Cyberschool: Online Law Enforcement Classes

By Dempsey, Thomas | The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, February 1998 | Go to article overview

Cyberschool: Online Law Enforcement Classes


Dempsey, Thomas, The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin


Both administrators and line officers agree that law enforcement training does not end at the police academy. Peace officer standards and training boards require that officers receive additional training every year; the courts hold departments responsible if they fail to train their officers: and citizens want well-trained officers protecting them. As a result, with the support of their commanders, officers attend in-service training to improve their skills or learn new ones.

At the same time, a growing number of police agencies have realized that education - broad-based instruction that generally teaches why rather than how - benefits their employees by providing the theoretical foundation they need to understand issues and apply learned skills to new situations. Many agencies require that their entry-level officers possess some college education; many also require undergraduate degrees for command-level positions. Generally, educational requirements increase with rank.

While they recognize the importance of education and training for their employees, police administrators faced with limited resources remain reluctant to send employees for training beyond the minimum number of hours mandated by their state's regulatory agency. Off-site classes mean paying for travel, lodging, and meals, in addition to tuition. Even local or on-site courses mean the loss of the employee for the training period. To compensate, agencies either must pay other employees overtime or reduce the agency's level of service to the community, a choice many administrators find hard to make.

The new watchword for educators and trainers alike is distance learning. Using means as simple as videocassettes or as sophisticated as two-way audio and video teleconferencing systems, distance learning has become the correspondence course of the 21st century. Students can receive the training or education they need without placing too great a burden on their personal and professional lives. Distance learning may, in fact, be the only chance busy law enforcement professionals have to obtain the training they need.

Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, is home to two online educational programs - CNU ONLINE and The Mid-Atlantic Police Supervisory Institute (MAPSI) - available to law enforcement officers. CNU ONLINE is a computer-based Internet communication system that allows students to take accredited college courses and, in fact, entire degree programs without physically attending any classes.

MAPSI gives first-line supervisors an efficient, cost-effective way to develop the administrative, leadership, and ethical skills they need to succeed in their positions. As important, they can take classes without losing valuable time from work. This article describes both of these innovative programs.

CNU COMES ONLINE

Since the fall of 1993, Christopher Newport University has offered online courses across the curriculum. One particular degree program - the bachelor of science in governmental administration - allows students to complete their studies entirely online. With concentrations in public management, criminal justice administration, international administration, and legal studies, the governmental administration program can provide valuable education for law enforcement officers, who only need to come to campus if they choose to participate in the graduation ceremony.

The MAPSI program grew naturally from CNU ONLINE. Recognizing the benefits that newly promoted officers receive from additional education and training, chiefs from several southeastern Virginia police departments met with CNU faculty and other law enforcement executives to design an educational program for first-line supervisors. Everyone agreed that the ability to deliver the course material online was fundamental to MAPSI's success.

Six of the courses from CNU ONLINE's governmental administration major, tailored for law enforcement officers, provide the foundation for MAPSI. …

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