Magazine article The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

Nontraditional Training Systems: Realizing the Effectiveness of an Agency's Most Valuable Resource

Magazine article The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

Nontraditional Training Systems: Realizing the Effectiveness of an Agency's Most Valuable Resource

Article excerpt

Training is the most significant human resource function undertaken by law enforcement agencies. All law enforcement management textbooks cover the importance of implementing effective training programs. Each similarly defines training as the "planned effort by an organization to facilitate employees' learning of job-related competencies." (1)

Most law enforcement officers receive more training now than they have in the past. Many agencies spend a significant amount of time training new officers and increasing on-the-job learning through in-service training programs. The majority of this training focuses on cognitive (or factual) outcomes, not affective (or emotional) outcomes. Most law enforcement agencies, however, can make better use of their in-service training programs by shifting their paradigm to take into account the needs of adult learners and by teaching with purpose, not just to cover the material. (2)

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FOCUSING ON TRAINING

Unfortunately, some instructors place little emphasis on teaching adult learners or, further, communicating with the increasing number of "Generation Xers." (3) Both groups are unique in their learning preferences and needs. Historically, law enforcement agencies have used a traditional training system model not particularly conducive to adult learners' needs, but, instead, seemingly built around the needs of the organization. Often, some classes appear to cover repetitive, uninspiring topics simply to meet mandated requirements, rather than satisfying these standards in a self-directed study curriculum. Training with a traditional approach does not always realize the full effectiveness of the organization's most valuable resource--its people; agencies waste this important management tool. "A well-conceived training plan is a necessary ingredient .... It helps police personnel toward a change in attitudes and practices ... and in providing more effective police services." (4) While training mandates establish uniform minimal standards of performance, the progressive law enforcement agency recognizes that although training provides the opportunity to acquire and improve job-related skills, it also extends further to career planning and development. (5)

Training is a set of activities that provides an opportunity to acquire and improve job-related skills. A majority of officers have mastered much of the mandated training and often work in areas where the training has little job relevancy. Covering this material in a self-directed study program and using the time and resources saved to broaden officers' career development in more challenging and interesting areas would better serve them and their agencies. The cognitive outcomes used to measure the degree to which trainees are familiar with principles, facts, techniques, procedures, and processes easily can be achieved via self-directed study, which allows adult learners to take responsibility for their own learning, and standardized tests. Agencies could tailor the new nontraditional learning objectives to meet an officer's career development goal.

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DEVELOPING CAREERS

The basic framework for formal career planning involves a five-step framework "beginning with personal assessment and then progressing through analysis of opportunities, selection of career objectives, and implementation of strategies." (6) Training programs that challenge and move people to higher levels of intellectual thought keep personnel motivated and improve the agency's ability to serve the community. The benefits from this type of training program may not be immediately recognizable, but subtle, long-term results will occur.

By focusing on career development, agencies pay more attention to affective outcomes, such as attitudes and motivation (which may include tolerance for diversity, motivation to learn, safety attitudes, and customer-service orientation), that will positively change an employee's attitude toward the organization and the mission. …

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