Lean Six Sigma As a Law Enforcement Tool

Like many of the tools available for law enforcement officers today, Lean Six Sigma (LSS) process improvement methodologies are only as good as the officer’’s skill level, trained in its use. Firearms, TASERs, pepper spray, batons, are all examples of what law enforcement officers, the world over, are required to achieve proficiency with before hitting the streets on their own. Beyond achieving this proficiency, they must also maintain certification with these tools of the trade on a recurring basis. Now, insert LSS as the new tool of this fast paced profession and great things can happen. Keep in mind though that this is simply another tool. Being such, some officers may reach the proficiency level, while some will achieve expert.

Think of your agency’’s special assignment teams such as Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), Community Oriented Policing (COPS), Bicycle Unit, Apartment Tasks Force, School Resource Officers (SRO), etc. Each of these teams require a special type of individual to help the team be most successful. Not all officers can meet the rigorous demands of SWAT, nor does every officer want to ride a bicycle all day or work at a school. The point being, each of these specialized teams tend to draw officers that have a “knack” for what the team exemplifies. These groups of officers will then receive specialized training that goes well beyond the average officers level of proficiency for that particular skillset. The same should be true for LSS.

LSS thinking is somewhat of a new mindset for law enforcement, in general. Sure, we may have all used problem solving policing in the past, but this is different. LSS teaches us to look at all processes within our agency, not just the crime trends and patterns. While it is always a great idea to train as many people as possible to look at the processes that they work in and challenge them, keep in mind, some officers will simply have the “knack” for it. This doesn’t make them better police officers than the others, or vice versa. What it could mean is that they should be the ones to receive the advanced LSS training. I highly encourage you to give all officers within your agency the basic skillset and understanding of LSS. Then, sit back and watch as those with a passion for improving the core processes begin to emerge. As they emerge, begin building your specialized LSS teams to attack bureaucracy and waste within processes. These special advocates for process improvement will not only deliver the greatest return on investment, but they will also set the best example for the changing mindset that is necessary to sustain a LSS culture.

Comments 5

  1. Nick Parker

    In my experience the application of the principles of Lean in the law enforcement arena does deliver both process improvement and increased quality in service delivery. But I am not at all convinced that the statistical analysis and standardisation of Six Sigma is appropriate to the diverse environment of policing. Here in the UK we need bigger savings than Lean can deliver so we need to innovate. An organisation that has been made Lean to the point of anorexia does not have the capacity or the culture to deliver the discontinuous innovation that is now required. Training too many people in Lean Six Sigma would only exacerbate that problem.

  2. willeetee

    Thanks for the feedback NIcholas. I believe a blend of many process improvement methodologies is a good fit for any organization these days, whether police or corporate setting. Our agency responds to over one million calls for service a year and we arrest between 50,000-60,000 violators. Striving for six sigma quality could never be a bad thing when dealing with such volume. Especially with the number of new and inexperienced officers now getting hired. Take the uniform for instance. We all wear the same thing. Our duty belts all have the same equipment. Our vehicles have the same markings and emergency equipment installed. In many aspects, standardization is a way of life for law enforcement. These are elementary examples for certain, but the idea is to get officers thinking this way, thereby spreading the culture. I agree with needing to use innovation. Technology is changing too rapidly to think business doesn’t need to change with it. Not sure about any organization being Lean to the point of anorexia though. Show me a place that believes themselves to be that Lean, and I will sell them some ocean fronty property in Arizona. Clearly, they would buy anything, as they are very disillusioned. Training is also a constant element for law enforcement. I agree that training everyone with in depth knowledge of Lean Six Sigma may not be a viable approach, but giving everyone an elementary understanding of the basic priciples has seemed to have an impact for the positive. We treat it like any other specialized law enforcement position, such as SWAT, Bicycle Unit, etc. Those officers that seem interested will ask more questions and want to be on the team. But, not everyone will have the same interest, which is one reason we have so many specialized teams.

    "Train the passionate, familiarize the rest."

  3. Dan Harmuth

    Mr. Wilkerson,

    Can you give us some examples from your agency where LSS has successfully been used to "to attack beauracracy and waste within processes" (per your post on 17 June 2010)?

    I understand improving processes, but which one’s in your agency were improved and how did you measure them?



  4. Billy Wilkerson

    Hi Dan,

    Thank you for writing. I will try and send you a few examples next week after my return to work from military duty.

    Many thanks,


  5. Sandro2212

    Hi Bill, would you also be able to send me the examples that you sent Dan please. I am just starting to look into LSS but I need real life examples to fully grasp concepts. thx very much, Sandro

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