LEOpSys: a realization

Maybe it's because of a powerful tradition. Or a strong sub-culture. Or even a political bureaucracy. But for some reason, policework is missing a systems or process mindset. Because of the tremendous variety of problems that police officers are asked to solve, police policy makers and trainers have been unable to implement a universal problem-solving or decision-making program. We believe The Illinois Model is an answer...with a LEOpSys (lee-OP-sis) or "law enforcement operations system."

A "system" has interconnected parts. Each relates to another part or parts. Some parts are more critical than others. Some parts are linked together in a way that make them entirely dependent upon the work of others. There are checks and balances. Some links in the chain can break and the system continues at sub-optimal levels; other failures in the system cause a complete catastrophe. And in the end....there is an outcome.

In order for a police "system" to actual be a system, there must be consistency among very diverse topics:

  • case law
  • agency policy
  • training/planning
  • individual and organizational decision-making and intent
  • officer performance
  • report writing
  • court testimony
  • internal evaluation/investigation.

Failures at any one of these above bullet points can have disastrous effects. At it's best, failures lead to operational inefficiencies, confusions, personal injury, or agency embarrassment; at it's worst...loss of community trust, civil liability, officer imprisonment, or death.
To reach a "systems" mindset, there are underlying themes that must serve as a foundation for everything in a police agency's operations. Among them we include:

At it's core, The Illinois Model uses a single and universal process for writing policy, training, planning operations, making decisions, performing, writing reports, testifying, and debriefing. Imagine a workplace where the policy makers agree with the tactical guys. Where internal affairs uses a transparent criteria for evaluation. Where FTOs speak the same language as report writing trainers. Where firearms instructors have consistency with active killer response. Where case law educators understand the Incident Command System. Where medical aid, and officer-down rescues, and responding with persons with mental illness have the same process as responding to hostage takings, or vehicle pursuits, or active killers. Where a burglar alarm response, missing persons investigation, and a simple traffic stop cycle though the same decision-making steps. Where officers construct logical explanations for upset citizens. It would look like this:

Click scatterchart to enlarge.

Our team of trainers has fused once-fragmented topics into one system. One way of thinking. But in a way that embraces diversity. It doesn't force reasons why or techniques on how to solve a problem or perform a task. Rather, it's a concept and principle based system. It links abstract theory with concrete reality. It requires that one simply answer the questions Why and How based on simple criteria... prioritized by problem analysis, case law, government intrusion, citizen/officer safety, and teamwork. And those are some fancy terms that sadly, a lot of cops don't truly understand.

Policing has been over complicated. Different systems for different problems. Policies that are unworkable in the field. Case law that isn't properly taught. Tactics that are too inflexible. Reports that don't accurately reflect what occurred. Poorly structured testimony or explanation that is hard to follow. Internal investigations based on personal feelings rather than a "process" rooted in law and policy.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. - Aristotle
By using the SAME universal process for EVERYTHING, the process becomes a habit. Habits can change culture in policing. A culture moving towards "systems" thinking. And we need more thinkers in blue uniform.


Lou Hayes, Jr. is a police training unit supervisor. His "systems" approach to policing was influenced by the rebuilding of a 1972 VW Beetle as a teenager, practicing CrossFit, and tutoring of Calculus and Physics. A full compilation of articles on the model can be found here. Follow him on Twitter at @LouHayesJr


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