June 30, 2016

Partly sunny

Medina police adopt an electronic policy manual

MEDINA — Police have adopted an electronic policy manual that automatically updates state and federal laws while providing daily training for officers.

Medina was among the 60 Ohio police departments to begin developing the manual in summer 2010, Chief Pat Berarducci said.

“After six months, we ended up with the master manual for Ohio,” he said. “That master manual is available to any agency that wants to participate in this.”

Sgt. Calvin Undercoffer worked on the master manual with other departments, said Sgt. Brett McNabb, who implemented the manual in Medina, customizing it with local laws and procedures.

Lexipol, a risk management company for safety services, developed the first manual in California. The company updates state and federal laws and outlines best practices in the master manual twice a year. If a law changes, it is done electronically in the 500-page manual, eliminating the need for paper supplements in the department, McNabb said.

McNabb was able to update all Medina’s rules in one day, something that would have taken a year with paper.

“Under the old system, there were paper manuals,” Berarducci said. “Every time there was a change, we put paper in officers’ mailboxes and relied on them to file it in the right place and discard old policy. What ends up happening is you end up finding stacks lying on people’s desks because they haven’t had time to do it.”

The manual is available online and in every police cruiser.

“If (an officer) is on the scene of a crime and has a question about how something is handled, they can pull it up in the car, and they will never have an outdated manual because all of it is done electronically,” he said.

The department spent about $7,000 the first year to develop the manual and training bulletins. The updates are included in the cost, Berarducci said.

A second component is daily training bulletins for all police employees, including clerks and dispatchers. Answered in “yes” or “no” and multiple choice, the daily bulletin takes about five minutes to complete.

It focuses on high-liability, low-frequency topics that are meant to help the department defend itself in litigation.

“Let’s say someone wants to take issue with Medina for use of force,” Berarducci said. “We are able to retrieve all training, show that the officer in question completed the training and did it in a competent fashion. That’s important in civil litigation.”

The tests do not allow an officer to move on to the next question until he or she answers correctly. If the department notices a weak spot, it can create its own test to refamiliarize the officer with the subject.

“It’s good to get the guys to think about it when they don’t have to, so that when they do, they are prepared,” McNabb said.

Though the bulletins reduce the need and cost to send officers to outside training, they will not eliminate it. They will, however, decrease training costs “dramatically,” Berarducci said. In the past, Medina has spent $80,000 a year on training.

“We still have to go to the range to receive qualification, and if we do a skill like driving, that’s something we have to go to,” Berarducci said. “But learning the laws can be done here.”

Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or lhlavinka@medina-gazette.com.