Professional Standards Unit
During his tenure, Sheriff Bill Elder has continued to improve the business practices of the Sheriff’s Office with the explicit goal of providing the citizens of El Paso County with a safe, secure, living environment. Consistent with this goal is establishing processes that monitor external and internal practices in a manner that is consistent, fair, and transparent to both public and employee scrutiny. The administrative arm charged with monitoring employee adherence to established policies is the Professional Standards Unit (PSU).
The formal renaming of the unit from Internal Affairs (IA) to the Professional Standards Unit occurred in 2015. The reason for the name change was not to be in vogue with national best practices or to soften employee or public perception of its function. The name was changed to reflect the type of conduct Sheriff Elder and his executive staff expects out of every employee – A professional standard of performance that the citizens of El Paso County expect and deserve from their law enforcement professionals.
The PSU serves several important functions. The primary mission of the PSU is to investigate allegations of employee wrong-doing and poor performance. The preponderance of allegations are addressed by the chain of command. Once an allegation is received, the PSU enters it into the IAPro case management system which assigns each case a unique number. Upon completion of each investigation, the PSU staff sends each citizen a formal letter outlining the results of their inquiry then closes out the case. Employees of the Sheriff’s Office receive a formal disposition of allegations in writing from their chain of command. Discipline, corrective action, etc., if necessary and appropriate, is handled at the unit level by the chain of command.
Sheriff’s Office Policy & Procedure details / defines the dispositions available for complaints filed. They are:
- Sustained: The allegation is substantiated. The misconduct did occur and disciplinary action will be taken.
- Sustained with no penalty: The allegation is substantiated. The misconduct did occur and corrective action will be taken.
- Not-sustained: The allegation is not substantiated. There is not sufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegation.
- Unfounded: The allegation is false or not factual. There was no misconduct. The incident did not occur or involve the accused employee.
- Exonerated: The incident occurred but the accused employee acted lawfully and properly.
All Sheriff’s Office policies and procedures governing the investigative and review processes are hyperlinked below. They are made available to the citizens of El Paso County in the spirit of transparency and to ensure our accountability to the citizens we serve.
Use of Force Tracking
Another key function the PSU serves is tracking use of force incidents across all three Sheriff’s Office bureaus. Blue Team is an integral component of the IAPro Case Management System. Blue Team records all use of force incidents and contains an algorithm that feeds the Early Warning System (EWS). Once an employee’s use of force incidents reaches a certain threshold, IAPro captures this data and integrates it into an Early Warning Report. This report provides the employee’s chain of command the ability to evaluate the nature of each incident, and provide early intervention, and training as needed. Comparing the last two years of data, use of force entries declined from 2,786 entries in 2017, to 2,266 in 2018. Increased emphasis on de-escalation techniques during in-service training can be attributed in-part, to this decline.
As the Sheriff’s Office has grown, so has the importance of training for all employees. The PSU team instructs both sworn and non-sworn employees about the PSU’s purpose, and mission. Included in this instruction is the criteria used in determining which complaints/alleged violations are typically investigated by the chain of command, and which are typically referred to the PSU. Each level of violation is discussed, as well as the potential remedy for each. A unique component established by the Sheriff to ensure fair and objective administration of policy violations is the Disciplinary Action Board (DAB). Employees were instructed on the DAB composition, the board process, and policy violations that typically meet the threshold for formal DAB hearings.
Justice Department Funding and Non-Discrimination
Federal law prohibits recipients of Justice Department funding from discriminating against individuals or groups, either in employment or in the delivery of services or benefits, on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or disability. In addition, federal law prohibits recipients of Justice Department funding from discriminating on the basis of age in the delivery of services or benefits. The El Paso County Sheriff's Office policy also prohibit discrimination. If you believe you have been the target of discrimination, in addition to following the complaint procedures for the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, you may also choose to file a complaint with the federal Office for Civil Rights by following the instructions in the link below.