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Police: Organization and Management - Police Recruitment And Training

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So far, much of the discussion has involved changes in the police organization: its structure, style, management, or technology. Yet many police administrators think it is at least as important to change the people within the organization. This means developing recruitment and training strategies that produce a new breed of police officer. For instance, Baltimore Police Commissioner Thomas Frazier suggests that police organizations need to recruit officers with "a spirit of service rather than a spirit of adventure." For community policing to take root, officers will need to be as interested in serving the community as in fighting crime. Others believe that while recruitment may be one strategy for changing police organizations, it is not the only answer. Furthermore, many police agencies have little control over their recruitment strategies due to civil service hiring restrictions. Nonetheless, there have been some changes in recruitment since the 1970s.

One of the major changes in police recruitment has been the effort to attract individuals who represent the population they will serve, including females and minorities (Langworthy et al.). To carry out their sensitive role, police officers must be able communicate effectively and compassionately with a diverse population. Policing has historically been a white male institution. Since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (specifically Title VII) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, this trend has started to change. A series of court cases in the 1970s and 1980s further defined the legal guidelines for hiring minority and female police officers. Over the past twenty years, there has been an increase in the number of females and minorities in large police departments (Reaves).

Police departments use a variety of techniques to recruit applicants: they place ads in newspapers and on Internet sites, post flyers and brochures, contact criminal justice programs in colleges and universities, and attend career fairs. They also attract potential applicants through a variety of programs such as citizens' police academies, "Explorer" groups for young adults, reserve or auxiliary officer programs, and college internships. In 1998, the U.S. Department of Justice established the Police Corps, a scholarship program for college students who agree to work as police officers for at least four years after graduating. The Police Corps program is expected to increase the pool of educated applicants to police departments, while at the same time reducing the cost of recruiting and training new officers (Office of the Police Corps and Law Enforcement Education).

In addition to selective recruitment efforts, a sound and well-balanced training curriculum is another method for improving the quality of police personnel. While the importance of police training was recognized by police reformers at the beginning of the century, it was not until the early 1960s that it became more accepted by police administrators (Langworthy et al). Although there are variations across the country, there are three core types of police training: (1) basic training, (2) field training, and (3) in-service training. Basic training teaches basic skills and techniques necessary to conduct day-to-day police work. General topics covered in basic training include police procedure, criminal law, use of force, emergency response, ethnic and cultural diversity, interacting with citizens, and numerous other specialized topics. After basic training is completed in the academy, rookie officers (or "boots") sometimes participate in a field-training program in which they accompany field training officers (FTOs) on patrol. In field training, rookie officers apply the knowledge and skills acquired in basic training to real-life situations on the streets. FTOs assess whether recruits are able to conduct routine police activities skillfully and independently. Also, it is during field training that rookie officers are socialized into the police subculture, a force that exerts considerable influence over police officer's behavior (Van Maanen).

Police training continues over the course of a police officer's career with in-service training that takes place for a required number of hours per year (determined by individual police departments). Workshops, classes, and conferences on specialized topics can teach seasoned officers new techniques, as well as provide them with valuable information that can be incorporated into daily police activities (Haley). Some current topics taught during in-service training include community and problem-oriented policing, dealing with youth gangs, new types of drugs, and a variety of other specialized topics.

Training is a double-edged sword. Some amount of police training is necessary to ensure that officers have a core body of knowledge and certain skills. Although it is common for citizens and politicians to request more and better police training, it is a tired remedy for fixing whatever is wrong with the police. Mastrofski claims that "Training can be very useful for when trying to give officers new skills, but it is decidedly ineffective in changing officers' attitudes and motivations" (p. 6). Furthermore, many police agencies (especially smaller ones) send their officers to regional training academies whose curriculum they have little control over. Once again, training may be one answer to improving police organization and management, but it is not a miracle cure.

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