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LOS ANGELES -- For the past year, risk managers for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Los Angeles Police Department have played host to about 25 law enforcement agencies throughout Southern California.

They call themselves the Police Civil Liability Assn., and they meet quarterly. Through keynote speakers and informal discussions, association members share information about personnel concerns, the best experts on current risks facing their departments and other pertinent subjects.

"We're trying to facilitate more of a law enforcement-united approach toward risk management," said LAPD Detective Kelly Mulldorfer. "We talk about different liability and risk management issues as they come up, court decisions and policies."

The Sheriff's Department and the LAPD also are leaders in spreading law enforcement risk management nationwide and helping fill an information void. In the past two years, risk managers from both agencies have boosted the visibility of law enforcement within the Public Risk Management Assn. by delivering presentations at PRIMA conferences.

Risk managers who have attended those sessions give them high praise.

Like other agencies across the country, the Sheriff's Department and the LAPD have had professional standards and policies for years. Only in the past few years, however, have they worked at centralizing and bolstering those practices under expanded risk management departments.

When she first undertook that task two years ago, there was little information on risk management and policing, Detective Mulldorfer said.

"There was nothing when we first started the unit," she said. "One of the first things we did is try to research and find what other departments were doing. We surfed the Net and went through a lot of publications. But there just really wasn't anything out there for us."

Some of the best information available came from a neighboring agency, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The Sheriff's Department in 1995 consolidated its efforts under a Risk Management Bureau staffed by 70 employees and supervised by a captain.

LAPD joined the Police Civil Liability Assn. after the Sheriff's Department founded the group.

A thick manual details the Sheriff's risk management policy. "I would say the Sheriff's Department actually had the most to offer," Detective Mulldorfer said. "They had done more than just about anybody else and had it written up."

Capt. Lee C. McCown, supervisor of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Risk Management Bureau, created the manual. To do so, he learned what he could from PRIMA and borrowed ideas from the private sector, Capt. McCown said.

The Sheriff's Department also spent months interviewing its lieutenants -- the agency's line managers -- for their views. Now law enforcement risk managers from as far away as New York call and ask Capt. McCown for copies of the manual.

Among other things, the manual describes the responsibilities of three committees that oversee areas with the potential for problems. Three Sheriff's Department commanders head each of the committees and hold the department's captains accountable for the actions of their personnel. The committees are:

* The Executive Force Review Committee, which reviews the tactics applied in excessive force incidents to determine if policy was followed, what civil liability risks exist, and what future improvements can be made.

* The Risk Review Committee, which examines all sexual harassment, discrimination and workplace violence cases, as well as significant employee-related traffic accidents.

* The Executive Performance Review Committee, which evaluates cases where employee, supervisor or manager practices raise concern.

There is also an Accountability/Risk Management Committee that is responsible for a quarterly review of the risk management plan and evaluating yearly goals, which each unit within the Sheriff's Department is required to establish. The committee is chaired by the undersheriff, and it looks at the performance of commanders, captains and civilian leaders in their areas of responsibility.

Just this year, a Critical Issues Forum was added to the mix. The forum is staffed by the department's upper management, the undersheriff and two assistant sheriffs. They review statistical information compiled by the Risk Management Bureau in areas such as crimes committed, employee injuries, car pursuits, traffic accidents, citizen complaints and return-to-work efforts. Each command unit provides data on a monthly basis.

Captains who do not live up to their goals for risk management, or whose underlings show areas for concern, are questioned about their difficulties, Capt. McCown said.

"Three years ago, captains wouldn't have done those things," he explained. "Like most (law enforcement agencies), we were reacting. But this requires captains to know their commands."