How can research knowledge be incorporated into field training?

One area of policing where research knowledge could be incorporated into police practice is during field training. Field training is where officers experience, observe, and apply knowledge and skills that they acquired in the academy to practical tasks. It also is the environment in which their initial impressions about good quality police work are formed, where proactive habits might be developed, and where positive attitudes towards problem-solving and assessment could be inculcated.

Toward these goals, this demonstration focuses on how principles from what we know about effective and fair policing might be incorporated into existing process, forms, and activities in a typical field training environment. Working with existing field training processes in an agency, we focus on four types of adjustments:

1. Revisions to the performance grading sheet that field training officers complete to incorporate more principles from knowledge about policing. For example, grading officers on their geographic orientation (how well they know the streets and buildings in their district) might also include grading officers on how well they know the locations of crime concentrations within their beats (reflecting research on hot spots). Or, officers might be graded on what they say to arrestees rather than only on how they arrest an individual (reflecting research on procedural justice). Another example might be grading officers on what they do in-between calls for service, rather than only how they respond to calls for service.

2. Amendments to actual tasks required of each trainee. For example, traditional “beat checks” can incorporate ideas from hot spots and problem-oriented policing research. Or, lessons on making arrests can also incorporate research notions such as targeting repeat offenders or focused deterrence strategies like pulling levers. When addressing the community, CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design) might be used. Traditional policing tasks might also be combined with engaging the information technology to assist with these tasks in more proactive ways.

3. Developing new activities for trainees to provide opportunities to practice the SARA problem-solving model, or that require tangible actions related to a research finding (like foot patrol in hot spots).

4. Modifications to the overall goals, objectives, written lessons and standard operating procedures that trainees must read during their field training. This may mean including language that reflects evidence-based policing, including proactivity, problem-solving, procedural justice, and intelligence-driven approaches, or including one-page summaries of knowledge about certain types of incidents or police interventions (domestic violence, drug market interventions, field and traffic stops, etc.).