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The Case for Investigator Mentoring: The Rochester Experience

By Frank A. Colaprete, Ed.D., Lieutenant, Rochester Police Department, Rochester, New York

What Is Mentoring?

The word "mentor" dates back at least 3,000 years to the Homeric epics. In the Odyssey, Mentor is a trusted older friend to Odysseus, who appoints him to look after the development of Odysseus's only son, Telemachus.

Today, we think of a mentor as a "role model, teacher, motivator, communicator, coach, resource person, counselor, supporter, advisor, talent developer, guide, demonstrator, and protector."a As another researcher puts it, "Mentoring at its core is a developmental, caring, sharing, and helping relationship where one person invests their time, know-how and effort in increasing and improving another person's growth, knowledge, and skills. It is also frequently responding to the critical needs in the life of another in ways that prepare them to make better decisions or achieve more in the future, i.e., providing a growth or development experience."b

In the business world, the concept of mentoring came into vogue in the mid-1970s, when "organizational mentoring programs gained widespread acclaim . . . as a way to grow high-potential employees and to offer women and minorities advantages generally reserved for the 'old boys' network."c Since then, researchers have identified the benefits of incorporating a mentoring program: "Research indicates that mentored individuals perform better on the job, advance more rapidly within the organization, report more job and career satisfaction, and express lower turnover intentions than their non-mentored counterparts."d

Law enforcement has been slow to embrace the idea of formal mentoring programs. But the arrival of such initiatives as the investigator mentoring program in Rochester, New York, and the IACP mentoring program for new chiefs in smaller agencies suggests that the idea's time has come.

a G. McKenna, "Mentor Training: The Key to Executive Staff Development," Principal 77 (January 1998): 48.
b G. Shea, "Can a Supervisor Mentor?," Supervision 56 (November 1995): 3.
c B. Kaye and B. Jacobson, "Mentoring: A Group Guide," Training and Development 49 (April 1995): 22.
d A. C. Poe, "Establish Positive Mentor Relationships," HR Magazine 47 (2) (Fall 2002): 62.

Mentoring Program
Mentoring Program
Mentoring Program
Mentoring Program
Participants in the Rochester Police Department’s investigator mentoring program. Photographs courtesy Rochester Police Department.

ne proven method of addressing crime problems is by effective and efficient criminal investigation practices, and the quality of the preliminary investigation has been proven to have a profound impact on the outcome of any case. Research has shown, for instance, that patrol officers trained to investigate crime can close many cases at an early stage.1 In the Rochester, New York, Police Department, experienced criminal investigators are training patrol officers to conduct preliminary investigations. They deliver the training through the department's investigator mentoring program.

Investigator Mentoring: Rochester as Case Study
Launched in 2000, the two-week investigator mentoring program in Rochester pairs a patrol officer or supervisor with an investigator from the same patrol district. The program was designed to give each protégé (patrol officer or supervisor) a flexible way to acquire both explicit and tacit knowledge about investigations.

The program was designed and implemented through the following steps:
Needs Assessment: Extensive internal and external research convinced police officials in Rochester that the agency needed to improve its investigations, particularly preliminary investigations. They identified a patrol section where investigator mentoring could be especially helpful. The needs assessment helped them shape the program's goals and objectives.

Program Development and Design: The program was designed as a two-week intervention loosely resembling a field training officer (FTO) process. But the structure was flexible enough to accommodate the developmental needs of the individual protégé, to include participation in personal development projects under the supervision of the mentor investigator.

The mentor investigators received training in fundamental adult education concepts as well as the theory and practice of mentoring. Each protégé was required to complete a training package that delineated specific steps that were aligned with department and section objectives.

Protégé Selection: Although the goal of the program was to enhance the skills of all patrol and supervisory staff, participation was not compulsory. The program was voluntary for two reasons: First, mentoring should be a voluntary relationship driven by a protégé's desire to grow and learn. Second, the department needed to maintain an adequate level of patrol staffing. Of the 59 patrol officers assigned to the patrol section, 21 (36 percent) elected to participate in the first offering of the program. Of the 12 first- and second-line supervisors (sergeants and lieutenants) assigned to the section, four (25 percent) chose to participate.

Program Delivery: The program was delivered by reassigning officers to their first or second choice of mentor within the section. The scheduling was accomplished over a six-month period so as no more than one person per shift would be assigned to a mentor in order to minimize staffing conflicts for the individual platoons (shifts). Those participants who were scheduled early in the program became staunch advocates for the program with the prospective candidates and many who had participated requested additional opportunities to be scheduled for a second term.

Program Evaluation: Program evaluation was conducted on two levels: (1) feedback from Maple Section command staff, and (2) Kirkpatrick's Model of Evaluation.

On the first level, the Maple Section command staff has reported marked and consistent improvement in the quality of criminal investigations as measured against the original program objectives of (a) higher quality criminal investigations, (b) increased confession rates, (c) development of informants and intelligence information, (d) successful prosecution of felony cases including homicides, and (e) improved relationships between line patrol and supervisory personnel with the investigative staff.

On the second level, the use of the Kirkpatrick Model of Evaluation proved to be an effective tool in evaluating the investigator mentor program. Kirkpatrick developed a four-level model of evaluation that specifically targeted training and education programs:

  • Level 1: Reactions

  • Level 2: Learning

  • Level 3: Transfer

  • Level 4: Results2

The model was applied by surveying the participants in the program using all four levels of analysis. Eight questions were used in the survey tool that elicited respondents' (protégés') opinions of the effectiveness and meaningfulness of program development, design, and delivery. The Likert survey scale values to the protégés responses were assigned as follows:

  • 1 = Strongly disagree

  • 2 = Disagree

  • 3 = Neutral

  • 4 = Agree

  • 5 = Strongly agree

Of the 25 protégés in the program, 24 remained with the department at the time of the survey. Of those, 22 (92 percent) completed the survey and turned it in. Table 1 depicts the analysis of the responses of the protégés using the model.

The evaluation was designed to be inclusive of the five universal mentor program constructs discovered in the research:

  • Mentor selection processes

  • Protégé selection processes

  • Mentor program criteria and framework

  • Mentor program models

  • Mentor program development

The surveys were designed using the five constructs in relation to evaluation under Kirkpatrick's Four Level Model. Questions 1-5 addressed the Reactions component, while questions 6, 7 and 8 addressed the Learning, Transfer, and Results components of the model respectively.

A review of the analysis revealed overwhelming support for the process. Figure 1 depicts the mean (average) scores of the cumulative responses of the protégés with respect to the four parameters of Kirkpatrick's Model. The protégés rated their Reactions [questions 1-5] to the program at the level of Agree [4.07]. They also rated the Learning [question 6] at 4.82, Transfer [question 7] at 4.64, and Results [question 8] at 4.59, all at the level of Strongly Agree.

Figure 2 depicts the analysis of the mean scores of each individual protégé survey as they responded to all four parameters of analysis through the eight questions. What this analysis revealed was that every individual participant gained from the opportunity and experience to be involved in the program. The mean scores ranged from 3.50 (Agree) to 4.88 (Strongly Agree), with 36 percent of the surveys rating the program in the Strongly Agree range.

Several comments were also garnered during the research process that added qualitative information to the quantitative analysis. They are offered as follows:

  • "The mentor program enabled me to learn and better apply the process of follow-up investigations. The program also taught me the necessary skills to become a preliminary investigator (e.g., coordinating investigations)."

  • "The hands-on experience with direct involvement is probably the most positive aspect of the program which reflects the importance of a good preliminary investigation usually conducted by the first responding officer."

  • "It allows a non-investigator to become completely familiar with the follow-up investigative process, which will hopefully lead to better preliminary investigations. Further, it allows officers to truly assess if they would enjoy the job of investigator-creates a more informed career plan."

  • "Better understanding of department's investigative process, including the department's crime reduction goals and policies regarding fielded reports. Better understanding of investigator duties and responsibilities. Also how preliminary investigation is critical in the investigative process."

  • "This program gave me the opportunity to see first hand what the investigators job is all about. I learned investigative techniques that I would not have been exposed to on regular patrol."

  • "I was able to learn from a senior investigator with over 30 years of experience. I constantly use techniques learned in this program in both interviews and interrogations as well as case preparation."

Practical Applications
The concept of mentoring can be applied to any strata in the organization as needed. The key is the use of a process-centered approach to program development. Beginning with a general set of goals and objectives, conducting a proper needs analysis, and extensive research into existing programs and contemporary literature. The program development, design, and delivery of the mentor concept should be consistent with the organization's needs such as developing skill sets, retention, promotion, and the like. A program can only be successful if the proper steps are followed that facilitate the design, implementation, and evaluation phases.

The mentoring concept is a methodology for organizations to plan for the future by developing the most precious assets of the organization, its human resources. In law enforcement, attrition is an ominous issue and the loss of experienced personnel is not only detrimental but catastrophic in many cases. Mentoring provides the opportunity to develop a succession plan and pass the torch to those who aspire to develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities to ascend through the ranks in a law enforcement organizations. As Daloz said of mentors:

Mentors are guides, capable of leading along a journey. They are trusted, because they have been there before. They embody our hopes, cast light on the way ahead, interpret arcane signs, warn of lurking dangers, and point out unexpected delights along the way3. ■

For more information, write to Lieutenant Frank A. Colaprete, Ed.D., at Rochester Police Department Downtown Section, 1099 Jay Street, Rochester, NY 14611, or at (, or call him at 585-428-7062.

1 M. Lyman, Criminal Investigation: The Art and the Science, 3rd ed. (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2002), 12.
2 See "Kirkpatrick's Four Levels of Evaluation," Encyclopedia of Educational Technology, edited by B. Hoffman (2001): 1.
3 See V. Osgood, "Leading the Journey to Success,"Tech Directions 57 (Fall 1998): 17.



From The Police Chief, vol. 71, no. 10, October 2004. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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