Let’s Hear It Once More About How To Train Police

images (3)Training matters.

In fact, it’s a critical factor in improving our nation’s police.

Maybe I can’t get police leaders in the country to read my book, but will they listen to someone like Karl W. Bickel, a senior policy analyst in the COPS office?

I sure hope they will. Here are some of his more important findings about making community policing work. Bickel questions how we are training (and attracting) new officers in his article “Recruit Training: Are Preparing Officers For a Community Oriented Department?”.

“As many law enforcement agencies embrace the community policing philosophy and continue to strive to achieve the goal of full implementation, they may want to examine how their academies are preparing their new recruits. Are they developing collaborative problem solvers? Or, are they creating obstacles to their community policing efforts? Are they creating barriers to bringing their customers, the citizens they serve, improved quality of life by addressing crime and public order problems through partnerships with community stakeholders? Some recruit training programs may actually be creating impediments to success.”

He goes on to strengthen a point that I make in my book about the dominance of “para-military stress-based” police recruit training today and how it works against community oriented policing. So if leaders are really committed to instituting the benefits of a community oriented police department in their city, they had better take a deep look at how police recruits in their city are trained.

“Questions surrounding the efficacy of stress training for police recruits are not new. From 1967 through 1971, Assistant Sheriff Howard H. Earle conducted an experiment on stress vs. non-stress training in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Academy. Though dated, his findings could be relevant to the development of today’s police officers—officers who are expected to work collaboratively with citizens in their communities to identify and solve crime and public order problems.

 “Earle found that ‘non-stress trained subjects performed at a significantly higher level in the areas of field performance, job satisfaction, and performance acceptability by persons served.’  Higher levels of performance in all of these areas are attributes that can lead to improved relationship building and collaborative problem solving with community stakeholders.”

Another point I made in my book was that such a “para-military stress-based” orientation will, in fact, dissuade many of the men and women that can best do community oriented policing.

“Another unintended consequence stemming from a stress academy approach may be the loss of good police recruits who have a knack for community policing but who are uncomfortable with a militaristic boot camp environment. There is some evidence that a more collegial training environment increases the graduation rate of recruits, particularly female recruits…. For female recruits the challenge of a predominantly stress focused training academy are even greater. The completion rate for females in a predominantly non-stress training environment was 89 percent in the BJS Report, the same as their male counterpart. However, the completion rate for female recruits dropped to 68 percent for those in a predominantly stress-focused academy setting.”

Let me state this strongly. There is no reason today to conduct police training in a stress-based atmosphere (a “drill instructor approach to training that includes indiscriminate verbal abuse, debasement, humiliation, confrontation, harassment, hazing, shouting, and the use of physical exercise as punishment”).

This is what I argue about in my book — the obstacles to police improvement include anti-intellectualism (the failure to value research and promote higher education), violence (which is implicit in stress-based training environments), corruption (not doing the right thing when you know you should), and discourtesy (which is also evident in these environments — trainees are not respected and yet are expected to respect citizens upon their graduation).

[To read Karl Bickel’s full report CLICK HERE.]