Police & Law Enforcement
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16 Eye-Opening Facts About Police Training Procedures

Updated June 14, 2019 25.1k views16 items

To put it mildly, the police receive a lot of criticism in America circa 2016. Many believe much of this criticism was deserved, but it's important to see where some blame needs to be placed. One of the most shocking things about America's police department is that their training, for the most part, hasn't changed in forty years. The 1970s were a different time, and teaching the values of that era to 21st century law enforcement isn't doing anyone any favors.

The good news is that the Police Training Officer (PTO) program is replacing the old way of instruction in the 2010s. Instead of emphasizing arrest methods and firearms, the PTO program places emphasis on serving the community and using creativity (rather than force) to solve problems. So, if having cops who have a sense of empathy appeals to you... check out the list below to see what else America's police forces are now being taught. 

Note: The methods contained in this list are all part of a program created by the US Department of Justice, as guidelines for police departments nationwide. Whether or not any individual police department follows these guidelines is a matter for a different day. 
  • New Police Training Is in Eight Phases

    Photo: Gerald L. Nino / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The PTO program is broken into two phases. These two phases are Substantive Topics and Core Competencies. The former includes four topics, non-emergency incident response, emergency incident response, patrol activities, and criminal investigation. This phase goes in depth on the four most common things police officers deal with day-to-day.

    Core Competencies offers broad coverage on all the things police officers are responsible for understanding about their jobs, including conflict resolution, vehicle operations, use of force, individual rights, ethics, communication skills, legal authority, and more. 
  • They Rely Heavily on Problem-Based Learning

    Photo: Armando Gonzales / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    The best way to learn something is by solving a problem yourself. So, instead of just telling trainees what to do, the PTO program is all about trying to get would-be officers to engage with, and solve, problems, and employs an instructional method called Problem-Based Learning, or PBL. Rather than rote memorization, coursework involves tackling problems practically. That way, when officers enter the field and put their skills to the test, they'll already have some experience dealing with hands-on problems. 
  • There Is Emphasis on Emotional Intelligence

    Video: YouTube
    Obviously, cops don't have the best reputation for being empathetic. The new PTO program aims to change that by making officers self aware of their biases, personal values, and limitations in relation to the different emotions from people they encounter on the job. They're also taught to deal with their fight or flight response. 
  • Communication Is Seen as the Key to Conflict Resolution

    Video: YouTube
    Make all the jokes you want about cops shooting first and asking questions later, but the PTO program teaches that communication is key to resolving conflict. Avoiding violence and compromising are emphasized a great deal. Officers in training work with other trainees in practical situations to hone their conflict resolution skills.