For-Profit Lexipol Takes Over Writing Departmental Policy for Public Safety
by Kevin Bliss
Lexipol, a privately owned company that drafts policies for over 8,100 police departments, fire, EMS, correctional services, and other public safety agencies nationwide is being criticized by reform activists as doing the bare minimum required by law to keep from being sued. They argue that the company is only concerned about its bottom line and hinders transparency at a time when reform measures are trying to hold police to a higher standard.
Started in 2003 by two retired police officers who later become lawyers, Lexipol charges the city, county, or state a fee to evaluate current departmental policies and rewrite them to comply with changing laws. The company brochure boasts: “a cost-effective solution that provides comprehensive policies and policy updates, Daily Training Bulletins to help officers apply policies, and reporting features to track policy acknowledgment.”
One of the ultimate goals of Lexipol is to limit liability for those public safety services they serve. Their material is advertised as what is necessary for “legally defensive content,” protecting agencies from lawsuits.
A senior staff attorney at the ACLU, Carl Takei, said, “The entire policy philosophy of Lexipol is based on the idea that if the policies just describe the legal standard and don’t give operational guidance to officers, don’t direct them how to behave in particular situations, they believe that that will minimize individual officer liability. All of their policy really tries very hard to avoid having bright-line rules or directing officers to do or not do any particular thing in a particular circumstance.”
At a time when the community is calling for more accountability and transparency, Lexipol is writing policy that changes permissible shooting incidents to when the threat is “imminent” and not just “immediate,” when the choice to shoot relies on “reasonability” and not “justifiability.”
Saranac Lake, New York, Mayor Clyde Rabideau said, “Yeah we want to limit our liability exposure. We want to conform to all the existing laws and procedures, and we don’t want to be sued.... For someone to complain about that is totally ridiculous.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York signed an executive order June 12, 2020, requiring community members, stakeholders, local elected officials and police to come together and create policy that would be acceptable to the furtherance of law enforcement and the needs of the community they serve. This privatization of policy by Lexipol ignores community input, defeating the intent of this bill.
Sources: theintercept.com, motherjones.com