Welcome to the internet home of Tom Ross

Welcome to the internet home of Tom Ross

Welcome to the internet home of Tom RossWelcome to the internet home of Tom Ross



P.O.L.I.C.E. Decision Making Model

Being a Law Enforcement manager means that you are making important decisions every day.  Some decisions are big, and some are small or less significant.  All of them require due diligence and comprehensive review. Administrative, tactical, strategic, and staffing problems are just some of the issues requiring deliberative analysis. 

We sure do love our acronyms too!   We want a simple way to remember the step by step procedure to make a good decision.   Let’s review some of the more familiar ones.  

BRAIN, which stands for: Benefits – what are the benefits? Risks – what risks? Alternatives – what alternatives are available? Intuition – what does your gut tell you? Nothing – what are the consequences of doing nothing? 

DARE, where the letters stand for: Define the problem. Assess your choices. Respond (make a decision). Evaluate (whether you made the right decision). 

Personally, I prefer the P.O.L.I.C.E. method for Law Enforcement decision making, developed and taught at the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety:

Problem – Define it.  Is it your problem or does it belong to someone else?  Are there separate issues that may or may not be related? How big is this issue?   


Options – List out ALL possible solutions.   What has been done in the past? Best-case - worst case scenario?   What can back-fire?   Sometimes outside expertise may be able to provide options that you haven't thought of. 

Liabilities – Any potential (real or perceived) conflicts of interest?   Legal, ethical, moral, contractual, policy, precedence setting issues?   Impact on Morale?  Any “Hot Button” related issues of; race, gender, sexual harassment, or substance abuse? 

Information – What do you know?   What DON’T you know?   Is the information you have timely and accurate?   What other information do you need to make an informed decision? 

Choice – Have a “Devil’s Advocate” promoting the other option.   Consider any decision from multiple perspectives: police, public, press & politicians. Remember fundamental fairness & due process.   Test the waters & start building support.   Is there consensus, is there concurrence?  

Execution – Take a moment to plan out, then “pull the trigger” & commit.   It is usually better to do so sooner rather than later.   Are there any deadlines to take action?   Are there notifications that need to be made? 

P-O-L-I-C-E   Easy to remember & easy to use!