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What do Police Consultants do?

Police consultants are independent advisors who provide guidance and expertise to law enforcement agencies. They work closely with police departments to identify issues and offer solutions to improve operations, policies, procedures, and training.

Overview of Police Consultant Duties

Some of the key responsibilities of a police consultant include:

  • Conducting assessments – Consultants meet with police leadership and analyze current practices, data, community relations, staffing, budgets, equipment, and more to pinpoint areas for improvement.
  • Making recommendations – Based on assessments, consultants give police departments clear, actionable recommendations on updating policies, enhancing training programs, adopting new technologies, realigning staffing models, and other operational changes.
  • Assisting with implementation – Consultants don’t just make recommendations and leave. They actively assist with change management and implementation of new initiatives through project planning, pilot testing, training, policy writing, and progress tracking.
  • Building community trust – Many consultants specialize in strengthening police-community relations through improved transparency, accountability, diversity policies, crisis intervention programs, and more.
  • Conducting audits – Consultants are often brought in to audit specific aspects of a police department such as use of force incidents, internal affairs complaints, traffic stop data, crime clearance rates, and more. These audits identify areas of risk and needed improvements.
  • Crisis response – During times of crisis, turmoil, or high-profile incidents, police departments frequently leverage consultants to assess what happened objectively, manage community reactions, and prevent future issues.

Key Skills and Background

To succeed as a law enforcement consultant, the following qualifications are highly desirable:

  • Law enforcement experience – Having served as a police officer, investigator, administrator, or in a related role. This hands-on experience lends immense credibility.
  • Strong communication abilities – Needed for liaising with diverse stakeholders, making recommendations, delivering training, and managing projects.
  • Analytical skills – Critical for conducting comprehensive assessments, audits, and analysis of policies, data, trends, and more.
  • Change management expertise – Vital for driving adoption of updated policies, procedures, technologies, and departmental realignments.
  • Subject matter expertise – Most consultants specialize in specific areas like use of force, crisis intervention, training, recruitment, staffing, internal affairs, community policing, homeland security, technology, and more.
  • Teaching skills – Important for developing training curriculums and educating law enforcement personnel on policy changes.
  • Degrees in criminal justice, law, public administration, or related fields – While hands-on experience is most important, relevant academic credentials are also extremely helpful.

Why Police Departments Hire Consultants

There are many reasons why law enforcement agencies leverage independent police consultants, including:

  • Bring an outside perspective – Consultants assess policies, practices, data, and community relations through a neutral, third-party lens. This avoids internal biases.
  • Access leading experts – Consultants are often industry-leading experts in key areas of policing best practices. Departments gain invaluable expertise.
  • Drive innovation – Consultants expose departments to cutting-edge strategies, technologies, training methods, and policing approaches they may not uncover on their own.
  • Lend validation – Recommendations made by respected police consultants lend outside validation when presenting policy changes or funding requests to municipal leadership, oversight authorities, or the public.
  • Provide specialization – With focused expertise in specific realms like use of force, crisis intervention, recruiting, staffing analysis, etc., consultants offer targeted guidance other agencies may lack.
  • Offer objective assessments – Following high-profile incidents, police departments often hire independent consultants to review what happened and provide unbiased perspectives.
  • Facilitate community relations – Consultants guide departments on improving transparency, diversity, de-escalation policies, crisis intervention programs, community policing initiatives, and more to strengthen public trust.

Examples of Police Consulting Firms

There are police consulting firms across America that specialize in various aspects of law enforcement management, policies, training, community relations, and more. Some of the top firms include:

  • Hillard Heintze – Leading strategic advisory firm for security, investigations, and law enforcement clients.
  • CNA – Provides in-depth police department analysis, recommendations, and technical assistance.
  • Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) – Respected police research organization that shapes policing best practices.
  • 21CP Solutions – Focuses on independent police monitorships and strengthening community trust.
  • Institute for Intergovernmental Research – Delivers specialized law enforcement training and technical assistance.

There are also many individual police consultants across the country who offer their services independently to law enforcement agencies in need of expert guidance in specific areas. These solo consultants are typically retired police leaders with decades of firsthand experience.

Typical Police Consulting Project Process

While every police consulting engagement is unique, most follow a similar high-level process:

1. Needs Assessment

  • Consultants meet with police leadership to understand key pain points, areas of risk, public concerns, and organizational goals.
  • Background research is conducted and data/information is gathered on current policies, trainings, systems, community issues, and more.

2. Detailed Evaluation

  • Consultants take a deep dive into focused areas identified during the needs assessment phase. This involves further interviews, riding along with officers, audits of internal affairs files or use of force incidents, analysis of crime statistics, and reviewing public complaints or lawsuits.

3. Findings & Recommendations

  • Consultants synthesize evaluation findings into a recommendations roadmap. This details changes needed to policies, accountability systems, trainings, community policing programs, new technologies, staffing models, and more.

4. Implementation Planning & Assistance

  • Consultants collaborate with department leadership on implementation planning, including phasing of recommendations, policy writing, pilot programs, training updates, and progress tracking.
  • Some consultants stay involved in an advisory role during rollout of key initiatives to ensure successful adoption. Others hand off implementation but return periodically to evaluate progress.
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