Blue Line

Police planners do a little of everything

April 21, 2016  By Tom Rataj

826 words – MR

Police planners do a little of everything

by Tom Rataj

“What do you do?”

That’s the question other officers and civilian friends often asked when they heard I worked in the Toronto Police Service Planning Office. One of my stock answers was that I was responsible for “everything that wasn’t anyone else’s job.”

While this wasn’t completely accurate, it provided a simple explanation for an often complex and involved job that is done daily in most law enforcement agencies.

The task varies from one agency to another, and even from one unit or level to another, depending on individual agency needs and size, staffing and sometimes just the whim of the unit commander.

In the broadest sense, a law enforcement planner is generally, but not always, responsible for a wide range of tasks, including planning, organising, developing and revising policy, budget, measuring and analysing performance, crime analysis, research and other related administrative functions.

As alluded to earlier, planning also often entails looking after things no one else is doing. In the 11 years that I did the job, my tasks were sometimes as simple as servicing the unit commander’s car because he was in a rush.

Other times the job was substantially more involved and complex, requiring weeks or months of meticulous and time consuming work. In my last posting at the station level, I was the official photographer, managed clothing and the gun locker and acted as the liaison for facilities management, the IT department, fleet management, city planners and various other agencies and government departments.

In some agencies a law enforcement planner is similar to the role of an adjutant in the military, who is often the unit commander’s support person.

For the past few years there has been a movement towards civilianisation of the law enforcement planning function, although a police officer still does the job in many agencies. There are pros and cons for both staffing models. My extensive and varied operational experience was often very valuable when fulfilling my planning functions; other times that experience was not really necessary.

Some civilian planners I worked with had many academically based skills that I lacked. That gave them some advantages but their lack of operational police experience was a distinct disadvantage.

In some cases the planning function provides meaningful work for permanently injured or burned-out police officers who have not yet reached retirement age. While this isn’t always an ideal solution because the officer may not have the right skill-set, it still manages to leverage field experience that could otherwise be lost.

In a larger agency, a mix of civilian and sworn personnel would be the most effective and efficient, each bringing their strong points to the table.

Unfortunately there is no national association to encourage the sharing of information, research and experience, leaving planners to establish connections with colleagues on their own or through referrals.

{Ontario Association of Law Enforcement Planners}

Originally founded in 1982 as the Ontario Police Force Planning Association, this association represents both sworn and civilian law enforcement planners from 45 law enforcement and public safety agencies in Ontario. It is the largest chapter of the International Association of Law Enforcement Planners in North America and is Canada’s only law enforcement planning group

OALEP has no paid positions, is run entirely by an elected volunteer executive board filled by planners endorsed by their respective agencies and encourages networking among planners on a wide range of topics. To help with face to face networking, OALEP hosts business symposiums in the spring and fall.

In addition to networking and OALEP business, the symposiums feature guest speakers on a wide range of topics, often showcasing innovative solutions. I made some valuable connections with planning personnel from other agencies at the symposiums.

OALEP has an “Annual Report Award” for agencies and also publishes its twice yearly newsletter, which carries articles of interest, training opportunities, conferences and association business.
Additional resources are available on its web site (<>).

{International Association of Law Enforcement Planners}

This organization was formed in 1991 with the merger of the Association of Police Planning and Research Officers and the National Association of Police Planners. The two associations, founded in 1969 and 1980 respectively, had a history of helping police planners work together, share information about innovations in equipment and techniques and deal with a wide variety of issues and developing problems.

IALEP has an online presence with a list-serve with more than 200 participants available to answer questions for other planners, a quarterly newsletter, an annual directory listing membership around the world and a web site with members-only sections.

It also has a professional training and certification program with basic certified law enforcement planner and advanced law enforcement planner courses.

Certification recognizes professional abilities and accomplishments, encourages professional development, is a reliable measure of professional competence and guides employers in developing accurate job descriptions.

The 2016 IALEP conference will be held in Waterloo, Ontario September 19-23, 2016. Visit for more information.

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