In 1908, the Berkeley Police School became the first American police academy. Until then, most officers received no formal training, and the idea of providing officers with basic policing skills was revolutionary. In 1935, the FBI established what is now the National Academy. It was among the first efforts to provide in-service personnel with training to advance their skills as officers and leaders. These two programs helped lay the foundation for what we now consider the modern approach to training police personnel.
As technology evolves, the nature of crime and its investigation shifts. And as social expectations of the police evolve, so does the nature of police work and the makeup of police departments themselves. Federal data shows that the number of sworn law enforcement personnel increased 8 percent in the past twenty years, while the number of civilian personnel increased 53 percent. The future of police training might require adapting to train a more diverse workforce, providing greater levels of training for civilian personnel and creating multiple pathways to enter policing.
Society increasingly asks American police to deploy a wider set of strategies and skills while taking on a broader set of responsibilities. Officers are expected to be part law enforcer, part social service provider, part legal advocate and part community organizer, among other roles. For police organizations to meet this growing challenge, police training will have to expand the skills that officers learn to serve our communities.
New educational technologies and methods are transforming how we approach teaching. These shifts affect everything from K-12 education to job preparation, as well as how we develop the skill sets of police officers preparing for new job assignments or promotions. Simply put, training and employee development must be a daily practice in police organizations. Fortunately, technology makes it possible to deliver quality training to officers across the county in ways that we could not achieve in the past.
If the police profession is to keep up with a changing and increasingly complex world, we must find new and better ways to ensure that officers continue developing their skillsets so that they may better serve our communities.
Dr. Joseph A. Schafer, Professor and Chair of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Southern Illinois University, [email protected]