We Owe it to the Officers.
I had the privilege of sitting down with retired Chief and Truleo advisor, Art Acevedo. Those of you who’ve been following my interview series know this is the second time I was able to chat with Chief Acevedo and learn from his 35+ years in law enforcement and as the chief of four major police organizations. And as anyone who’s paying attention in our industry knows, Chief Acevedo is not afraid to speak his mind.
This interview was no exception. Throughout this wide ranging conversation, Acevedo touched on many topics as we talked about Truleo and what it means to the law enforcement profession. Initially, I thought this interview would need to be broken up into several installments considering how many different topics he hit upon; but as I reflected back on our discussion, I realized there was a throughline: It’s all about the officers.
I set out to learn what brought Acevedo to Truleo. I knew why I was drawn to this company and our platform, but I wanted to understand what it was that spoke to him. In talking to him, I was struck by how intensely focused he was on helping not just departments as a whole and the communities they serve, but also on the individual officers who are doing the hard work, day in and day out.
But first, I want to share Acevedo’s thoughts on how a tool like Truleo meets the needs of every reasonable American, regardless of the prism through which they view body-camera analytics.
I’ll start with the group where there’s typically the most tension with law enforcement: activists. Now, some may consider that term a pejorative, and I understand that. Many of us who have been on the receiving end of rocks and bottles being thrown at us often think of those folks as ‘activists’. This is not the group Acevedo is talking about, the ones that want to defund/abolish the police. Activists - those who are actively trying to improve law enforcement - want better policing. Now, there may be disagreement at times over what ‘better’ means, but even the majority of our critics, according to Acevedo, don’t want to defund or abolish the police. They just want the profession to be, simply put, professional, and for officers to be held accountable when they aren’t. Acevedo noted that the top complaint from this group is not racial profiling, it’s not excessive force or criminal misconduct - although those are important concerns - it’s rudeness and disrespect. Truleo is a tool that can recognize when officers are professional, encourage that behavior, and demonstrate to critics with data - not anecdotally - that officers are acting professionally and respectfully. And when they don’t get it quite right, when officers utilize risky language that may escalate situations, the tool can identify those incidents and provide an opportunity for training and improvement.
Labor union acceptance of Truleo is a common question Acevedo will field. At first, many chiefs think there will be a negative reaction from labor, but the response he’s gotten has been the opposite. Labor unions know what most in the profession know - that the vast majority of police officers are professional and get it right nearly all the time. What they need is a tool that shows the bad conduct that is often publicized are the outliers, not the norm. Labor unions also understand that their officers are in a stressful profession, and the value of a tool that identifies when officers are showing signs of stress early, when it can be addressed with training, rather than having it devolve into something that results in disciplinary action. Acevedo believes that in law enforcement, we are our brother’s keeper and when we can gauge and assess officer wellness, when we can see early changes in performance, they can be brought in and given help and training. Without a way to intervene early, agencies are left with having to wait for a bad outcome and then deal with it formally rather than informally.
Another aspect of Truleo that appeals to labor is that body-camera reviews are equal across all officers. Every officer is fairly evaluated against the same standards, with no preexisting relationships or notions about the officer whose performance is being evaluated. Police departments are human organizations, and even under the best of circumstances there is some measure of subjectivity in reviews done by different people. At worst, there can be disparate treatment - either real or perceived - that can damage internal trust.
Management, Elected Officials, and Oversight Entities
From a risk mitigation perspective, management, elected officials and oversight entities recognize the value of Truleo. Although law enforcement is afforded some immunities, Acevedo points out that failure to train, failure to supervise, and negligent retention are not among them. By showing data that officers perform as trained, and that the agency is using a tool that assists with supervision, it goes a long way toward defending against accusations taken out of context. If there is an unfortunate incident where an officer does something completely outside training, it’s helpful to be able to pull evidence that everyone else is doing it right and that the department does not train their officers ‘the wrong way’ as might be the perception from a high-profile incident. It is also a great way to push back against a consent decree and fight a pattern and practice investigation. While some in management worry that review of body-camera videos will hurt morale, Acevedo points out that nothing hurts morale more than coming under a consent decree, or worse, having an officer prosecuted because performance/conduct issues weren’t identified and corrective action taken before they spiraled into serious administrative and/or criminal conduct.
Acevedo has been in law enforcement for a long time, and one thing that’s clear is that people are demanding more transparency from government entities in general, and specifically law enforcement. Regardless of politics, the greater public’s waning trust in government is impacting policing, and one way to build that back is through transparency. Truleo gives departments a way to make more information accessible, and when the public is informed on how their department is performing, it builds confidence and legitimacy, which enhances officer safety, public safety, and the ability to fight crime.
Fair or not, police are always going to be judged by the history of the profession, and there are a lot of ugly incidents in our history, Acevedo says. This tool helps law enforcement play catchup and get past that history. There are bad incidents still in the minds of the public even if they predate those who are currently in the profession, and part of the frustration of the public is that they still see ugly events happening. But when they see that the police have invested in body camera analysis, they can show the public - with real data - that they are analyzing performance and educating officers based on that data, it goes a long way to overcoming skepticism of the police and building trust that’s been lost in recent years.
It’s All About the Officers
Throughout this conversation, and despite covering many different stakeholders, Acevedo always brought it back to the line officers and how to make things better for them. It’s clear he is passionate about their wellbeing and was at times emotional when talking about those who lost their careers, and sadly some who lost their lives, under his tenure. He consistently stressed that chiefs have the ability to make their officers safer by making them better, saying, “It’s unconscionable for leaders to not avail themselves of a tool that can help officers survive their careers.”
Law enforcement is a difficult, sometimes thankless profession, and those who have done it know the truth of that more than anyone. Any tool that can help ease the burden by helping officers be better equipped to do the job, and at the same time earns the trust and support of the many stakeholders who have a voice in the profession, is one that every agency should use. Recruiting, retention, and low morale are challenges all departments are facing, but as Acevedo pointed out, nothing improves morale more than recognizing good performance in your officers - something that Truleo can do for any agency with body-worn cameras.
Chief (Retired) Art Acevedo - Advisor
FORMER CHIEF OF POLICE OF HOUSTON, AUSTIN & MIAMI
Chris Sansone - Host
DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC PARTNERS