2-5 Written Directives System

Policy Type: Local

Approved By: Chief of Police, Virginia Commonwealth University Police Department

Initial Policy Approved: 3/13/2013

Current Revision Approved: 12/15/2021



It is the written directive of the VCU Police Department to provide its members with clear guidelines regarding the restraints and expectations that relate to the performance of their duties. Written Directives are written directives and procedures that serve as guiding principles which generally affect all department members. Bulletins transmit significant information of an immediate importance to personnel. Bulletins may announce organizational changes, new delegations of authority, guiding principles, and rules or written directives, pending their incorporation into a Written Directive. Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) Manuals contain information about the division/unit/team/other function and describe specific guidelines for affected members. Training materials contain information relayed during training sessions/schools designed to instruct/reinforce departmental procedure.


Accountability Statement

All employees are expected to fully comply with the guidelines and timelines set forth in this Written Directive. Failure to comply will result in appropriate corrective action. Responsibility rests with the division commander to ensure that any written directive violations are investigated and appropriate training, counseling and/or disciplinary action is initiated.



  1. DIRECTIVE: Any written document used to guide or affect the performance or conduct of agency employees. The term includes Written Directives, Bulletins, Memorandums, SOP Manuals and instructional material provided in training.
  2. POWERDMS: The Department’s web-based accountability system for revising, disseminating, receiving and reviewing Written Directives, Bulletins, Memorandums and SOP Manuals.
  3. BULLETIN: Bulletins are only issued, signed, modified or approved by the Chief or his/her designee. They transmit significant information of an immediate importance to personnel. Bulletins may announce organizational changes, new delegations of authority, guiding principles, and rules or written directives. Bulletins remain in effect until cancelled or incorporated into a Written Directive, if applicable. Bulletins are issued in numerical sequence and are distinguished by a numerical designation indicating the year of issue and the specific Bulletin number (i.e. VCUPDBUL 13-14 indicated the fourteenth sequential Bulletin issued in 2013). A Bulletin has several sections, which typically appear in every Bulletin issued. The sections include:
    1. PURPOSE: Delineates the purpose of the Bulletin.
    2. BACKGROUND/INFORMATION: Provides a brief synopsis and text of the Bulletin.
    3. ACTION: Delineates the action to be taken by individuals upon receipt of the Bulletin.
    4. EFECTIVE DATE: Lists the date upon which the Bulletin shall be effective.
  4. VCUPD WRITTEN DIRECTIVE: Written Directives communicate department-wide organizational structure, delegations of authority, guiding principles, rules, written directives and procedures. Written Directives provide employees with a clear understanding of the expectations and constraints relating to the performance of their duties. Only the Chief has the authority to issue, modify or approve Written Directives. Written Directives are reviewed annually or sooner when necessary. VCUPD Written Directives shall contain the following subsections according to applicability.
    1. GENERAL: The first section contains a brief, introductory purpose statement explaining the reason(s) that the directive was established and the department’s philosophy on a given issue. This section consists of principles and values which guide the performance of department employees, based upon ethics, experience, law, and needs of the community.
    2. ACCOUNTABILITY STATEMENT: An accountability statement is a statement imposing accountability and responsibility standards onto members of the department and thereby giving the written directive force and effect. The statement highlights the notion that any failure to comply will result in appropriate corrective action and/or disciplinary action.
    3. DEFINITION: A definition is a statement of the meaning of a word or word group as a means of clarification for the purpose of the written directive at hand. 
    4. RULE: A rule is a specific prohibition or requirement governing the behavior of employees. Rules permit little, if any, deviation. Violations of rules normally result in administrative discipline. Rules typically appear in Written Directives.
    5. PROCEDURE: A procedure defines a method of performing an operation or a manner of proceeding on a course of action. It differs from written directive in that it directs employees’ actions in performing specific tasks within the guidelines of the written directive. Failure to follow a procedure may result in administrative discipline. Procedures constitute the Department-approved guide to performing tasks. Employees may depart from procedures only when, in their professional judgment, the situation warrants. Employees must be prepared to justify and articulate their actions.
    6. FORMS: A form is a document for the insertion of detailed information. Forms will be forwarded and distributed to the appropriate personnel upon completion. 
    7. ORGANIZATION OF VCUPD WRITTEN DIRECTIVES: Written Directives are numbered consecutively within each subject matter chapter. When orders are deleted, there will be gaps within the consecutive numbering sequence (deleted Written Directive numbers may be re-used in the future).
      1. Section 1 - Law Enforcement Roles, Responsibilities and Relationships
      2. Section 2 - Organization, Management and Administration
      3. Section 3 - Fiscal Management, Agency Property and Equipment
      4. Section 4 - Personnel Structure and Human Resources
      5. Section 5 - Personnel Process
      6. Section 6 - Law Enforcement Operations
      7. Section 7 - Operations Support
      8. Section 8 - Traffic Operations
      9. Section 9 - Emergency Operations and Critical Incidents
      10. Section 10 - SOP Manuals
  5. STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES (SOP) MANUAL: An SOP Manual is a written manual developed and issued by a specific division/unit/team within the department to describe the area and the specific guidelines that member(s) should follow in daily operations. SOP Manuals are intended as long-term guiding documents and are binding on members until formally rescinded or amended. SOP Manual amendments must be reviewed by the Records Manager and approved by the division commander. 
  6. MEMORANDUM: A memorandum provides useful and specific information to employees not amounting to a formal order and may constitute a directive affecting specific behavior for a specific event or period of time, and is usually self-canceling. The Chief or designee may issue memoranda by other personnel or agencies. Using the VCUPD letterhead, memoranda shall have the following standard headings:
    1. ISSUE (or REASON): A brief statement of the problem or other reason the memorandum has been written.
    2. DISCUSSION (or PROCESS): An exposition describing the background of the matter, research or analysis conducted to include the viewpoints of affected persons or organizations, costs, benefits and other factors that could be considered.
    3. CONCLUSION: A brief statement offering a preferred course of action.
  7. SUBJECT MATTER EXPERT: A VCUPD employee that has the authority to make written directive recommendations. The Subject Matter Expert shall have knowledge of the subject area, be from a unit or division directly affected by the written directive and work in tandem with the assigned written directive writer to revise the written directive.
    1. NOTE: The use of outside experts is encouraged during the review of Written Directives, as needed, based on the subject matter of the directive.
  8. TERMS LIMITING OFFICER DISCRETION: There are three categories of terms. Personnel responsible for the development of written directive and officers who carry them out shall be aware of the limitations on employee discretion that these terms convey. These terms are classified as judgmental, discouraging and prohibitive in nature.
    1. JUDGMENTAL: The word “may” is used to convey the utmost discretion to officers. “May” indicates that officers should employ their best judgment in addressing a situation by relying on experience, training, the stated mission and values of this agency and the general guidance provided in statements of agency written directive.
    2. DISCOURAGING: The word “should” or “should not” is used to convey the agency's desire for officer actions in given circumstances. Directives should be followed whenever reasonably possible. However, it is recognized that exceptions to desired actions can be anticipated in these circumstances that could require alternative action. Employees are therefore authorized, whenever reasonable, to use limited discretion to deal effectively with the situation or problem.
    3. RESTRICTIVE or PROHIBITIVE: The terms “shall” or “shall not” or “will” or “will not” impose absolute requirements or prohibitions on employee actions. Considering that the full set of circumstances surrounding many situations confronted by employees cannot be fully predicted, such terms must be used with care and with the understanding that failure to abide by such restrictions may result in disciplinary action. 


Management of the Written Directives System

  1. VCUPD’s written directives are not self-canceling, but will be reviewed by the Records Manager on an annual basis or sooner when necessary to determine whether they should be deleted, revised or continued in their present form.
  2. Indexing, Purging and Written directive Review Responsibilities:
    1. The Records Manager shall maintain an updated index of all written directives. This updated index shall be available electronically in PowerDMS.
    2. When requesting the creation, modification or deletion of a written directive, the requesting employee shall submit a request to the Records Manager who will research the request to determine viability.
    3. The Records Manager shall be responsible for initiating the review of each written directive annually or sooner when necessary. The review process shall include accreditation mandates, subject matter review and research from available law enforcement best practices, when applicable.
    4. Upon completion of the draft process, the written directive will be reviewed by the affected Commanders and the Assistant Chiefs for approval.
    5. Upon the Command Staff’s review and approval, the written directive shall be submitted in final form to the Chief for review, revision, and final approval.
    6. The Records Manager shall maintain a database of all purged written directives. Hard copies will be purged in accordance with the Library of Virginia’s Records Retention General Schedule 117.
  3. Procedures for soliciting recommendations and feedback from appropriate campus stakeholders regarding written directives that affect other VCU departments:
    1. When the Records Manager identifies a need to create a new written directive or identifies necessary revisions to an existing written directive which affects other VCU departments, the Records Manager will consult with the Chief of Police to determine the preferred method for soliciting recommendations and feedback from the affected VCU department(s), as needed.
    2. Upon receipt of department recommendations and feedback, the Records Manager will further revise the draft written directive as necessary, in consultation with Command Staff, and determine whether additional information needs to be obtained from or relayed to the affected VCU department(s).
    3. The revised draft will be reviewed by the affected Commanders and Assistant Chiefs for approval.
    4. Upon Command Staff’s review and approval, the written directive shall be submitted in final form to the Chief for review, revisions and final approval.
  4. Distribution of Approved Written Directives:
    1. All approved polices shall be available in PowerDMS. Upon final approval, the Records Manager shall disseminate the written directive using PowerDMS. Employees will receive an e-mail directing them to access the written directives in PowerDMS and click on a link to read and sign each written directive to confirm their receipt and understanding of the written directive.
    2. Supervisors shall review any new or updated written directives with affected employees under their command.
    3. All personnel shall be responsible for reading and electronically signing all applicable directives disseminated via PowerDMS. The Training Academy and the Records Manager shall ensure that all newly hired personnel receive and acknowledge the appropriate directives during orientation and other related training activities. The Training Academy OIC and the Records Manager shall also ensure that all personnel acknowledge receipt of information regarding the department’s role, purpose, goals, written directives and procedures, working conditions and regulations, and the responsibilities and rights of employees.
    4. Upon electronic dissemination of a new or revised directive, each assigned department member shall read and acknowledge receipt of the directive. The recipient of each directive shall have 14 days from the dissemination of the directive to electronically acknowledge the directive.


Revision History

This policy supersedes the following archived policies:

3/13/2013 - 2-5 Written Directives System

1/31/2017 - 2-5 Written Directives System