Sheriff Jonathon Horton (left) discusses Lexipol training with the Etowah County Commission.
By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
The Etowah County Sheriff’s Office is joining the Gadsden Police Department in the implementation of more efficient policies and procedures. Both agencies contracted with private company Lexipol to generate safer and effectual practices countywide.
Based in Frisco, Texas, Lexipol specializes in providing training bulletins, policy manuals and consulting services to over 8,000 law enforcement agencies, fire departments and additional public safety departments.
Founded by former law enforcement officers Bruce Praet and Gordon Graham who double as attorneys, the company’s mission resides in “using content and technology to create safer communities and empower the individuals and organizations that serve them.”
“I see this as a complete investment,” said Etowah County Sheriff Jonathon Horton. “We’re writing the policy. Lexipol is just the vehicle, the guiding force, the one with the research and statistics to ensure we’re doing it within the proper protocol and margins, and that we’re not doing anything that would hurt us.”
While police departments follow established procedures, Horton noted that the sheriff’s office did not have established policies and procedures in the past. The sheriff’s office began implementing the program on March 19 and will develop and release policies until the completion target date of October 2021. Lexipol features five different tiers of implementation that give the sheriff’s office structure and organization, cross-referencing Etowah County’s procedures with local, state and federal laws to confirm no contradictions arise.
The implementation of Lexipol follows former President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13929, Safe Policing for Safe Communities, which details the nation’s efforts to address instances of misconduct. Under the order, state or local law enforcement agencies must adhere to all applicable federal, state and local laws. In addition, law enforcement agencies prohibit the use of chokeholds, except in circumstances when deadly force in allowed by law.
“The implementation of Policies and Procedures via Lexipol for the Etowah County Sheriff’s office is a huge step in the right direction of efficiency and accountability,” said Horton. “The added benefit of the possibility of developing policy that is consistent areas such as ‘use of force’ alongside the Gadsden Police Department, in which we enjoy joint partnerships via certain specialized units like JSOG (Joint Special Operations Group), Dive-Team, Drug-Enforcement Unit, Etc., is paramount to me in reducing liability.
Each of these specialized units or organizations are staffed or manned with both Etowah County Sheriff’s Deputies and Gadsden Police Officers. These guys are doing the same job side-by-side and it would be great to be trained and have policy that is equivalent.”
Lexipol’s Daily Training Bulletins (DTB) periodically and electronically give deputies short training videos on different policies, logging each training to ensure each deputy receives consistent updates on any legislative changes or alterations, while regularly briefing them on all procedures. Deputies also have access to a smart application on their phones where they can search policies and procedures for reference in differing situations. Horton gave the example of a deputy typing the keyword “overdose” into the app, which would generate procedures for administering naloxone, a drug used to stop overdoses.
Horton emphasized the benefit of Lexipol as a life-saving resource. While the program is expensive at approximately $39,000 for the initial development of policies and an additional $16,000 package featuring training for deputies, Horton shared the cost is minimal compared to the settlements he witnessed during his time in law enforcement. For Etowah County, Lexipol emerges as a preventative tool that coincides with the sheriff’s mission of improving public safety countywide.
Horton thanked the Etowah County Commission for funding the endeavor, noting that Lexipol’s implementation not only safeguards an easily-accessible sound policy and procedure manual, but also ensures deputies remain updated on training.
“I have no doubt that the implementation of Policy and Procedures with the added benefit of Lexipol and all the advantages that are coupled with the subscription such as Daily Training Bulletins and Continuous Legislative Updates will produce a more efficient, better trained, and consistent deputy,” said Horton. “Make no mistake about it, I believe we have the best deputies in the world, but it is our standard to always continue to strive for greatness and this is a huge stride.”