By Butch Beach, DPA, Deputy Director, Georgia Public Safety Training Center; and Curtis E. McClung, PhD, Assistant Administrator and Adjunct Professor of Criminal Justice, Columbus State University, and Chief of Police (Retired), Columbus, Georgia, Police Department
ugust Vollmer, during the early twentieth century, as chief of police in Berkeley, California, argued for the professionalism of police officers through the use of scientific training and methods of investigation. Since Vollmer, police executives have become convinced, more than ever before, that professionalism can be achieved through the acquisition of education.1
A number of law enforcement professionals agree that training and education should become more integrated. Authors David L. Carter, Allen D. Sapp, and Darrel W. Stephens made the prediction that “the future of policing depends on the future of higher education . . . cooperation between academia and law enforcement,” therefore “shaping the curriculum for law enforcement in the 21st century.”2
One organization among many (including the International Association of Chiefs of Police) that is integrating education and training is the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College (Command College). The Command College was developed to provide law enforcement executive training as well as graduate-level course work leading to a master of public administration (MPA) degree through Columbus State University (CSU). The program began with collaboration between the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police (GACP), the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (GaPOSTC), and the CSU.
The Command College was created in 1995 as a result of the vision of Chief Bobby Reed of the Vienna, Georgia, Police Department—then-President of the GACP. Chief Reed approached Archie Rainey, PhD, professor of criminal justice at CSU, about developing a command college for law enforcement executives in the state of Georgia. Rainey, with the assistance of Curtis McClung, PhD, former chief of police in Columbus, Georgia, and former training director of the GACP, organized what has become known as the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College at CSU. Rainey is now the college’s director.
|“In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”|
—Eric Hoffer, American social writer and philosopher
The Command College curriculum is based on seven, 40-hour modules. Each module is offered, in a six-day period, beginning at 12 noon on Sunday and ending at 12 noon on Friday. This delivery format has several advantages that are critical to the support needed for agencies and the attending officers. First, the modular format is adaptable to the scheduling of replacements to release the officer to attend the training. Second, and arguably the most prominent benefit, is the encapsulation of the course material into a 40-hour module. Because the modules are certified by GaPOSTC as separate training courses, each has its own course code, thus allowing for training credits for the officers. Third, the scheduling of the classes to begin on Sunday afternoon benefits officers who must travel to the college. This unique format of beginning on Sunday with the completion of the course at 12 noon on Friday allows the officers ample time to return to their respective jurisdictions.
This format not only meets the requirements of the Command College, but also satisfies the attendance requirements of the university’s MPA program. In addition to receiving three hours of academic credit per module, the GaPOSTC awards full training credit for each class hour, resulting in 480 training hours applied to meet state-mandated training requirements over the span of the two-and-one-half-year program. This training and education, fully integrated at the Command College, facilitates completion of the program while meeting core requirements for a graduate degree and state-mandated law enforcement training, thus making sensible use of agency resources.
Survey Gauges Program Effectiveness
These partnerships of academics and practitioners are becoming more popular and appear successful in supporting and making possible the attendance and the graduation of more officers. The call for more integration of training and education programs is becoming a reality, as evidenced in the success of the various command colleges. Yet, the evaluation of these specific programs has been rare. Questions still arise. Are the programs effective? Is the job performance of those who attend improved significantly? This study attempts to answer those questions.
The population of graduates of the Command College and nonalumni agency heads were surveyed regarding their perceptions concerning the benefits of the Command College. The survey was conducted using a questionnaire delivered via email using Survey Monkey software. Those participants who had completed the program of study and remained active in the field of public safety as of May of 2010 and had a known and active email address comprise the population of graduates surveyed.
Since the inception of the Command College, 923 public safety executives have attended 41 classes. The program has 11 participants who began but did not finish: 3 participants passed away before having the opportunity to finish, 1 participant was transferred by a federal agency and not afforded the opportunity to complete the program, and 7 chose to withdraw and not complete the program. Withdrawing these 11 participants from the count, there is a remaining population of 912 participants who have completed the Command College; 829 of those who finished the program remain active in the public safety community. These 829 participants who finished the Command College and remain active in public safety community are the subject of the survey in this evaluation of the participants' attitudes.
Represented in this study are myriad federal, state, and local public safety professionals. Among those represented in this population are 207 individuals from municipal police departments, 40 from county sheriffs’ offices, 17 from federal agencies, 14 from prosecutors’ offices, 2 from local corrections agencies, 2 from community colleges, 4 from municipal or county fire agencies, and 6 from state law enforcement agencies—for a total of 292 agencies.
The positive results of the survey of the graduates of the Command College created a concern of the presence of a halo effect—that is, a cognitive bias whereby the perception of one trait is influenced by the perception of another trait or traits of that person or object. To account for the possibility of such a confounding variable, a second survey was conducted of nonalumni agency heads to provide the opportunity to compare attitudes of nonparticipants to the attitudes of the participants regarding the effectiveness of the Command College.
The agency heads of 185 of the 292 agencies represented are Command College graduates; thus, 107 agencies with at least one graduate but whose head is not a Command College graduate remain. These 107 agency heads comprise the nonalumni agency head population that was surveyed to assess the perceptions of nonparticipants.
The survey instruments for the alumni were delivered to the 829 graduates that remain active in public safety. Initially, all participants received the link to the survey. However, 132 of the instruments were returned because of inaccurate addresses or inactive email accounts, reducing the survey population to 697 participants. At the conclusion of the survey period, 454 of the 697 surveys had been returned for a calculated rate of return of 65.1 percent.
The nonalumni agency head survey instrument also was delivered via email. Of the 102 surveys delivered, 50 were returned; however, 10 of those were incomplete and failed to address the research questions, thus those 10 were eliminated, leaving 40 complete responses for a calculated rate of return of 39.2 percent.
Each of the alumni survey items were scored using Likert-type scale responses—that is, strongly disagree = 1, disagree = 2, undecided = 3, agree = 4, strongly agree = 5. Scores on six items (questions 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 11) were then totaled into an overall composite score, herein referred to as the Alumni Composite Satisfaction Scale (CSS). The survey questions used in the Alumni CSS follow:
Question 3: My general knowledge and understanding of law enforcement practices and procedures increased significantly by the time I graduated from the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College.
Question 4: The content of courses taken during the graduate degree program was current and relevant to law enforcement.
Question 5: I feel that completing the courses offered by the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College made me a more effective law enforcement supervisor or manager.
Question 6: Instructors in the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College were knowledgeable of their subject areas.
Question 7: Completion of the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College made me better prepared for positions of greater authority and responsibility.
Question 11: The training and educational benefit of the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College is cost effective in terms of return on investment.
The first question regarding the Command College experience asked of the respondents was, “Did you complete the Master of Public Administration degree?” Even though 50 percent of the respondents had attained at least a master’s degree before beginning the Command College, 84 percent of the respondents completed the five elective courses necessary to finish the MPA degree program. Archival data indicate that of all participants that began the Command College program since 1995, 65 percent have received an MPA, compared to a 25 percent graduation rate among students attending the traditional MPA program of Columbus State University during the same time frame.
The second question asked of the respondents was, “Have you been promoted or transferred to a position of greater authority or responsibility since completion of the Command College?” More than half (54 percent) of the graduates responded affirmatively, while 46 percent reported that they had not been promoted or transferred to a position of greater authority or responsibility since completion of the Command College.
The third question asked was, “Did your general knowledge and understanding of law enforcement practices and procedures increase significantly by the time you graduated from the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College?” More than 95 percent agreed or strongly agreed that their general knowledge had increased significantly.
The fourth question was regarding the content of the courses offered during the Command College. The participants were asked if the content of the courses taken during the Command College and to complete the MPA program was current and relevant to law enforcement. Almost all—97 percent—of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the content of the Command College courses was current and relevant to contemporary law enforcement.
The fifth question was whether the graduates of the Command College believed they were more effective as supervisors or managers after completing the Command College courses. A total of 296 of the respondents strongly agreed and 142 agreed, totaling 96 percent who agreed that they were more effective supervisors or managers after attending the Command College.
The sixth question asked respondents if they believed the instructors in the Command College were knowledgeable of their subject areas. A total of 96 percent agreed that the instructors in the program were subject matter experts in their subject topics.
The seventh question of the survey asked respondents if they believed that after completing the Command College, they were better prepared for positions of greater authority and/or responsibility. Of the 454 respondents, 303 (67 percent) strongly agreed with the statement and 132 (29 percent) agreed; thus, 96 percent agreed or strongly agreed that the Command College made them better prepared for promotions or positions of greater authority and responsibility.
The eleventh question was intended to sample the respondents’ beliefs that the training and educational benefits received at the Command College were cost effective in terms of return on investment. A total of 303 (67 percent) of the respondents strongly agreed and 122 (27 percent) agreed; thus, 94 percent of the respondents believed the training and education benefits of the Command College to be cost effective.
Data presented indicate that an overwhelming proportion of respondents give high marks to all aspects of the Command College program, and these findings cannot be dismissed as statistically insignificant or due to sheer random chance.
Using summative scaling to determine the Alumni CSS, the entire sample averaged 4.61. Moreover, everyone’s satisfaction was not confined to any one aspect of the program, but was uniformly distributed across all six items relating to curriculum and instruction.
The majority of the agency heads responding were local representatives: sheriffs (18 percent); police chiefs (68 percent); and fire chiefs (2 percent) comprised 88 percent of the responses. State agency heads, directors, and commissioners comprised the remaining 12 percent of the total responses.
The responses to four items, common to both surveys, provided an aggregate satisfaction score: the Nonalumni Composite Satisfaction Score (CSS). The items were scored as follows: strongly disagree = 1, disagree = 2, undecided = 3, agree = 4 and strongly agree = 5. The scores on the four items included in the nonalumni agency head survey were calculated in like manner, using summative scaling to determine a Nonalumni Agency Head Composite Scale. The survey questions used in the Nonalumni CSS follow:
Question 1: My officers/administrators were significantly more knowledgeable of law enforcement practices and procedures after completing the Command College.
Question 2: Completing the CommandCollege made my officers/administrators more effective law enforcement supervisors and managers.
Question 3: Completion of the Command College made my officers/administrators better prepared for positions of greater authority and responsibility.
Question 7: The overall benefit of the Command College is cost effective in terms of return on investment.
The Nonalumni CSS was an average of 4.13 on the Likert five-point scale. Clearly, the score of 4.13 on the Nonalumni CSS is lower than the 4.61 on the Alumni CSS. However, both scales indicate a high level of satisfaction with the results of the training and education received at the Command College.
The data gleaned from both the alumni and the nonalumni agency head surveys indicate a high level of satisfaction with the effectiveness of the Command College program. Further analysis indicates that the nonalumni, as a group, are more tentative in agreement—thus the higher percentage of undecided responses; however, they do not disagree with the statements of satisfaction. The respondents seem to want more time to assess the full impact of the training and education—thus the greater number of respondents that responded as undecided. The number of respondents who expressed disagreement or dissatisfaction remains minimal.
Comparatively, when the undecided responses are not considered, but the strongly agree and agree responses are grouped and the strongly disagree and disagree responses are grouped, the percentage of those responding positively on both surveys is virtually the same.
- 97 percent of the alumni and 97 percent of the nonalumni agree that the graduates of the Command College were significantly more knowledgeable of law enforcement practices and procedures.
- 99 percent of the alumni and 97 percent of the nonalumni agree the Command College produced more effective supervisors and managers.
- 99 percent of the alumni and 100 percent of the nonalumni agree that Command College graduates are better prepared than their peers for positions of greater authority and responsibility.
- 98 percent of the alumni and 97 percent of the nonalumni agree that the training and education received at the Command College is cost-effective in terms of return on investment. A comparison of the perceptions is illustrated in figure 1.
One testimony of the impact that is possible with the Command College program is provided in an email message from William Oliver, MD, who during his attendance at the Command College was a forensic pathologist with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. In a 2002 email message to Archie Rainey, Dr. Oliver writes of his attitude that questioned if his attendance in the Command College would in fact be of any benefit to him, personally or professionally. Oliver had recently taken a position as a professor of pathology and the director of autopsy and forensic services at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, after completion of the Command College and the MPA program at Columbus State University.
Following is an excerpt from that email:
Suddenly, I found myself leading a division that is clearly in a rebuilding phase, including recruiting other pathologists, preparing for accreditation, certifying my investigative staff, developing a fellowship program, instituting a [quality assurance and quality control] program, and renegotiating contracts with the OCME [Office of the Chief Medical Examiner]. Within the first two weeks of being in my new position, I had to deal with a significant staff impairment issue, a structural issue resulting in a significant error by a staff member, and a disciplinary issue. Traditionally, forensic pathology fellowship programs do not include leadership and management training. Had I taken this job without having gone through your program, I would have crashed and burned within the first month. Instead, I found myself relying extensively on the things I learned in the MPA program. I knew what to do, and I knew how to do it. And I knew because of your program.3
Another testimonial originated from a conversation in March 2011 between the author and John B. Edwards, former special agent in charge, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and current chief deputy sheriff of the Evans County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office.
The chief deputy’s comments to the author follow:
For the lack of better words, a phenomenon has developed as a very positive “unintended” consequence of the Command College that has changed Georgia law enforcement statewide. This phenomenon is the combination of uniformity and a common vision in police operations. Agencies with deeply rooted beliefs regarding the manner and methods they use to approach police responsibilities have evolved into more open organizations that use other agencies’ ideas, policy, and protocols to further or even change their original customs. This change had come about because of the mixture of relationships and exposure to proven solutions, strategies, projects, and tactics among the diverse student population.
The Command College life span has prospered long enough to position many graduates to become agency heads, thus providing both position and power to produce and sustain the environment to embrace “change.” The Command College graduates have matured into a network of middle managers to upper managers that infiltrate many agencies in Georgia. These managers influence others by “opening doors” to ongoing communications regarding their craft, resulting in law enforcement becoming more uniformed toward professional, evidence-based and innovative operations. The pre–Command College Georgia of closed bastions of territorial agencies and divided and separate agencies are open, engaged, compatible, consistent, and prepared. This new culture has produced more efficient and effective police agencies throughout Georgia.
These testimonies are original observations of two law enforcement practitioners: Dr. Oliver, a reluctant participant; and Chief Deputy Edwards, who is not a graduate. The comments of these two men are indicative of the performance of the Command College, in changing attitudes through quality training and education.
Both the quantitative and qualitative data indicate that the alumni and their respective agency heads do believe they received quality education and training that has positively impacted the performance of the graduates and better prepared them for positions of greater authority and responsibility in the 21st century. ■
1Roy Roberg and Scott Bonn, “Higher Education and Policing: Where Are We Now?” Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management 27, no. 4 (2004): 469–486.
2David L. Carter, Allen D. Sapp, and Darrel W. Stephens, The State of Police Education: Policy Direction for the 21st Century (Washington, D.C.: Police Executive Research Forum, 1989).
3William Oliver, email message to Archie Rainey, March 12, 2002.
|Butch Beach, DPA, currently serves as deputy director for training and chief of police for the Georgia Public Safety Training Center. He spent more than 25 years with the Columbus Georgia Police Department, retiring as executive assistant to the chief of police in 1999. He also served as a part-time faculty member in the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College programs for more than a decade.|
Curtis E. McClung, PhD, retired as chief of police of the Columbus, Georgia, Police Department after serving for more than 28 years. McClung then served more than a decade as training director for the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police and has been associate director of the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College since its inception. McClung has lectured internationally and received numerous awards and recognitions, including having the annual Excellence in Law Enforcement award that is sponsored by the Motorola Corporation and awarded by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police named after him: Curtis McClung Award of Excellence.
Please cite as:
Butch Beach and Curtis E. McClung, "Total Integration of Executive Training and Higher Education: The Georgia Law Enforcement Command College," The Police Chief 78 (November 2011): 34–41.