, these program participants and champions may have a better understanding, awareness, and commitment to mental wellbeing. This understanding of the situation is based on an individual's past, encounters with a significant friend or colleague, or previous success in establishing organizational culture. Therefore, these advocates can inspire and motivate their peers while providing social support by raising awareness of mental and emotional wellbeing.

    Integrity and trustworthiness are required to establish fruitful support group connections and develop healthy peer-to-peer dialogues. Support groups benefit individuals, peer supporters, health care providers, and the greater community. This service supports the member by broadening the spectrum of social interactions, offering information to encourage healthy adjustment, survival, healing activities, and providing information on possibilities outside the direct peer partner. Conversely, peer supporters can feel empowered by assisting a peer while strengthening their self-confidence and resilience.

    Society learns from a person's participation in a counseling support group, whether it is individual themselves or the individual's relatives, family, and friends. The benefits are healthy connections and well-equipped people to regulate their emotions.

    Joining a support group allows people to be more effective without interruptions caused by depression, sadness, drug misuse, addiction, and dependency.

    Additional interventions

    Various separate interventions have been devised as highlighted by International Public Safety Association. Most initiatives include a wide range of peer support and psychiatric therapies aimed at helping people in distress. The activities and accompanying assessments have differed widely in research methodology, intended audience, length of education, scheduling of programs, results evaluated, and follow-up schedule.

    Nonetheless, the interventions provided can be classified as peer support and crisis-focused mental and emotional therapies.

    About the Author

    Juan Pereira received his education background in Police Foundations from Centennial College. He is a student at Wilfred Laurier University working on his BA in Criminology and Policing he hopes to complete his bachelor’s and to dive into his Master of Public Safety with Wilfred Laurier University. He has seven years experience as a volunteer first responder in various public safety organization. He has also been a volunteer with Police Organizations and Crime Stopper Programs. He also has taken on Youth Coordinator Positions and Youth mentorships with other organizations. Email him at  juangregoriopereira19990@gmail.com.

  • 09 Aug 2021 11:04 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Sarah Saunders, Telecommunicator, Grays Harbor E-911, IPSA Member

    There are times a telecommunicator must speak to callers in crisis. They may have to calm a caller, negotiate with a caller, or keep a caller from hurting themselves or someone else. This article provides some useful tips for building rapport with all callers.

    One of the crucial steps to managing a caller in crisis is to establish rapport. Merriam-Webster defines rapport as “a relationship characterized by agreement, mutual understanding, or empathy that makes communications possible or easy.” Rapport is a relationship of trust and mutual influence. While nothing about a caller in crisis is easy, the establishment of rapport is an important step. 

    Building rapport

    To develop rapport with a caller, there are easy steps that can be used to help get the caller the best help in the quickest amount of time. Start by getting the caller’s name and give them your name. Use the caller’s name when addressing them. This often will help ground them, get their attention, and bring them back to the conversation.

    The longer the caller is kept on the phone, the better opportunity the telecommunicator has so they can de-escalate the caller and preserve life, while building trust and rapport.

    Active listening

    Once you have the key basic details, let the caller talk.

    When callers are interrupted, they may get the impression that they are not important or what they are saying isn’t important. Pay attention to what the caller is saying and repeat it back to them.

    Make sure to label their emotions. For example, “When you said that you don’t matter to anyone, you sound sad and frustrated.” This allows the caller to know you heard them, and you are taking the time to understand what they are saying. It also allows the caller to correct you if what you labeled or understood is incorrect.

    Find common ground

    People like people who are like them. Finding commonalities also helps you build rapport.

    Telecommunicators can attempt to find commonalities by talking about things they do well, things they like to do, something they have always wanted or wanted to do or something they appreciate. When a telecommunicator finds a commonality, that does not trigger the caller, it is a good idea to pursue that topic further.

    Hooks

    Pay special attention to your caller’s hooks and triggers. A hook is something that your caller wants to talk about. It does not upset them, and it helps keep them talking. This is especially important when the caller is wanting to hang-up to kill themselves or others and you need to keep them talking on the phone. Hooks will vary by caller. They could include topics such as things they enjoy doing, a musical instrument they play, their love for hiking, or the dog they keep mentioning. Any time the caller keeps mentioning something, explore that further.

    Triggers

    A trigger is something that is upsetting or distressing to the caller. It should be immediately apparent when a line of questioning or topic is triggering to your caller. Telecommunicators need to be able to identify when this is occurring and then avoid the topics, if possible, and steer the caller back to a line of conversation that is safe.

    Triggers vary by caller, but often include family or friends, work, or a specific incident. Triggers often include things that the caller feels are out of their control. Just remember to be flexible as emotions are always changing and each caller will be different.

    Unpredictable circumstances

    Telecommunicators can also make a scene more volatile and dangerous for emergency responders. If a telecommunicator is unable to establish rapport or continues to trigger a caller, they are likely to be agitated and unwilling to follow responder’s instructions.

    The author once dispatched a call where the call-taker angered the caller by calling him sir, and refused to stop. Things escalated so quickly, when officers arrived on scene, the subject had barricaded himself inside his residence and was making threats toward the officers and himself. While this is an extreme case, it shows how a telecommunicator’s actions can and do make a difference when officers arrive on scene.

    Don’t be the reason why officers are faced with contacting someone that is agitated and uncooperative.

    De-escalation

    Building rapport is the most important step for a telecommunicator to begin the de-escalation process, and it is even more important when you have a caller that is resistant to law enforcement or emergency response. They may say things like, “If you send the police, I will kill myself.” Once you have successfully established rapport with a caller, they will typically cooperate and understand why the telecommunicator had to send a police or emergency response.

    Part of building rapport is allowing your caller to talk and felt heard. This may mean that telecommunicators are going to hear things that they don’t like, don’t want to hear, are disturbed by or don’t agree with. Callers in crisis often have pent up emotions and feeling. They may use profanities, yell, scream or cry. Let them, it is cathartic, and the caller needs to feel validated and heard.

    Dispatchers are the critical link that connects callers to much needed help, and effective rapport building skills will only make this link stronger. Building rapport with callers takes time, but it is worth the effort.

    Establishing rapport serves to calm your callers and makes them more willing and able to follow your directions. Building rapport is also important for responder safety. As already mentioned, callers may be resistant to police response. This resistance can be overcome by building rapport. This helps the call-taker and the responders and can ultimately aid in a peaceful ending to a very volatile call or event.


    About the Author

    Sarah Saunders first sat behind a dispatch console at thirteen years old and has been dispatching full-time since 2001. Throughout her career, she has worked in multiple roles in Arizona and Washington, including dispatcher, trainer, supervisor, training coordinator, tactical dispatch team supervisor, certified instructor, systems security officer and CISM team member. If you have any tips to share or want to provide feedback, email her at improvethroughkindness@gmail.com.


  • 09 Aug 2021 7:44 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Gregory L. Walterhouse, Associate Teaching Professor, Bowling Green State University, IPSA Member

    As employers are modifying or lifting work-at home orders, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Centers for Disease (CDC) control have issued guidance for both employers and employees. Universal precautions include social distancing as closer contact and longer interaction with others increases the risk of COVID-19 spread, have hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol available, wash hands often and avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands and sneeze or cough into the inside of the elbow.

    Workforce COVID-19 education

    Notwithstanding, there are some specific precautions employees need to know about returning to work and understand that employers are authorized to establish certain mandates related to COVID-19.

    1. Disinfect high touch surfaces daily including door handles, light witches, counter and desktops, phones and keyboards.

    2. Employers may require returning workers to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks and gloves and observe infection control practices for example regular hand washing and social distancing protocols.

    3. Under federal law, employers may require a COVID-19 vaccination for all employees physically entering the workplace.

    4. Several states have enacted or have pending legislation that would prohibit employers from requiring a COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment. A recently updated listing is available here

    5. Employers may provide education materials to employees about COVID-19 vaccines, raise awareness about the benefits of vaccination, and address common questions and concerns and under certain circumstances may offer incentives to employees who receive COVID-19 vaccines.

    6. Employers may measure employee’s body temperature.

    7. Employers may require employees to remain at home if they have symptoms of COVID-19.

    8. Employers may choose to administer COVID-19 testing to employees before initially permitting them to enter the workplace and/or periodically to determine if their presence in the workplace poses a direct threat to others.

    9. Employers may ask employees physically entering the workplace about testing or diagnoses of COVID-19.

    10. Employees may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation that does not pose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business if they are not vaccinated based on an ADA disability or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance protected by Title VII. For example, as a reasonable accommodation, an unvaccinated employee entering the workplace might wear a face mask, work at a social distance from coworkers or non-employees, work a modified shift, get periodic tests for COVID-19, be given the opportunity to telework, or finally, accept a reassignment.

    11. Employers must maintain all employee medical data, including data collected related to COVID in confidential medical files separate from personnel files.

    Employee mental health

    Mental health must also be a consideration when returning to work. For some employees it will be a welcome opportunity, for others it may result in uncertainty, stress and worry. The American Psychological Association offers some guidance.

    1. Open communicate is essential to reduce employees’ uncertainty and build emotional support.

    2. Develop individualized return to work plans for employees.

    3. Train managers to recognize employees with mental health struggles, which include psychological first aid training.

    4. Educate employees on using the employee assistance program to connect them with needed services.

    5. Employers need to consider if employees can continue to work remotely, offer schedule flexibility, and offer a flex hour after lunch for outdoor activities, recreation or exercise.

    6. Involve employees in discussions about their workspace including physical distancing, lighting, sound masking and furniture arrangement.


    About the Author

    Greg Walterhouse is an Associate Teaching Professor in the Fire Administration and Masters in Public Administration programs at Bowling Green State University. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Management from Oakland University, a Master’s degree in Legal Studies from the University of Illinois and a Master’s degree in Management from Central Michigan University, and a Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership from Bowling Green State University. Before joining BGSU, Greg had over 35 years experience in various aspects of public safety with 18 years in upper management. The author may be contacted at waltegl@bgsu.edu.


    Related Content

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    Going virtual: How COVID-19 has changed EOC and first responder operations


  • 19 Jul 2021 8:17 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Sarah Saunders, Telecommunicator, Grays Harbor E-911, IPSA Member

    Sleeping is one of the most important aspects of health and self-care. Sleep can be elusive under the best conditions, and when you add in shiftwork, stress, and life in general, it can be even harder to find.

    It can be difficult to get sleep while the sun is out. These tips will help if you are new to shiftwork, new to the night shift, or need a reminder on how to thrive on shiftwork. Follow these simple tricks to help you live your best nightshift life with ease. 

    1. Leave the communications center lights on. It can be difficult to leave the lights on when it is dark outside and you are surrounded by computer screens, but the lights help trick your body into thinking it is daytime and time to be awake. For best results, avoid turning your communications center into a bat cave.
    2. Limit the changes to your new sleep routine. It is easier on your body if you are able to keep your sleep schedule throughout your nightshift rotation, even on your days off. The less major, frequent changes to your sleep pattern, the better your body will adapt to night shift, allowing you to get better sleep.
    3. Darken your rooms at home. Invest in good blackout curtains or blinds to limit the sunshine from coming in your room and allow you to sleep in darkness. The dark room lets your body know that it is time to sleep and will allow you to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle your night shift.
    4. Be consistent. This is important, and unexpected overtime or call-ins can be tricky, but make the effort to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This is the best way to sleep well and stay healthy and happy.
    5. Take what you can get. Any sleep counts. Any sleep you can get is better than no sleep at all. This means even if you are able to catch an hour when you get home from your shift, a two-hour nap in the middle of the day, and an hour before you go to work, take it. Fragmented and interrupted sleep is better than no sleep at all.
    6. Turn off your electronic devices. You spend your days surrounded by multiple computer screens. Give your eyes and brain a break from electronics. For the best sleep, avoid looking at television, computer and phone screens, for at least one-hour before you go to bed.
    7. Step away from the caffeine. Dispatchers and caffeine seem to go hand in hand, but if you are already struggling to sleep on nightshift, your favorite dose of energy may be hurting you. The effects of caffeine can last up to twelve hours. If you are struggling to sleep during the daylight hours, avoid or limit caffeine while your body adjusts to your new hours.
    8. Shout it out. Finally, if you are working a new shift and changing your normal hours, make sure you tell your friends and family. You might even consider a sign for your door asking your delivery drivers or neighbors to not disturb you by knocking or ringing your doorbell. This will help you avoid distractions and interruptions while you should be sleeping.

    Nightshift, especially in the communications center, can be tough. When you follow these simple tips, you should find sleeping will become easier and you will become better rested over time. To learn more, check out this information about nightshifts.

    About the Author

    Sarah Saunders first sat behind a dispatch console at thirteen years old and has been dispatching full-time since 2001. Throughout her career, she has worked in multiple roles in Arizona and Washington, including dispatcher, trainer, supervisor, training coordinator, tactical dispatch team supervisor, certified instructor, systems security officer and CISM team member. One of the recurring issues that she had to address, regardless of my role, was getting adequate sleep. If you have any tips to share or want to provide feedback, email me at improvethroughkindness@gmail.com.


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