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Back to Archives | Back to November 2011 Contents 

Police Education and Training: An Intelligence-Led Future

By Thomas J. Jurkanin, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Criminal Justice Administration, Middle Tennessee State University; and Senior Editor, Law Enforcement Executive Forum

he IACP has a long history of promoting professional law enforcement through the development, the conduct, and the support of police education and training. The IACP Education and Training Committee, under the dynamic leadership of Milwaukee Chief of Police Edward A. Flynn, meets semiannually to address current and emerging issues related to law enforcement training and to make recommendations to the IACP Executive Committee regarding programs that best meet the needs of membership agencies.

Two of the many important tasks of the Education and Training Committee are to propose a diverse and informative program of training for delivery at the annual IACP conference and to review and propose articles pertaining to education and training for publication in Police Chief magazine. These two endeavors combined help to ensure that IACP members receive the most relevant information related to innovations in law enforcement practice.

In standing with tradition, the November 2011 issue of Police Chief magazine focuses on education and training. Contained within the current publication are several articles that highlight some of the most innovative education and training programs effectively used by local, state, and federal agencies. Each program is unique in its application and is based upon extensive developmental research, application, and evaluation. Three programs highlighted in this edition are

  • “Establishing a Career Pipeline in Public Schools” (through the California Commission on Police Officer Standards and Training);
  • “Leadership Training for Police Recruits: Creating a Foundation for Professional Excellence” (at the Ontario, Canada, Police College); and
  • “Total Integration of Executive Training and Higher Education: The Georgia Law Enforcement Command College.”

A synopsis of each article is provided later in this piece.

In examining the early developmental history of law enforcement in the United States, it is clear that—at one time—desired qualifications for applicants predominately focused on physical assets and qualifications. The belief was that the occupation required those with brawn, for purposes of engaging dangerous and unruly combatants. Little consideration was given to the concept that law enforcement officers would be required to use a skill set that required thoughtful and enlightened communication, decision making, and strategic tactical applications based upon intellectual development honed through a process of education and training. As a result, training and education seemed unnecessary or irrelevant; people would and could learn on the job.

Beginning in the 1930s, this notion of “brawn over brain” began to change, as education and training programs for police began to be implemented throughout the country. Today, we see a plethora of well-developed programs of police education and training for law enforcement officers that address the entire spectrum of entry-level, in-service, advanced, specialized, organizational, and leadership needs.

In spite of the lingering effects created by an early tradition of nonintellectual approaches to fighting crime, it is clear that modern-day law enforcement organizations are fully engaged in intelligence-based practices. It is commonplace for today’s police chiefs to have higher education degrees, many with master’s or doctorates in administration of justice or jurisprudence. Patrol officers and supervisors are largely well prepared through education and training with the necessary intellectual skill sets commensurate with their duties. The revolution has occurred, and discussions of whether policing is an occupation or a profession seem unworthy of debate. Policing is indeed a professional endeavor that faces increasingly complex duties and challenges as the role of police in society has expanded exponentially.

Police education and training should be viewed from a career perspective, beginning with recruitment and selection of personnel and extending through retirement. Margaret Mead once stated that, “The world in which we are born is not the world in which we will live, nor is it the world in which we will die.”1 Life is a continuous process of adapting to change. As a social institution, police organizations are ever evolving, and so training must be continuous. Law enforcement organizations are generally reactive to social change and demands. New technologies; changes in the law; emerging data and research; the concerns of special interest groups; funding limitations; changes in worker needs; changes in community values; changes in the type and degree of criminal behavior; and shifting and emerging job assignments, promotions, and reassignments are but a few of the factors affecting police operational procedures.

The articles presented in this edition of Police Chief magazine underscore the need to view police education and training from a career perspective and provide evidence of the important work being undertaken by police education and training organizations to meet the emerging needs of law enforcement organizations and their personnel.

Paul Cappitelli and Greg Kyritsis, in their article “Establishing a Career Pipeline in Public Schools,” emphasize the importance for police organizations in initiating the police recruiting process early, by introducing a formalized police career orientation curriculum in the public schools for students in grades 6–12. The concept is to engage potential career aspirants in their formative years and to lay a foundation for character development, behavioral decisions, and actions consistent with the expectations of the profession. The authors’ hypothesis is that many young people set their career goals early in life, but too many young people make bad decisions early in life that ultimately may impede their opportunities for employment within the police profession. For the police agency, the objective of the program is to engage the students early, mentor them, and ultimately increase the pool of quality applicants.

The goal of police recruit training is the development of skill, knowledge, and abilities consistent with the requirements of the entry-level police position. In addition, the police academy offers an excellent opportunity for the development of important leadership skills that are necessary to serving in a position of public trust. Irene Barath and Peter Sherriff, in their article “Leadership Training for Police Recruits: Creating a Foundation for Professional Excellence,” describe curriculum revisions recently implemented in the Basic Constable Training program at the Ontario Police Academy. These changes focus on ethics, leadership, and excellence in public service. Important components of the integrated curriculum include discussions on leadership, ethical behavior of on- and off-duty officers, communication skills, team work, work habits, and maturity. The goal of the enhanced program is to lay a solid foundation for the development of leadership skills, starting with entry into the profession.

It has long been recognized that the ability of police agencies to quickly respond to the rapidly changing needs and expectations of society is dependent on the caliber and the competence of police leadership. Throughout the country, a number of executive-level training programs have been established in recent years via the creation of law enforcement executive training institutes. Most of these executive institutes are created through partnerships between law enforcement agencies and universities and include components of education, training, and research. Butch Beach and Curtis McClung, in their article “Total Integration of Executive Training and Higher Education: The Georgia Law Enforcement Command College,” describe the college and provide an empirically based evaluation report of its effectiveness. The Command College is a cooperative partnership between the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST), and Columbus State University. The Command College, composed of seven 40-hour modules, integrates POST-certified training with graduate-level education, leading to a master’s degree in public administration (MPA). The Georgia Law Enforcement Command College provides an excellent prototype for structuring leadership education and training programs for the development of law enforcement leaders.

From a historical perspective, law enforcement education and training has experienced giant leaps forward, as the profession has increasingly assumed additional duties and responsibilities and as the dynamics of the police role in society have become increasingly complex. It is true that the quality of law enforcement in society is directly commensurate with the degree and quality of training provided to law enforcement personnel at all levels of the organization. This edition of the Police Chief provides evidence of the fine work being undertaken by POST agencies, training academies, and universities to prepare police practitioners to meet the myriad demands of public service. ■

Thomas J. Jurkanin, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice Administration at Middle Tennessee State University. He has 37 years of experience in the policing field and is currently senior editor of the Law Enforcement Executive Forum. He is the author of four books on policing and has published in numerous journal articles. He holds his PhD from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.


1Margaret Mead (1970) quoted in Kathryn Patricia Cross, Adults as Learners (Danvers, Mass.: Jossey-Bass, 1981), 1.

Please cite as:

Thomas J. Jurkanin, "Police Education and Training: An Intelligence-Led Future," The Police Chief 78 (November 2011): 20–23.

Click to view the digital edition.



From The Police Chief, vol. LXXVIII, no. 11, November 2011. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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