With the ever increasing routine of online education at every college and university it seems inevitable that basic police training will adapt this form of education. But what are the benefits and disadvantages of this type of instruction. Can it even be done? The author believes that eventually this will be the norm as we see the increase in the need for officers to be technologically savvy and be able to understand and apply the large amount of new laws that will come (Kuch, 2016). Typically, in each state there is an agency that oversees the basic police training for officers. That agency will eventually oversee the on-line formats that are suggested here. Those agencies are called The Police Officer Standards and Training Council (P.O.S.T.) or some variation of that.
The main benefit is to allow more potential recruits to apply and be accepted to this program. This will bring in money for the state, but lower the money to the local departments that put on training programs. In essence shifting the income from local to regional or state. However, the second benefit is to ensure that recruits are learning the outcomes in each unit. They will be monitored by a state trooper, state police training officer, or some form of POST teacher from the main state police training facility. No real personal relationship, thus allowing an uncensored evaluation of the recruit.
The ability to digest the vast amount of new laws and understand the new technology that will occur can be learned at home or on the move over the internet. The classroom is open 24/7 and students can delve deep into the topics of each section with extra material provided online. Visual material, learning programs like: Powerpoint, Blackboard, Moodle, D2L (Desire 2 Learn), Canvas, Ecollege, and Sakai programming can be utilized.
The recruits might not have the sense of military training—wearing uniforms, following orders, and wearing guns. However, the main purpose of policing for the past twenty-five years has been to return to “protect and serve”, not continue the watchman armed officer who merely arrests offenders. Wasn’t that the point of community policing, neighborhood policing, problem oriented policing, intercultural policing (Kuch, 2015), and block watch? There might be some officers who teach at the local academies or at community colleges that will get lower hours as a result of fewer students but they can get a security job to make up for that or they could work for an attorney doing some field work.
It will cost the state money to develop these courses but surely that would be paid for in the first year by student enrollment. Having state police instructors teach, monitor, and evaluate recruits will need to be modified to fit this format. Finally, state laws might need to be changed to allow this format to occur. The information shared or gained in these classes is not top secret and most anyone with basic internet knowledge can read about police training topics.
Lastly, there might be some hesitation from officers that went thru the regular training program and feel that online training is not equal to or is insufficient in some manner. That will need to be addressed by police administrators and field training officers. Perhaps understanding that these recruits lack a daily cop on cop interaction during training might require field training about the streets and people they serve.
Eventual Hybrid Format
Since there is a need to have police recruits learn physical aspects of the job along with certain hands on instruction we will have to have a location that addresses those needs. What might happen is that our local community colleges and some police schools operated out of municipal police departments and sheriff’s departments will train those activities that cannot be taught or learned on-line.
Perhaps a week toward the end or at the end of the academy will be fulfilled by having the recruits go the state police academy for one week. Recruits would either get a hotel or stay on the academy grounds. During that week they would learn about CPR and first aid, traffic stops and traffic investigation, stop and searches, and firearms training.
All other instruction will be provided via online format that the recruits can learn at their somewhat on their own pace. Videos can be watched more than once, assignments can be completed and sent to the state police academy to ensure the quality of training. This will reduce the chance of recruits being passed thru in order to get more tuition for the school—money in numbers.
What is needed is a state to have a trial program for police recruits. The state police would have to develop an online training program and probably have scheduled a week long intensive part of the course. It could be opened up for the first 25 students that apply and pay the tuition. An evaluation can be done before and after the recruit group starts and graduates. A follow-up evaluation can be done to determine if there are any differences between traditional academies and this form of instruction. It would benefit some potential recruits that might not be able to attend classes every night or day in a traditional setting. Maybe the costs will also be lower. This form of instruction will happen, the question is when some state will try it.
Kuch, Christopher B. “Policing 2050.” Forthcoming in The American Police. March 2016.
Kuch, Christopher B. “Intercultural Policing.” The Law Enforcement Times. September 20, 2015.
Dr. Kuch holds a PhD, MA, and MS in criminal justice. He has mainly taught sociology as an adjunct faculty member. He is presently at Galatasaray University in Istanbul, Turkey.