Magazine article Law & Order

Computer Technology in Police Academy Training

Magazine article Law & Order

Computer Technology in Police Academy Training

Article excerpt


Traditionally, criminal justice classes focused on the social sciences and technological knowledge necessary for officers. Computer technology has become an essential part of the new equation. There is a considerable crossover effect from higher education to police training and the reverse transmission of field knowledge is evident. Theory and practice are not separate and apart, but interconnected.

Criminal justice Internet-based courses are potentially useful sources of computer technology in police academy training. The Glencoe Cyberclass approach included nine basic opportunities for active learning: Internet research opportunities, external links, flash cards, practice quizzes, pre-exams, e-mail, bulletin boards, PowerPoint presentations and interactive case study CD ROMs.

Some commercial criminal justice textbook software programs have direct applications to police academy training. They include active learning scenarios, testing opportunities and supplemental support activities that have direct applications to police training.

The publishers offer free Internet Web site access to enhance the police learner's retention and understanding. In addition, there are programs designed specifically for in-service police training that are interactive and support active learning instruction. Some of these educational materials support the learning process in both learning environments.

Traditionally, police academies offer courses in introduction to law enforcement, criminal law, criminal investigation and legal evidence.

Universities and community colleges offer comparable courses. College textbook companies have materials that could support both learning environments. If police academies coordinated with undergraduate institutions and textbook companies they could broaden course offerings and arrange college credit for police academy graduates.

Textbook company McGrawHill/Glencoe Publishers offers several technology options that may well support police academy instruction. It has three books: Introduction to Criminal Justice, Criminal Investigation and Criminal Evidence for the Law Enforcement Officer, that are compatible with both learning environments. In addition, these textbooks have Internet Web sites, instructor PowerPoint presentations, learner CD ROMs, interactive scenarios and criminal justice educational videos.

Preliminary criminal justice student evaluations revealed positive responses to the cyberclass approach. Additional support and reinforcement may be helpful in meeting the needs of police learners with diverse learning styles. Most importantly, this testing system and other test banks can save training time and improve testing. In addition, computer testing can quickly identify officers who need additional training. The officer also receives immediate performance feedback once their test is submitted.

While there is limited research on teaching specific criminal justice courses, there also little research directed to help instructors teach police academy courses in cyberspace. Instructors at both levels need information on how to apply computer technology in the various courses and fields of specialty.

Many researchers have reported that learners respond best to a variety of teaching methods, especially those that involve the learner, for example role-play, case studies and the application of factual material. However, all of these researchers recognize that some lecture is still important.

Generally, the lecture method is effective for approximately fifteen to twenty minutes; after that, most learners tune out. A few gifted lecturers present the law and basic concepts in entertaining ways that may be very effective.

The lecture system has a long-standing tradition in higher education and police training. While the lecture method remains the foundation, instructor reliance on a single method of teaching neglects an opportunity to relate to learners with diverse learning needs. …

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