By Paul Cappitelli, Executive Director, California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training; and Mitch Coppin, Chief Information Officer, California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training
he California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) is responsible for tracking law enforcement attendance at all POST-certified training courses. Twenty-four hours of continuing professional training (CPT) is required every two years for all peace officers, Level I and II reserve peace officers, dispatchers, and dispatch supervisors. Fourteen hours of the twenty-four hours must include perishable skills (PS) training. A uniform CPT anniversary date has been established to monitor training compliance, with the most recent two-year cycle having ended on December 31, 2010.
Training managers at more than 600 law enforcement agencies in the POST program are responsible for ensuring training mandates are satisfied for the state’s 82,000 sworn peace officers; 6,000 reserve officers; and 8,000 dispatchers. Of the 600 agencies, 12 employ more than 1,000 peace officers, while another 100 agencies employ more than 100 officers. With these numbers, managing the training programs to ensure CPT and PS compliance requires a significant effort.
Prior to October 2010, POST provided limited tools for agency training managers to manage training compliance for individual officers. The most common approach was for a training manager to create an online compliance report listing the officers who had not met their training mandates. Training managers could then access an officer’s training profile report of completed courses and search the POST course catalog to find course offerings to satisfy any unmet mandates. Until September 2010, the POST course catalog was updated only monthly by a scheduled batch process, so many course offerings were out-of-date or not listed at all. The consequences of officers not attending current and relevant training can be severe.
In these times of seriously limited resources, POST is creating new and effective tools for the training managers and law enforcement officers to proactively monitor training compliance. It is envisioned that this approach will lead to improved training compliance and a reduction of the time needed by the training managers to monitor agency training compliance.
For many years, when officers attended a training course, they were required to sign a course roster and provide their name, their agency name, and their social security number (SSN). In 2007, due to security concerns, POST phased out the use the SSN as an identifier and issued a unique POST ID. In 2008, POST automated the collection of all paper rosters by allowing course presenters to enter the rosters online, eliminating POST’s need to enter the information.
The creation of the POST ID, while addressing the security concern, led to a common problem encountered by the training presenters. Often, officers who attend a training course do not know their POST IDs, thus necessitating that they continue to be asked to provide their SSNs, or the officers are directed to contact their agencies or their POST to obtain the ID. To address this need, POST created a mobile application at http://m.post.ca.gov, which has provided a quick, effective, and secure way to obtain a POST ID. This application has eliminated numerous phone calls to POST from officers requesting their IDs.
Interactive Course Catalog
In a separate technology development, POST’s information technology (IT) staff designed a more comprehensive and user-centered, interactive course catalog, abandoning the batch catalog process entirely. Meetings were held with POST area managers, agency training managers, dispatchers, and peace officer groups. A survey was developed and sent to more than 100 stakeholders. POST used feedback from the survey and information gathered at meetings to establish needed features and structured the layout of the catalog. POST IT staff then created the new catalog using a dynamic web application that is database-driven and uses standard .NET technologies.
The new catalog at http://catalog.post.ca.gov provides features such as focusing on courses in proximity to the officer’s agency, pinpointing offerings on a Google map, and providing the course start date, hours, presenter contact, and phone numbers. Advanced search features of the catalog include quick searches by keyword, location, or course date; the ability to search for specific individual PS courses; and categories to target frequently searched courses. The catalog is always current, as courses are continually added to the database by the training presenters, making them instantly accessible.
Training Compliance Dashboard
Nearing the end of the most recent two-year training compliance cycle, POST IT staff built a robust training compliance dashboard at http://www.post.ca.gov/dashboard.aspx. The dashboard allows individual officers to log into a secure area of the POST website using their POST IDs, names, partial SSNs, and birth years to obtain their own training compliance statuses. POST IT staff has integrated selected portions of POST’s SQL (structured query language) database into the content-driven dashboard using a secure web page to display officer training compliance status and a list of courses completed during the two-year cycle. This application is unique in that it allows individual officers to monitor and take ownership of their own training needs, directly from a secure web browser.
Since October 2010, individual officers have accessed the training compliance dashboard more than 16,000 times to determine whether they have met CPT and PS mandates. Officers can then use the closely linked interactive course catalog to select from more than 2,000 course offerings from over 750 course presenters.
In November and December 2010, POST experienced a spike in online courses taken through the POST learning portal. It was determined that 1,376 law enforcement officers had accessed the training compliance dashboard, discovered they had unmet training requirements, then quickly completed courses offered through POST’s learning portal and other multimedia sources to meet their CPT mandates. This effectively put many officers into CPT and PS compliance without the need to be prompted by their own training managers.
Another important benefit of the implementation of these tools is the reduction of mountains of paper forms no longer created, mailed, and processed at POST. POST has implemented a green initiative (see http://www.post.ca.gov/post-green-initiative.aspx), and the elimination of the old paper course rosters is a major contributor to the initiative. The new course catalog, with its ability to pinpoint courses in proximity to an officer’s home base, will reduce fuel consumption, reimbursable mileage, and overnight travel.
Over the next two-year training compliance cycle, POST IT staff expects to develop additional functionality in both the compliance dashboard and interactive course catalog. New features are being considered, such as the ability to put a watch or alert on future course offerings, register or request a seat at an upcoming training course, and manage courses being offered through the catalog.
Early indications show that officers are ready and willing to proactively address their own training needs. The dashboard and interactive course catalog in combination have allowed individual officers to view and monitor their own training compliance and locate available training courses, thereby elevating their level of training and reducing the burden on training managers to ensure compliance mandates are met. ■
Editor's note: Subsequent to submission of this article, the California POST was awarded Best of California for Best In-House Developed Project by the Center for Digital Government. Best of California is a competitive and prestigious award for information technology projects performed by public agencies throughout California. For more information about California POST's compliance dashboard and online course catalog, e-mail Mitch Coppin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please cite as:
Paul Cappitelli and Mitch Coppin, “Getting Smart about Compliance,” Technology Talk, The Police Chief 78 (May 2011): 68–69.