Police Training for the Whole Person: An Exploration of the Spiritual Dimension

By Smith, Jonathan A. | The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, November 2009 | Go to article overview

Police Training for the Whole Person: An Exploration of the Spiritual Dimension


Smith, Jonathan A., The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin


With ever-higher expectations, a rapidly expanding global arena, and an environment where change appears as the only constant, many organizations, including the police, are emphasizing the importance of their employees. Such phrases as "Our people are our most important asset" (1) and "Policing is a people business--of people, by people" (2) are common. But, do these statements refer to people as whole beings?

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Perhaps an odd question--after all, considering people as anything else seems absurd--but, actually, why do the police want whole people working for them? Why not just focus on the part useful to them--perhaps only cognitive or physical abilities, for example? What about police training? Can a person's empty mind be loaded with the requisite information and sent on its way? What would be missing if the police concentrated solely on the portion of their officers that proved vital to getting the job done?

First of all, employees do not come like that. They cannot simply be sliced up and remain alive, enthusiastic, and engaged. People come to work as whole human beings, and an increasing body of evidence shows that nurturing all of their aspects can result in significant benefits for their organizations. (3)

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A particularly arduous and varied job, policing, at times, draws on every clement officers have in their personal armory and makeup. High levels of absence, long-term sickness, abuse of alcohol and other drugs, and high divorce and suicide rates for officers testify to the demanding nature of policing. These difficulties present clear evidence that the law enforcement profession cannot focus only on specific segments of officers, and, at the same time, they raise the question of whether every factor--mind, body, and spirit--are nurtured, trained, and supported to the extent necessary for officers to be fully fit for the role they must perform.

The author and a fellow researcher developed the Global Fitness Framework (GFF) to identify all of the aspects that the law enforcement community needs to consider for officers to be fully fit. (4) The GFF looks at the physical, mental, and spiritual fitness of individuals, groups, and society. Although all of these elements and their interaction are important, the spiritual dimension undoubtedly represents the most difficult, contentious, and often-avoided aspect in this whole framework.

So, what is this spiritual dimension? Does it have any relevance to police training? In 2005, the author explored these questions as they related to the training of police trainers for the 43 Home Office forces in England and Wales. (5)

THE RESEARCH

The majority of training in U.K. police forces is carried out by officers. At the time the author conducted his research, most agencies had a policy wherein tenures into training often lasted for 3 years. This meant that the initial instruction of trainers had to quickly and effectively equip officers with the skills to deliver the required instruction. The principle method for training these officers, the Trainers' Development Program (TDP), became the focus of the author's research.

A 10-week, full-time residential program, the TDP consisted of a distance-learning component, a 6-week training course, and a 4-week assessment phase. Two directors of study (DSs) facilitated each course, which had 12 students attending. Although most DSs were officers, some, like the author, were civilians. The TDP course took a student-centered, humanistic psychological approach derived from the work of Maslow and Rogers. (6) It used Kolb's experiential learning and included a focus on diversity and attitudinal development. (7)

Data Collection

The author investigated from a constructivist paradigm whether an exploration of the spiritual dimension should be included in the TDP's 6-week training course. His work had a phenomenological basis wherein he made the effort to understand respondents' perceptions and collect a wide variety of views to provide a rich and broad understanding. …

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