By Juan Pereira Volunteer First Responder with Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support, IPSA member
Law enforcement officers work in an ever-changing environment characterized by legal and technological changes and incessant public scrutiny. Such a demanding environment can be draining, even to the most passionate of officers. While law enforcement officers receive training on how to serve and protect per their duty, advanced education is a necessity to navigate the changing environment and increase their efficiency in conducting their duties.
Law enforcement training in Canada has tremendously improved over the years, as agencies and educational institutions introduce more programs that suit the needs of the modern work environment. Higher education has several benefits that empower offices to be more adept and serving the public.
Below are five reasons how higher education benefits law enforcement.
1. Leadership Skills: Higher education offers opportunities for career growth and development, including in the policing sector. Education advances individual’s skills and knowledge in their area of expertise. They gain abstract reasoning, specialized knowledge, and analytical thinking skills that promote their credibility. Consequently, higher education empowers officers to be more proficient in completing their tasks, enabling them to take on leadership roles in their organizations. Examples of such roles are:
- Chief of Police/Commissioner/Chief Constable
- Deputy Chief of Police/Deputy Chief Constable
- Staff Superintendent
- Staff Inspector
- Sergeant Major
- Staff Sergeant
- Police Constable 1stClass/Detective Constable
These advances come with more responsibility, not to mention the increase in remunerations. Further, the officers can participate in policy development to address some of the challenges facing the profession. While looking for higher education programs to enroll in, officers should concentrate on finding those that are relevant to the profession but do not duplicate the skills in which they are already proficient. Such criteria will impart them with gainful value.
2. Promotion of public trust in police work: One of the challenges of being a law enforcement officer is that the intense public scrutiny can pave the way for undervaluation. When citizens lack faith in the body mandated to serve and protect them, law enforcement officers are constrained from effectively fulfilling their duties. Several professions that serve citizens like nursing, engineering and teaching require people to attain university degrees. However, post-secondary education qualification is often enough to succeed during law enforcement training. This results in a situation where the public perceives policing as a low-quality job. Law enforcement institutions also face more crises in this era of publicizing discriminatory activities. These further dampen public trust. Therefore, it is necessary for more law enforcement officers to be empowered to change the status quo. Education plays a central role in achieving this end. Education cultivates officers to make well-informed professional judgments in different situations, and they have a wide range of knowledge and skills.
3. Ability to work in diverse community settings: The modern environment is characterized by different forms of diversity. Cultural differences are one of the issues that distinguish one community from another. The experience of police officers varies greatly when working in different neighborhoods. In some instances, officers find themselves conflicting with citizens as they handle issues differently from the norm. Such occurrences can create undesirable friction between the police department and the public. Officers need to establish an understanding of the local community that allows them to perform their duties. Higher education helps them to achieve this through various mechanisms. For instance, it allows officers to develop cultural competency skills, diverse policing models, and problem-solving skills. Additionally, it boosts their communication skills and enables them to navigate conflicts with ease.
4. Better understanding of the context of police work: The portrayal of police officers in mainstream entertainment corrupts the idea of policing in the minds of young recruits. These individuals are often unprepared for other aspects of police work, such as the documentation of the investigative journey. This issue is magnified by gaps in the system, such as the absence of a mechanism to facilitate accountability by ensuring all officers receive adequate training before enrollment. It is necessary to bridge the gap between perceptions and reality to enable the profession to attract suitable individuals for the job. Addressing the accountability challenge necessitates a definition of core policing and the development of institutions where the officers understand their role. Higher education facilitates this as it has more in-depth training than post-secondary education. The training provided is also research-based, such that it enables officers to achieve desirable ends effectively.
5. Less likely to use force: Higher education enhances the competence of the forces as it cultivates officers who are more problem-oriented. These individuals are less likely to resort to violent means of resolving conflict. Social media highlights the rampant use of such tactics, which further deteriorate the relationship between the public and the police. Higher education trains officers to think critically and use different policing approaches depending on the situation. As a result, these officers are 30 percent less likely to shoot at suspects or citizens while on duty.
The benefits of higher education among law enforcement officers are endless. Educated officers make better professionals as they learn several policing approaches that fit modern contexts. They integrate well with diverse communities, cultivating a healthy relationship between citizens and officers. Moreover, officers willing to advance their education do not need to attend physical classes that clash with their work.
Online programs are available such that officers can learn while obtaining on-the-job skills. The Canadian Association of Police Educators, CAPE, offers a multitude of programs and resources that empower officers with advanced training. As the population is set to increase over the coming years, the country will need more educated officers to serve and protect citizens.
About the Author
Juan Pereira received his education background in Police Foundations from Centennial College. He is a student at Wilfred Laurier University working on his BA in Criminology and Policing he hopes to complete his bachelor’s and to dive into his Master of Public Safety with Wilfred Laurier University. He has seven years experience as a volunteer first responder in various public safety organization. He has also been a volunteer with Police Organizations and Crime Stopper Programs. He also has taken on Youth Coordinator Positions and Youth mentorships with other organizations. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.