110 – Policy Construction

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I. Purpose

This policy establishes specific guidelines for the Department Manual.

II. Policy

The Sheriff is the ultimate authority for the provisions of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Department Manual and will ensure compliance with applicable civil service regulations, local, state, and federal laws.

III. Department Manual

Written directives of the HCSO consist of four categories which collectively constitute the Department Manual:

A. Types of Written Directives:

1. Department Policy

Department policies are written guidelines and rules providing employees with clear information and direction as to the expectations and responsibilities of their position with the HCSO.

2. Executive Orders

Executive orders create, modify, or clarify policy or procedure. Executive orders carry the same authority as department policy and are effective for one year after issuance if not superseded or rescinded before that time.

3. Bureau Written Orders or Directives

Permanent documents that establish the procedures of a bureau or that set out operational standard for a bureau. They may be issued by or at the direction of the appropriate bureau major, the Sheriff, or their designee. They will be written to reflect uniformity, consistency, and professionalism. Bureau and division manuals will be policy-based and mirror the Department Policy formatting.

4. Personnel Orders

Documents that may be issued by the Sheriff or their designee for the purpose of announcements; (e.g. assignments, recognition, promotions). Personnel orders may be distributed at the discretion of the Sheriff, but always to the employees of the subject of the order. Orders will be assigned a bureau number to be prefixed by the year issued (e.g.: 17-001).

5. Standard Operating Procedures

Standard operating procedures (SOP) define procedures which must be followed by employees assigned to a particular bureau or division. In the event of any conflict, SOP is superseded by department policy.

6. Training Bulletins

Documents issued by authorized personnel of the Command, Academy, or Professional Standards Division that provide information pertaining to new applications or to interpret existing procedures. Training bulletins will not establish new policies or procedures or conflict with existing policies and procedures.

7. Attachments

Attachments are documents which contain additional information and may be referenced and included with a policy, order, or SOP. An attachment carries the same authority as the document referencing it.

IV. Responsibilities

A. The Policy Unit

Coordination of the development and maintenance of department policy and executive orders are assigned to the Policy Unit.

1. Policy Drafting

a. In coordination with affected bureaus and divisions, and under the recommendation of the Sheriff, or their designee, the Policy Unit will be responsible for the organization, review, revision, update, and purging of the department policies on a continuous basis.

b. If requesting a new policy or changing an existing policy, the requestor must complete the Request for New or Revised Policy Form, unless the requestor is the Sheriff, or their designee, or the request originates from the Policy Unit.

c. The Policy Unit will forward drafts of such documents for review and comment to a committee designated by the Sheriff, or their designee.

d. Final drafts of policy, orders, and related attachments must be forwarded to the Sheriff, or their designee, for approval or other action.

e. Approved policies, orders, and attachments will be posted on the intranet by the Policy Unit.

B. Bureau and Division Commanders

1. Bureau and Division Commanders may, with the approval of the Sheriff, or their designee, issue directives through SOP or executive orders that have bearing only on the specific functions or operations of their areas of responsibility. Such directives must be consistent with department policy.

2. It is the responsibility of the Bureau and Division Commanders to ensure policies, orders, and SOP affecting their areas of responsibility reflect the best practices while accomplishing of organizational and division activities, duties, and responsibilities. To this end, Bureau and Division Commanders, and their designees, are responsible for ensuring:

a. Required development, updates, and refinements of policies affecting their areas of responsibility, and

b. These requirements are forwarded in a timely manner to the Policy Unit; and

c. Explanation and justification for the proposed and currently active directives are kept current. This justification may include but is not limited to:

i. The legal basis and requirements for the policy;

ii. Reference to and adherence to professional standards or practices,

iii. Compliance with agency philosophies, directives, standards, and protocols; and

iv. Related information that supports, explains, and substantiates the policy, order, or SOP.

V. Policy and Procedure Structure

Each policy and SOP will conform to the following format:

A. Purpose

The policy will be introduced by a succinct statement concerning what the policy is about and what it is attempting to relate.

B. Definitions

New or unfamiliar terms must be defined. This includes uncommon words, expressions, or phrases. It also includes terms with a definition unique to a particular policy. If a term is used only once, it should be defined within the context of its use to better relate its meaning.

C. Policy

The policy statement identifies a problem, need, or issue, and provides guiding principles for exercising judgment. Rather than providing employees with precise guidance as found in procedures, the policy statement establishes the rationale and overall approach to a problem, situation, issue, or concern. As such, it often draws upon the agency’s philosophy and values.

D. Procedures

Procedures will be included in each policy statement to the degree necessary to provide employees with sufficient guidance to carry out the policy in accordance with HCSO’s requirements and desires. Procedures provide a method for performing an operation or means for proceeding on a course of action.

VI. Style and Construction

The Department Manual must be constructed utilizing the approved template. The meaning of words or phrases not specifically defined must be interpreted to have the meaning and intent established in common usage.

A. Grammar Rules

The following rules apply to the Department Manual unless stated otherwise:

1. Present tense includes the past and future, and future tense includes the present.

2. The use of a specific gender is inclusive of all genders.

3. The use of singular includes plural, and plural includes singular.

4. The words “will”, and “must” are mandatory in intent and specify a required action. The term “shall” will not be used.

5. The word “should” is advisory in intent. While not mandatory, an advised action should be followed if the situation reasonably permits and the action is deemed practical.

6. The term “may” is permissive, stating what is allowed and presenting a possible option.

7. The use of “e.g.,” means “for example;” its use is not intended to be an all-inclusive list.

VII. Distribution

A. Updates to the Department Manual will be posted on HCSOPolicy.com.

B. Employees are responsible for checking HCSOPolicy.com for updates to the Department Manual.

C. Updated or newly published policies must be discussed at roll calls by supervisors.

VIII. Applicability

A. Employees are responsible for reading and understanding the Department Manual.

B. The revision, amendment, or repeal of any provision of the Department Manual must not affect the prior operation of the provision. It must not affect any prior action taken under the provision, or any previous violation of the provision and any punishment or disciplinary action incurred or imposed in consequence of such violation.

C. If any provision of the Department Manual, or its application to any person or circumstance, is held invalid, the invalidity must not affect any other provision of the Department Manual or its application to any other person or circumstance.

D. At the discretion of the Sheriff, or their designee, any provision of the Department Manual may be modified or deleted if it is determined to be necessary for the good or proper operation of the HCSO.


This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

April 21, 2009

December 22, 2020

November 3, 2022

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