By Raymond A. Franklin, Acting Executive Director of the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions and Project Director for NLEARN, Sykesville, Maryland
merica’s law enforcement training academies have been steadily expanding their use of a secure national network. NLEARN—short for National Law Enforcement Academy Resource Network—seeks to share academy operational knowledge, programs, materials, and lessons learned.
Currently, academies in 49 states participate in the network, which provides weekly news, announcements, training events, and training resources. It also features an active online forum to exchange ideas, concerns, and requests for assistance by other training directors and instructors.
Initiating the network started after the first national Census of Law Enforcement Training Academies was published. Academy directors knew the location of all of the U.S. police academies, but in today’s communication environment this was not enough. It made sense to parlay this information into a system that training directors and instructors could use to actively exchange ideas and share resources.
NLEARN commenced operation in 2008 with funding from the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The network provides a wide variety of communication and information services to academy personnel and is operated under the auspices of the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST).
Dr. Thomas Christenberry, currently the director of Public Safety Education and assistant professor of Adult Learning at the University of Indianapolis, serves as content and membership coordinator. He described the network as “the perfect medium for reaching academy directors and instructors with some of the latest in training news, methodology, and even a bulletin board (Academy Director’s Forum) for the real-time exchange of ideas and training content.”1
Navigating the System
Using the system is extremely easy. Members simply point their Web browser to www.nlearn.org and when prompted provide their “user id” as well as a password. Once access is granted, participants are greeted with a welcome message and a list of the many locations that they can visit:
- News and Announcements
- Library and Information Portal
- Academy Director’s Forum
- Web Resources
- Important Information
- Who We Are
News and Announcements provides the latest news items, special training events, articles, webinars, and announcements unique to academy training, particularly training events and online events around the country, and events that agencies are sponsoring. NLEARN receives requests for listing and posts them in the News and Announcements location. As information becomes dated, it is removed or if the information is really significant, it may be moved to the Library and Information Portal for more permanent retention.
The Library and Information Portal is where information is kept for future use and retrieval. Such information includes unique training resources such as ILEETA (International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association) documents, white papers produced by those directly involved in law enforcement training, ongoing research in police academy training, and articles on skill training (such as firearms and defensive tactics). Participants can post their scholarly works and training interests.
NLEARN searches and reviews the many online and printed law enforcement training periodicals and Web sites for the latest information. NLEARN also checks the contemporary private-sector training literature, such as the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), for the latest in training and education and links to those sites.
The Academy Director’s Forum (bulletin board) is where participants can actively engage with other academy directors or instructors by creating a new topic and posting the information to the forum. Once a new topic is posted, other participants can comment or add to the dialogue. The forum is divided into four main sections: academy administration, training and curriculum, academy technology, and about the NLEARN System. Each section has discussion areas. For example, the academy administration section contains discussion areas such as academy management, budget and fees, facilities, policies, and other discussion areas. NLEARN is looking to add new discussion areas, based on member interests.
Web Resources serves as an ever-expanding repository for all the important and relevant links to the law enforcement training community: law enforcement—related periodicals, news agencies, online databases, and professional associations and groups.
What’s in the future for NLEARN? NLEARN responds to participant needs to provide the type of information that training academy directors and instructors require. NLEARN will provide more updated and real-time information for participants use. NLEARN staff members are completing the nation’s first interstate program approval application platform, aimed at streamlining the complex multistate POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) course approval process for training providers. The network also has potential as a platform for shared Web-based and streaming media training opportunities.
Application for NLEARN membership is free and easily accomplished at www.nlearn.org. Membership is limited to active personnel at academies included in the Bureau of Justice Statistics Census of Law Enforcement Academies. Questions or comments should be directed to Tom Christenberry at email@example.com. ?
1Thomas Christenberry, personal communication, August 22, 2009.