U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Employee Disciplinary System That Makes Sense

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 70 Issue: 9 Dated: September 2003 Pages: 22,24,28
Ronald W. Serpas; Joseph W. Olson; Brian D. Jones
Date Published
September 2003
6 pages
This article describes the Washington State Patrol's recent reform (November 2001) of its employee disciplinary system, which has resulted in raised employee morale, improved management relationship with labor, and a significant decrease in investigations conducted by the Office of Professional Standards (OPS).
According to some employees and their unions, the previous disciplinary process was punitive and vindictive, lacked empathy, and seemed designed to "get" employees rather than correct deficiencies in performance. The new system has three core features. First, it allows accused employees to avoid a lengthy investigation either by admitting a mistake; receiving a sanction, and moving on; or by volunteering information to exonerate themselves. Second, it deals with minor misconduct at the lowest possible level of the department. Third, it ensures the predictability, reliability, and validity of punishment attached to certain behaviors and violations. Regarding the first feature, there is a specified process. After the agency receives a complaint, it checks to ensure that the complaint is against a member of the agency and that the allegations, if true, would constitute a violation of agency regulations. If the complaint meets these criteria, the captain in charge of OPS makes contact with the bargaining-unit person who represents the accused employee. The OPS captain informs the employee's representative of the allegations against him/her; the captain advises the representative of the details of the allegations and gives the representative an opportunity to contact the accused employee. If the representative determines that the employee has committed some act of misconduct, the representative will typically ask the OPS captain what the likely sanction would be if the employee admitted to the misconduct. The OPS captain then consults with the appointing authority and determines what level of sanction would be imposed on the employee if he/she were to admit misconduct. The OPS captain then notifies the employee's representative and discusses the potential sanction. If the parties agree that the admission is voluntary and without reservation and that the penalty is agreeable to all involved, the case is concluded without a formal investigation into the allegation. There can be no appeal of the agreed-upon sanction. In 2002 approximately 43 percent of the proven complaints against employees were resolved without completing a formal investigation. The article concludes with a description of the details of the system's implementation.