A Better Way to Train

police trainingThe “Seattle Times” recently reported on a change in their state police academy which trains Seattle police. It reflects the issue of using “stress-based” training for police. An issue this blog (and my new book) have addressed in the past.

When I took over command of the Madison (Wisc.) police in the early 70s I made one immediate change. Our police training academy would be conducted like a college; that is, “adult-based learning” and not like a military boot camp), a style it was currently using. Why? I wanted to attract older and more educated police recruits.

Steve Militech wrote, “Breaking years of tradition, the academy has shifted away from fashioning warriors in a military mold. Instead, the academy’s goal is to train ‘guardians’ of communities”. He quoted the former King County Sheriff, Sue Rahr, who now runs the state academy, “This is not about preparing soldiers to go to war…”  Instead, the training instruction emphasizes “expressing empathy, following constitutional requirements and treating citizens with respect and dignity… By having their role established in the Constitution — and, you know, the bigger umbrella of democracy — that sets the tone for everything that goes past that. If they only see themselves as enforcers, that’s going to limit what they’re paying attention to…”

Rahr went on to say the guardian model is referenced in Plato’s “The Republic” — which describes those who guard the city must be gentle with citizens but fierce against enemies.

This is a good start. But we are talking about changing a deeply embedded culture – and changing culture takes time and persistence. In the meantime, approximately one-half of all police departments continue to use the military “boot camp style” for training their police officers. It’s time to stop. There’s a better, more effective way.

[To read the entire article, CLICK HERE.] 

P.S. When I say “stress-based” training, let me clarify. I mean a “boot camp” style wherein instructors create and enforce petty rules, make recruits “brace,” do punitive exercises, salute, and have things like “locker inspections” and other tasks completely unrelated to the job of today’s police officer. I believe there are certain job-related tasks in policing that are stressful like defensive tactics, controlling arrested persons, responding to emergencies, and managing family or neighborhood conflict situations. In the past, I have given a script to theater majors and asked them to give reality to many of these potential stress situations to see how recruits handle themselves in these situations – but in each instance they are job-related. I am not against creating stress in training – only that it be demonstrably job-related.

Here’s what I said in my book:

“Today, many police departments still continue to run their training academies like boot camps. These departments have training officers who look and act like Marine Corps drill instructors. They even wear the familiar Smoky Bear hats of a Marine drill instructor. As I became more acquainted with police work, I couldn’t understand why police were using the same training model I had been subjected to as a Marine. There was no similarity whatsoever between being a Marine infantryman and a police officer—the two job functions were as different as night and day…

“The coercive [leadership and training] method, nevertheless, became the way most of our industrial, governmental, and educational systems operated—including our police departments. It is the way many of us have experienced leadership in our adult lives…

“The cumulative negative effect of using intimidation to lead our nation’s workers, especially police, no doubt is incalculable. I cannot say this any clearer: the use of it to lead is wrong and shouldn’t be tolerated in any organization. There are more effective ways to lead—and the finest leaders will know this…”

Unapprove | Reply | Quick Edit | Edit | History | Spam | Trash

 

14 Comments

  1. Good David, you hit the nail on the head with civility. I wanted to share with you want the Police Executive Research Forum is doing on the topic. Here’s a summary from Chuck Wexler, the Exec Director.

    I am writing to update you on the progress of PERF’s ongoing project with the COPS Office, Establishing Procedural Justice within Police Organization: Creating a Comprehensive Approach to Performance Management for First Line Supervisors in Community Policing Agencies. Over the past few months, PERF has been using feedback from the Working Group, best practices in policing and other fields, and findings from previous research to develop a framework for a new approach to performance management and an initial outline of the final guidebook.
    NEXT STEPS
    As discussed during our Working Group meeting in June 2012, the success of this project hinges on input and feedback from all areas of policing including officers, civilians and first line supervisors. To incorporate these perspectives, we will be conducting site visits with the Working Group police agencies in June and July to discuss, add to, and refine our proposed approach to performance management. The expertise of these agencies and firsthand experience in the field will ensure the approach incorporates practical strategies and best practices.

    Once we have completed site visits with all of our Working Group agencies, we anticipate reconvening the Working Group again to present and review the site visit findings, and incorporate your feedback on the performance management approach and guidebook. More information on the next Working Group meeting will be available in the coming weeks.

    Sue Racr and the Washing Training Council are heavily invovled int he curriculum development.

    Like

  2. It’s vitally important to train recruits in constitutional and respectful policing, but it’s equally important to develop attention to detail and improve the ability to function under stress. The academy environment should be a hybrid of college AND boot camp. Each component is necessary.

    Like

    1. Thanks, Ashley. Let me clarify.

      P.S. When I say “stress-based” training, let me clarify. I mean a “boot camp” style wherein instructors create and enforce petty rules, make recruits “brace,” do punitive exercises, salute, and have things like “locker inspections” and other tasks completely unrelated to the job of today’s police officer. I believe there are certain job-related tasks in policing that are stressful like defensive tactics, controlling arrested persons, responding to emergencies, and managing family or neighborhood conflict situations. In the past, I have given a script to theater majors and asked them to give reality to many of these potential stress situations to see how recruits handle themselves in these situations – but in each instance they are job-related. I am not against creating stress in training – only that it be demonstrably job-related.

      Here’s what I said in my book:

      “Today, many police departments still continue to run their training academies like boot camps. These departments have training officers who look and act like Marine Corps drill instructors. They even wear the familiar Smoky Bear hats of a Marine drill instructor. As I became more acquainted with police work, I couldn’t understand why police were using the same training model I had been subjected to as a Marine. There was no similarity whatsoever between being a Marine infantryman and a police officer—the two job functions were as different as night and day…

      “The coercive [leadership and training] method, nevertheless, became the way most of our industrial, governmental, and educational systems operated—including our police departments. It is the way many of us have experienced leadership in our adult lives…

      “The cumulative negative effect of using intimidation to lead our nation’s workers, especially police, no doubt is incalculable. I cannot say this any clearer: the use of it to lead is wrong and shouldn’t be tolerated in any organization. There are more effective ways to lead—and the finest leaders will know this…”

      Like

  3. Wonderful article. I wonder how does the other 50% of the law enforcement department train their officers if they do not use the military mode?

    Like

  4. “P.S. When I say “stress-based” training, let me clarify. I mean a “boot camp” style wherein instructors create and enforce petty rules, make recruits “brace,” do punitive exercises, salute, and have things like “locker inspections” and other tasks completely unrelated to the job of today’s police officer.”

    Sometimes, I feel that the things that you mention in a “boot camp” style is completely unrelated to being a soldier. In the book Command Culture: Officer Education in the U.S. Army and the German Armed Forces, 1901-1940, and the Consequences for World War II, the author talks about West Point spending too much time with petty rules, using punitive exercises, excess cleaniness, strict obedience to orders, and using fear, bullying, and intimidation to “motivate” people, etc., instead of teaching the officer cadets such things such as intelligence work, weapon proficiency, troop command, map reading, logistics, developing initiative, critical thinking, and leadership skills, etc., and compares that to the training of the German office cadet. The same thing can be said for for enlisted ranks at basic training.

    “The coercive [leadership and training] method, nevertheless, became the way most of our industrial, governmental, and educational systems operated—including our police departments. It is the way many of us have experienced leadership in our adult lives… “The cumulative negative effect of using intimidation to lead our nation’s workers, especially police, no doubt is incalculable. I cannot say this any clearer: the use of it to lead is wrong and shouldn’t be tolerated in any organization. There are more effective ways to lead—and the finest leaders will know this…”

    Unfortunately, we also experience this coercive method and negative intimidation as children The coercive [leadership and training] method, nevertheless, became the way most of our industrial, governmental, and educational systems operated—including our police departments. It is the way many of us have experienced leadership in our adult lives…

    As W. Edward Demings pointed our in his books, we need to drive fear out of the workplace, but I believe we need to drive it out our educational and religious places as well. Unfortunately, today many of our college and universities presidents are coming from the business world and are treating the students as peons and are using the colleges and universities like it was their own personal corporation and using government money and college tuition to give themselves better salarie and more perks like having a jet to fly all over the country, while jacking up tuition to pay for the items. How are you going to recruit college students for police work when they can’t afford to go to college or stuck with a huge college debt that make them subject to bribes by the criminal underworld or the police will not accept the police recruits because of the huge college debt?

    Like

  5. Thanks for posting this, Chief.

    One of the things that attracted me to Madison PD when I was still actively involved in police applicant testing was the description of the academy. I had developed misgivings about the pseudo-boot camp approach, so the “college” model sounded like it would be more likely to produce officers who were competent and willing to think critically about their work and their role in society. These attributes are infinitely more important than skills in marching and saluting.

    In addition, I though it was counterproductive to separate police recruits from the community like a group of monks. We should want the police to train and live in the community they will police. Why start off by encouraging the feeling of separation–Us vs. Them–that has been a problem in policing for so long. After all, too many people view their local police as mercenaries who come in to keep the rabble in line and then go home to the suburbs at EOW.

    In these respects, Madison’s method of recruit training is superior to almost any agency that I am aware of.

    Like

  6. Excellent observation Dave. The trouble is how do you get cops to live in the communities that they serve? Many cops do not want to live in areas that are rife with violence, drugs, and gangs since it would make them a target; however, they don’t have any sympathy or empathy for the poor people who have no choice to live in those areas.

    Some of the cops don’t want to live in areas where they are a minority because they are outnumber by people of a different ethnic, racial, ecomonic, political, and social background. Also tried living in a place like New York City and San Fancisco where it is impossible to buy a house or rent an apartment or house at a reasonable rate just like the rest of the population.

    Like

  7. These are all salient point, Gunther.

    The city I live in has a “Resident Officer” program, like some other communities in IL. If memory serves, basically the department helps the officers to purchase a home in distressed neighborhoods. Theoretically, this can help to dispel the notion–an accurate notion, by the way–that “no cops live in my neighborhood.”

    But the fact that the city has to offer a financial incentive to get a handful of officers to live in these neighborhoods shows you how dire the situation is. Most officers will stay far away from the neighborhoods they police, with some justification.

    In fairness to the officers, I would not want to live in an extremely crime prone area either. As you noted, some people don’t really have a choice, so cops need to avoid lumping everyone in these neighborhoods together. If I were a cop, I would be especially reluctant to live in such areas. It is likely that cops will be targets. It is more likely that they will stick out like a sore thumb, being cops. If they are white, they will stick out even more in some areas. A cop doesn’t have to be a racist to find this scenario unappealing. As I inferred, I don’t find it appealing either.

    Before we start paying cops to live in the ghetto, the focus should be on making cops accountable to the ghetto…and everyone else. I am an advocate of independent review boards. This would be one step in the right direction.

    Aside from that, this country needs to get over its puritanical leanings and realize that your “moral values” are not universal and should not be enforced at the point of a gun. The “war on drugs” has played a big role in turning poor neighborhoods into killing fields. Mass incarceration has brought the culture of the prison out into the streets for all to see. We must deal with this reality if policing is ever to be seen as fair and reliable by a broad cross section of society.

    Like

  8. Dear Dave:

    Rampant, unregulated capitalism also big play a part into turning poor neighboods into killing fields since many people have to turn to crime just to get by to survive since corporations and rich people have totally separated themselves from the rest of the country. I also believe in independent review boards but in fairness, you will always have one side or the other side not happy with the results present by the boards, but in some ways, it is better than having a corrupt police department do the work.

    Latinois will the the largest minority population in a few decades or more, it will be interesting if and when they comprise most of the police, will they learn not to make the same mistakes that white cops did when they were the majority of the police for a long time?

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.