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The History and Importance of Police Training

The History and Importance of Police Training

Gone are the days of a county sheriff handing his buddy a badge and gun and “Deputizing” him to go out on the street and enforce laws that he/she had never been trained in. In today’s modern law enforcement world, police training is as important as doctors attending medical school or lawyers passing the bar exam.

Without properly trained police officers, our society could not successfully function. Police officers must be trained extensively in federal and state law, evidence handling, prisoner transport, handcuffing, defensive tactics, firearms, driving, customer service and many other areas of law enforcement.


In 1967, the Presidents Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice determined that there was a greater need for the proper training of police officers. It recommended no fewer than 400 hours of instruction and a 12- to 18-month probationary period. It also recommended no fewer than 8 weeks of field training and college education for different levels of police officers.


Police officers need to be trained in professionalism and customer service. The very nature of policing requires officers to interact with the general public, and they should have problem-solving skills, while being polite and professional at the same time.


As each decade passes, college education has increased in the police ranks. Because of the complexity of policing, and the many aspects of it, the more education an officer has, the better he is prepared to deal with matters on the street. Many colleges and universities are offering bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees in criminal justice. August Vollmer, the first police chief of Berkeley, Calif., and considered the father of modern-day policing, first proposed that police officers should be college educated. He established the first school of criminology in 1916. “Vollmer’s emphasis on an educated policeman has been carried forward and expanded under each of the three men who have succeeded him” according to Time magazine.


It has been shown that a link exists between the lack police training and liability. The better training the police have, the lower the risk that an officer will bring down civil or criminal liability upon himself or his police agency. According to Jack Ryan, “If, following this grant of qualified immunity for the individual officer, a court finds that the violation was the result of some policy or training issue; the agency may still be liable”. Matthew McNamara, of Triple Canopy, points out that The United States Supreme Court has ruled that police agencies can be held liable for failure to train, and he states that “Good, clear documentation of training is a must”.


Law enforcement officers often are called upon to protect themselves or others from violence. This sometimes will require an officer to use force against a violent offender. Knowing the amount of force necessary to stop the offenders’ action requires extensive training. Officers are trained to use a variety of weapons, including hand-to-hand combat, pepper spray, Taser, handcuffing techniques and deadly force.

Without proper training in all of these areas, we as officers would be considered nothing more than a rogue gang out on the streets strong arming everyone else. Law enforcement is a profession, and because of training, we are a highly respected profession.

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