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 federal and state laws, and civil service regulations.

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 Executive orders carry the same authority as department policy and are effective for one year after issuance if not superseded or rescinded before that time.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. Standard Operating Procedure

Standard operating procedure (SOP) defines 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 In the event of any conflict, SOP is superseded by department policy.

4. 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, executive orders, and CALEA accreditation, is assigned to the Policy Unit.

1. Policy Drafting

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

If requesting a new policy, or change to existing policy, the requestor must complete the Request for New or Revised Policy Form, unless the requestor is the Sheriff, or his or her designee, or the request originates from the Policy Unit.

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

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

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

2. CALEA Accreditation

The Policy Unit will be responsible for overseeing CALEA accreditation.

The Policy Unit may make recommendations to policies, orders, and SOPs, to be consistent with CALEA standards. The Sheriff, or his or her designee, may enforce these recommendations.

The Policy Unit may request documents from any bureau or division for the purpose of proving compliance with CALEA standards. The Sheriff, or his or her designee, may enforce these requests.

B. Bureau and Division Commanders

Bureau and Division Commanders may, with the approval of the Sheriff, or his or her 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.

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

Required development, updates, and refinements of policies affecting their areas of responsibility are identified, and

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

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

  1. The legal basis and requirements for the policy;
  2. Reference to and adherence to professional standards or practices,
  3. Compliance with agency philosophies, directives, standards, and protocols; and
  4. Related information that supports, explains, and substantiates the policy, order, or SOP position.

V. Policy and Procedure Structure

Each policy and SOP will conform to the following format:


The policy will be introduced by a succinct (generally one-line) statement concerning what the policy is about and what it is attempting to relate.


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.


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.


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.

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.

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 “shall”, “will”, and “must” are mandatory in intent and specify a required action.
  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.


Employees are responsible for understanding the Department Manual.

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.

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.

At the discretion of the Sheriff, or his or her 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



What is CALEA?

In January 2000, the Sheriff approved a contract with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) with the goal of bringing the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) in line with international standards of performance. As the chief executive of one of the premier law enforcement agencies in the United States, the Sheriff believes we should take a leading role in the quest for professional excellence in law enforcement.

With the cooperation of the bureau majors and their staff, we successfully modified our policies and procedures to bring us in compliance with 480 professional standards involving law enforcement administration, operations procedure, fiscal management, human resources, training, and various support functions.

The HCSO received initial CALEA accreditation in 2002 and was awarded reaccreditation in 2005. In 2008, CALEA conferred upon the HCSO FLAGSHIP AGENCY status, which, based on past performance, acknowledges the expertise and achievements of some of the most successful CALEA accredited public safety agencies and serves as flagship examples to assist other law enforcement agencies. The HCSO was assessed once more in December of 2010, earning an award of “Advanced Reaccreditation” in 2011.

What is law enforcement accreditation all about, and what benefit does the Harris County Sheriff’s Office receive from all the additional work?

Accreditation is more than just changing policies and doing paperwork. It involves a change in attitude and not accepting the status quo. It means improving performance, requiring a quality work product and supervisory accountability, and doing the best for our employees and the citizens to whom we provide service.

What does it mean to be an accredited agency?

The HCSO has policies and procedures in place that are accepted as nationally-accepted standards for the administration and operation of a professional law enforcement agency. The standards can be compared to those adhered to by accredited universities and hospitals or any other professional organization that maintains nationally-accepted standards of performance.

How did law enforcement accreditation come to be?

In the 1970s, the leaders of many professional law enforcement organizations saw a need for standardization of policies among agencies throughout the United States. The organizations involved included:

  • International Association of Chiefs of Police
  • National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives
  • National Sheriffs’ Association
  • Police Executive Research Forum

In 1979, CALEA was formed with the goal of bringing law enforcement agencies an array of nationally, and now internationally, accepted professional standards that are consistent throughout the law enforcement community.

How is law enforcement accreditation accomplished?

  • Application
  • Self-Assessment
  • Mock Assessments
  • On-Site Assessment by Commission Personnel
  • Commission Approval

During the self-assessment phase, we took a hard look at the procedures we had in place and compared them to the CALEA standards. To obtain compliance, we either modified those policies that didn’t meet the standards or established new ones. We then briefed and trained personnel prior to new policy implementation. Accreditation has the greatest impact on mid-level managers who are held accountable to this higher standard of performance.

How do we prove compliance with CALEA Standards?

  • Written directives and policies
  • Written documentation that reflects our practices comport to our policies
  • Observation of personnel and equipment by CALEA assessors during the mock and on-site assessment
  • Interview of HCSO personnel by CALEA assessors

What are the benefits of accreditation?

  • Deterrence of lawsuits
  • Greater accountability within the HCSO
  • Influence for change
  • Community confidence and respect
  • International recognition

What other Texas agencies are accredited?

Arlington PD, Burleson PD, College Station PD, Corpus Christi PD, Dallas PD, El Paso County SO, HISD PD, Harris County METRO PD, Highland Park PD, Midland PD, Plano PD, Sugar Land PD, Tyler PD, and University of Texas Medical Center PD.

The HCSO is committed to maintaining CALEA accreditation status and will continue serving the citizens of Harris County as a CALEA Flagship Agency.

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