Late last year an independent review of the Saline Police Department was conducted by Jon Hess, a retired Kent County Undersheriff. In his recommendations he suggested that department policies and procedures be updated and that officers be better trained in implementing them.
Saline Police Chief Larry Hrinik recommended to City Council that Saline use an outside consultant company named Lexipol. When Hess revealed that he actually works for Lexipol, some citizens suspected a conflict of interest.
Because of concerns of impropriety, the issue was removed from the agenda at the February 1 council meeting. The issue was instead discussed in detail at a work meeting held February 29, prior to the regular City Council meeting.
Councilpersons asked Hrinik to describe how this situation came about.
“As a matter of fact, even prior to the John Hess report I had been looking at Lexipol as a possibility for making our policies what they should be because I knew that they were lacking,” Hrinik said.
In response to a question from councilman Jack Ceo, Hrinik said he had been unaware of Hess’s Lexipol connection.
“No, I had no idea,” Hrinik said. “As a matter of fact, it surprised me when he stood up and he announced that to council. But the one thing I do know after that announcement is that he had no connection whatsoever with the law enforcement part of it [Lexipol]. He helped write policies for the corrections part.”
Most of the work group discussion centered on the services offered by Lexipol and the cost-effectiveness of using them. Hrinik said that at least in Michigan, they are the only company offering such services.
Lexipol has a boilerplate policy manual that can be modified for each local jurisdiction. These policies are based on court decisions and law enforcement best practices. The company also reviews locally produced policies.
Hrinik listed four reasons for selecting Lexipol. He said that Lexipol policies are customizable, they are continuously updated, they have a mechanism for daily training of officers and they employ best practices.
In the training segment of the business, local officers are given 10 minutes of policy instruction per day, which includes testing to confirm learning. If an officer answers incorrectly they are sent back to review the relevant policy.
Many law enforcement policies are applicable to police departments across the country, but local police chiefs can edit those policies and have their edits reviewed and approved by Lexipol legal experts. Less universal policies, such as a department’s pursuit policy can still be drawn up locally and are acceptable as long as they are clear and defensible.
The cost of contracting with Lexipol is $5,500 per year minus a five percent discount for members of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police (MACP), to which Saline currently belongs. There will also be an upfront cost estimated to be around $10,000 to cover initial review and reformatting of the city’s existing policies.
Mayor Brian Marl had originally suggested that policy be set by a local work group that would necessarily include legal counsel. He realized that this would end up being much more time consuming and expensive than hiring Lexipol. In addition, he and other councilpersons were impressed with the timely updates and the training package that is built into the Lexipol contract.
Councilman Ceo has had the most relevant experience for passing judgment on this deal. In his prior role as a deputy police chief he had been involved in long and tedious meetings to develop polices.
He provided an eloquent endorsement of the Lexipol program and its founder Gordon Graham.
“I fully support the chief’s efforts,” Ceo said.
Hrinik also pointed out that police chiefs in Jackson and Midland had begun working with Lexipol and had good things to say about it.
Each councilperson had their own questions for the police chief, but in the end all seemed satisfied that the Lexipol deal made sense for Saline. They agreed to put the issue back on the agenda for the March 14 council meeting.
During citizen comments, John Heller, a former police dispatcher, spoke against using Lexipol. He felt that police department policy was a local matter that should be handled locally. He did not buy the argument that the chief doesn’t have the time to write policy.
The comments by Ceo and Hrinik strongly support the view that policy writing is beyond the capability of one leader with many additional duties.