Police Education for the 21st Century
Nelson, Kurt R., The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Today, law enforcement agencies face a dilemma. Departments across the nation confront new burdens, such as computer crimes, identity theft, and other domestic problems, unheard of a generation ago, let alone the threat of terrorism and the need for homeland defense. Unfortunately, resources are not growing at the same pace as the demand for police services. Many agencies actually have seen a drop in funding. In such cases, training often represents one of the first budget items cut because many administrators see education as addressing the future and use the analogy "fire prevention is great, but not when the house already is on fire."
Part of the problem rests with the training itself. While new innovations, such as computer-enhanced teaching tools and software-driven displays, seem cutting edge, police education has not fundamentally changed in generations. Agencies send officers to a central site where instructors work with them. Of course, some subjects, including driving, patrol tactics, firearms, and defense strategies, require such hands-on instruction. However, many departments have recognized a need for overall change. Small agencies cannot afford to have a central training facility, and large departments often do not wish to address specialized needs in-house. So, in many cases, agencies must choose either to send officers to an outside facility and incur the costs and temporary staffing shortages or forego the training.
A lot of departments would like to improve the education of their officers without these difficulties. How can agencies obtain training and maximize resources?
For part of the solution, some agencies have relied on higher education. Certainly, college can help officers meet current and future demands confronting them and their departments. However, standard academic courses are not agency specific, usually require employees to attend on their own time, and, often, are economically or geographically inaccessible to small departments.
Recognizing these shortcomings, several Oregon law enforcement agencies joined in an effort to move police training into the 21st century. While the steps taken reflect the goal of developing specialized education in crime analysis, the lessons learned could apply to a variety of training needs, including basic skill sets.
The participants strived to offer the advantages of higher education and, at the same time, address the need of several departments to receive crime analysis courses while avoiding the high costs, travel, and staffing problems associated with sending employees to outside training sites. In keeping with the best tenets of community policing, the agencies involved sought local partners to help solve the problem.
In September 2003, Clackamas Community College started serving as the community partner. The chair of the criminal justice department met with the agencies and assisted in determining how to provide them with the desired training without having to bring the student to the school and, further, how to ensure that the education meets the needs of the various departments.
As with any true partnership, each participant has offered resources. The agencies supply subject experts who either become adjunct professors (if they meet the advanced degree requirement) or work with current criminal justice instructors to ensure that the material rises to the level of training required by the agencies. Also, the school reviews the curriculum to guarantee its quality and worthiness of college-level credit.
Although many agencies have partnered with local colleges to bring learning opportunities to personnel, this effort has proven innovative in its medium of instruction, utilizing the Internet for online classes. Instead of physically going to a campus, officers can complete courses at home or at the office--anywhere they can access the Web--at times agreeable with their work and family schedules.
Fourteen 1-credit college-level classes meet agencies' training requirements in crime analysis. The courses--applicable to an associate degree and transferrable to 4-year colleges--fall into four broad categories: 1) basic crime analysis, 2) crime scene analysis, 3) intelligence analysis, and 4) administrative/research/statistical analysis. Students find them very manageable because, in addition to their availability on the Internet, the classes are short, requiring only about 12 hours of studying and reading. Officers also regard them as valuable because, as the agencies supply subject-matter experts, the courses are based on real cases and provide students the opportunity to work on authentic projects. Participants can submit their assignments electronically to the instructors for useful feedback on their progress.
This innovative program has seen great success. Its enrollment has indicated extensive interest. Students from across the United States and foreign countries, such as Canada, Mexico, and Hong Kong, have taken courses. Agencies represented have included the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Postal Service, and various police departments.
These students have provided positive feedback about the quality and convenience of the program. For example, an analyst from a Nevada police agency e-mailed, "I really enjoyed the material and especially liked being able to work at my own pace. This is important because I have three very active children and a full-time job. I ... was so pleased that I am going to enroll in two classes for the next semester ...." An officer from Ontario, Canada, wrote, "A solid foundation in crime analysis ... concise and well-written with the student in mind." And, a participant from a federal law enforcement agency stated, "Courses very informative ... truly interesting and quite enjoyable. Instructor extremely helpful."
Also, Clackamas Community College has received professional recognition for this program, specifically the intelligence analysis component. In its 2005 Professional Service Awards, the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts presented the school with the award for the category "Significant Contributions to Professional Education in Law Enforcement Intelligence," recognizing the quality of this unique educational opportunity.
While this particular case highlights the success of Clackamas Community College's program, it also proves the feasibility of police education that meets the needs of today's officers and agencies, even in the midst of limited resources. Many topics do not require a student to sit in a traditional classroom. Subjects, such as criminal law, report writing, computer skills, blood-borne pathogens and hazardous material, and numerous others, work well in a distance learning format.
Improving the education and training of criminal justice employees--sworn or not--seems limitless. It only requires a willingness to step away from the confines of traditional practices. Opportunities exist for enhancing and improving employees' performance without personnel ever leaving the work site. This is the advantage of the 21st century educational model.
RELATED ARTICLE: Program Overview
In cooperation with local police agencies, Clackamas Community College offers 14 crime analysis classes through distance learning. These 1-credit courses fall into four broad categories:
1) Basic crime analysis
2) Profiling violent crime
3) Intelligence analysis
4) Administrative, statistical, and technical analysis
Each category has a series of classes that build on each other, culminating in a capstone course for the series. Additional classes, such as criminology, criminal law, and other pertinent topics, are available online as well. The courses are open to all students and professionals without additional out-of-state costs.
Additional information is available online at http://www.clackamas.edu.
By Kurt R. Nelson, MPA
Mr. Nelson, a police officer, also is an instructor at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City, Oregon.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Police Education for the 21st Century. Contributors: Nelson, Kurt R. - Author. Magazine title: The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. Volume: 75. Issue: 7 Publication date: July 2006. Page number: 14+. © 1999 Federal Bureau of Investigation. COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group.
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