Law Enforcement Professionalism: Training Is the Key

By Pinizzotto, Anthony J.; Bohrer, Shannon et al. | The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, April 2011 | Go to article overview

Law Enforcement Professionalism: Training Is the Key

Pinizzotto, Anthony J., Bohrer, Shannon, Davis, Edward F., The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

American law enforcement is professional, effective, efficient, and, often, regarded as a model to follow worldwide. Some would hold that a significant factor in the history of this professionalism is training, which imparts the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that form its foundation.

The recent deep economic decline in this country negatively affected city, county, and state governments. In response, these entities made drastic budget cuts that impacted most public service organizations in all jurisdictions. Law enforcement executives now must reduce budgets that, in many cases, they viewed as inadequate to begin with. Deciding what to cut while, at the same time, continuing to provide adequate safety to their communities and members of their agencies is a daunting task. Historically, chiefs and sheriffs have attempted to cover budget cuts by not replacing members who retire or leave their agencies. Today, this measure may not make up the budget shortfall. Some view decreasing recruit training as preferable to eliminating current employees. Additionally, in-service training frequently is reduced to the minimum state Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) requirements. While often hard to justify, however, training constitutes the glue of effectiveness that forms the foundation for successful law enforcement efforts.

Placing scarce resources up front in training can produce safe, effective, and efficient officers, supervisors, and administrators, which can lessen operating costs in the long run. As an old advertisement for oil filters pointed out, "You can pay me now, or you can pay me later," the idea being that sometimes a small investment can result in large savings. The cost of an oil filter is minor compared with that of an engine. The same holds true for law enforcement training.


In many ways, these difficult economic times should cause agencies to reevaluate their training needs, including the topics covered, the methodology used, and the effectiveness achieved. With fewer available resources, law enforcement organizations need to ensure that with their training, they are doing the right thing and doing it the right way. (1)

What is the cost to a department for an illegal arrest, use of excessive force, or a wrongful death? It seems reasonable to assume that if training could prevent these events, it would be done. Of course, even with the right training, these still can occur. Conversely, without such training these incidents will take place and probably more frequently. Training is rarely viewed from the perspective of risk management, yet a direct relationship exists.


Thinking of police training as a house can illustrate how to divide the process into four categories. While each has a different purpose, all of the training is interrelated and interdependent, just as the foundation, walls, and roof support and form a structure.

1) Entrance-level training (initial knowledge, skills, and attitudes for new officers)

2) In-service training (maintenance of skills taught in entrance level, along with knowledge about new laws, enforcement procedures, and safety practices)


3) Supervisor training (specific information tailored to overseeing rank-and-file members and to developing instructional abilities)

4) Administrator training (influences direction and operational effectiveness of the organization)

The authors offer these four categories of training only as a guide that can represent the training in any agency. Not meant to be all inclusive, these do not encompass every possible training need, but give an overall view. When examining their training needs, agencies should take the overall view because training greatly influences and shapes the interdependency and interrelationships of their officers, units, and ranks and affects every law enforcement function. …

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