Administrative Duty: Best Practice Suggestions

Through my work with VALOR, I have learned that approximately 43% of all reported officer deaths (2007 – 2016) could be attributed to suicide. Many uncontrollable factors play into an officer taking his or her own life, but some of the factors can be controlled, one such factor is the administration of “administrative duty.” Many officers have shared with me that the stress related to their administrative duty (AD) assignment was far more stressful than the stress related to the event itself.

In order to alleviate some of the stress related to an “administrative duty” assignment. I am recommending that administrators consider the recommendations listed below. COMMUNICATION is key!

Please take the time to explain each step of the process and any new factors that may arise. The officers will not always agree with your rationale, but they will know what to expect. That alone will alleviate a lot of the stress related to an AD assignment and hopefully will reduce the number of officers that take their own life.

When an officer is involved in a critical incident, such as a shooting, serious vehicle accident, or unbecoming conduct, they are often put on “administrative duty,” pending the outcome of the investigation. What is not given a lot of thought is the mental impact that “administrative duty” can have on the officer.


Based on my 25 years in policing, 5 of which were spent in Internal Affairs, and my involvement with the Peer Support Team, I can state emphatically that “how” administrative duty is managed, has a mental impact on the officer. Recommendations to consider: 

  1. Have a policy / procedure in place that outlines when an officer is likely to be placed on administrative duty (AD).
    1. Critical incident
    2. Violation of law / policy / procedure
    3. Medical issues (work related, and non-work related)
  2. The policy addresses AD with pay and AD without pay.
    1. Ensure the policy outlines when an officer’s AD pay status may change.
      1. The officer has been issued a termination notice.
      2. The officer has been formally charged with a crime by the investigating agency.
    2. The policy outlines why an officer might be sent home while on AD with pay, pending the outcome of the investigation.
      1. The officer is accused of violating a state and/or federal law.
      2. The officer is accused of a serious policy violation.
      3. The officer appears be un-fit for duty.
      4. The officer’s attitude may be detrimental to other employees.
    3. The policy outlines how many hours / days of department leave will be given to the officer to recover from the initial impact of the critical incident.
      1. Depending on the circumstances, 48 – 120 hours is recommended. This time should not be taken from the officer’s personal leave time.
      2. Medical issues may affect this recommendation.
      3. Address the availability of the officer during this time period, i.e. will the officer need to be available to make a statement or discuss the case with investigators.
        1. Other than a well-being check, it is recommended that the officer be given at least 48 hours of uninterrupted time to recover from the initial impact of a critical incident.
      4. If an officer is on AD with pay and assigned to work at the department, place him / her in a position that is mutually beneficial to the officer and the department, e.g. if the officer has an interest in property crimes, assign him/her to assist the property unit with making initial contacts and/or following up on other leads.
        1. If the officer is simply placed a random position, the assignment may seem to be a form of punishment or an attempt to isolate the officer.
      5. Provide the officer with an estimation of how long he/she might be on AD. Discuss the variables that may affect the length of the AD assignment.
        1. Type of investigation
        2. Available information / evidence
        3. Investigating agency
        4. Investigative review process
        5. Mental / physical fitness of the officer
        6. Public perception

Keep the officer updated as additional information arises concerning the potential return to duty date or other possible outcomes, e.g. termination, suspension, etc.

  • If the initial investigation (4 – 6 weeks) indicates that the officer did not violate any department policy/procedure and/or state/federal law, is the department head willing to return the officer to their normal duty assignment? Or, do they simply wait until everyone has made their final decision?  I would argue that it is easy to wait until everything is finalized, but it takes a department head who truly cares about his/her officer’s well-being to make a decision before everything is finalized.
  1. Ensure the policy outlines when an officer has to use his / her time (sick leave, vacation, holiday, etc.) to attend professional, medical, and/or disciplinary recommendation appointments, e.g. in-patient treatment, out-patient treatment, counseling etc.
    1. Address the effect that Workman’s Compensation may have on how leave time is used.
    2. Keep in mind that if an officer has to use his / her own time to attend treatment, counseling, etc., they are less likely to come forward with a manageable problem.

As an administrator, you can have a huge impact on the effect a critical incident has on your officer. How you manage an officer’s AD assignment may seem inconsequential, but to the officer who has just been involved in a life-altering event, in which they had little control, having a voice and/or understanding of the how their next few weeks/months will play out is very consequential.

**Regardless of “why” an officer is on AD, a member of the department should attempt to make contact with them every 3-5 days to check on their physical and/or mental status.


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