Defining Policing 's Training & Education Challenge...Some Ideas On Achieving High Levels of Professionalism

Today, the term “education” has become almost meaningless. People speak of a “high school education.” They assume any college will automatically “provide an education.”  (Lind & S, 1985) Virtually any sort of instruction is assumed to have “educational value.” But education is more than the learning of skills or the acquisition of facts. It includes acquiring a broad understanding of one’s culture, its development and the principles upon which it is founded. Education develops the ability to put immediate situations into a larger context built of history, philosophy, and an understanding of the nature of man. Inherent in education is the ability to think logically, to approach problem solving methodically, but without a predetermined set of solutions. Although more specifically focused, police education requires much the same process of development.

Thoroughly grounded in the art of policing - the officers “culture” - an educated officer must understand the guiding concepts of his profession, why they are held to be true, and how they evolved. He must be able to put whatever situation he faces into a larger context of community history, theory, and men’s behavior in stressful and emotional situations. The development of an ability to think logically, under the stress of conflict and violence, must always be a fundamental objective of police education. This requires values based programs of instruction.

Principles or Values based programs of instruction is an evolving or ongoing update centered on key principles the organization deems imperative as enduring, while every day operations, or short term plans continually change processes and approaches to tasks. When translated to education curriculum this means that the teacher continually evolves how they will teach their officers to think or work within the principles or key terms. A lesson plan under this approach is no more than an outline, with a listed objective or objective listed more as an aiming point, than a hard fast-required task.

Training v Education

"Training is for the known; education helps us prepare for the unknown."


Education, provides knowledge and explains the importance, improves understanding, fosters ingenuity and adaptability while teaching us how to recognize the right things.

Training, provides skills, instills confidence, improves methods, fosters expertise and proficiency and, teaches how to do things better.

 There is a tendency in policing to confuse how well we do something with how much it contributes to a solution. Training and education are not synonyms, however. The essential skills for working in crisis conditions are countless but relatively easily taught and learned. The knowledge and understanding of what is unfolding are far more complex and require an understanding of the factors and influences involved and how they interact.

By contrast, no equivalent exists anywhere for law enforcement. Only through self-study do law enforcement officers— new ones and senior leaders alike— build a systematized internal framework of professional knowledge, and thereby leverage others’ mistakes to build tactical savvy. Law enforcement and military leaders both face life and death responsibilities . . . they should also share structures for learning.

Next couple of posts we will explore the training and education more deeply so we have a better understanding of their distinct differences and how they connect to make us more professional.

Stay Oriented!