Police Academies Dedicate Only 3.21% of Training to Ethics and Public Service

Police Academies Dedicate Only 3.21% Of Training To Ethics And Public Service A Los Angeles County police graduation ceremony, Aug. 21, 2020 in Monterey Park, Calif. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Police academies provide little training in the kinds of skills necessary to meet officers’ growing public service role, according to my research.

Highly publicized cases of police violence – such as the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri – often raise questions about police training, and whether officers are prepared to do the job that is expected of them.

As a public administration researcher who conducts leadership training for law enforcement supervisors across the country, I set out to investigate what future police officers learn in basic training – specifically, whether they are taught the kind of public service skills that many people expect them to display on the job.

How police are trained

Police officers, like their counterparts in other government agencies, are public servants. Unlike most public servants, however, officers have the legal power to deprive citizens of their freedom in a split-second decision, at their own discretion, possibly while pointing a gun.

Given their extraordinary powers, it would be reasonable to expect that officers are thoroughly trained on the values of public service – especially, how to make ethical and unbiased decisions when dealing with civilians.

My recent study compared state-mandated basic police training curricula across the 50 U.S. states. I found that police recruits in the U.S. spend an average of 633 hours completing the basic academy, a training program that certifies them as licensed police officers.

Of those 633 hours, only 20 hours are dedicated to what is defined in my study as “public administration training” – knowledge and skills that are not law enforcement-specific but rather relevant to all public service professions such as city administrators, educators and social workers. That means 3.21% of the basic academy curricula is dedicated to public administration training.

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

Specifically, I found that the average police recruit in the U.S. receives 5.5 hours of ethics and boundaries training, 7.3 hours of human relations and interpersonal communications training, 6.1 hours of cultural competency training, 5.6 hours of procedural justice training and another 4.3 hours of training on other public service core values, such as effective problem solving and the use of discretionary powers.

The sample size for each topic area was different, as each state’s police training differs.

The remaining 613 hours, on average, focus on tasks and knowledge relevant only to the profession of law enforcement. These topics include, but are not limited to, report writing, driving skills, patrol procedures, defensive tactics, criminal and constitutional law, traffic stops and firearms training.

That means that most U.S. police cadets spend about 20 hours of their entire basic training learning the kind of knowledge and skills that are considered foundational for all other public service professions.

States train police differently

States varied widely in both the length of basic police training and the public service content of their training curricula.

Police Academies Dedicate Only 3.21% Of Training To Ethics And Public Service

Georgia ranks the lowest nationwide in compulsory minimum training hours for police recruits, with only 408 hours compared to the national average of 633 hours. Only 10 of those 408 hours of training are dedicated to public administration, and just one hour of that focuses on ethics.

Rhode Island requires the highest minimum training for its police of any other state: 953 hours. However, the state requires below-average public administration training for future police – 2.3% of its curriculum, or 22 hours.

With 640 compulsory minimum training hours, Oregon is right at the national average for total training time but requires the most extensive public administration training for police recruits: 46.5 hours of Oregon’s curriculum, or 7.26%, are dedicated to teaching public service values, with specific emphasis on human relations and interpersonal communications.

Hawaii is the only U.S. state that does not have any legally required minimum standards for basic police training.

Prepared for battle, not building trust

The data reported in my study shed new light on the misalignment between how police officers are trained to work and what the American public expects of them on the job.

The role of the modern-day police officer has changed. Research on community expectations of police show that the U.S. public expects officers to be honest, respectful – and even to provide emotional comfort when needed.

In other words, the public expects police officers to demonstrate principles of “procedural justice” – a big concept in policing that basically means citizens should have a voice when interacting with police, that officers are transparent and resolve conflicts in a fair and impartial way.

One police training official I interviewed said “most rookies fresh out of the academy” have “no idea” what procedural justice is. They think procedural justice is “about white cops [not] shooting black people.” It is not, he said – it is about “building partnerships with the community [and] about trust.”

Yet police academies still use the traditional, para-military training model that trains officers to be soldiers ready for combat with “the enemy” – not culturally competent public servants ready to engage civilians in difficult dialogues.

Even officers themselves know this is a problem. When I conduct police training, police supervisors often tell me that the first thing they say to a rookie on their first day on the job is “forget everything you learned in the academy, this is real police now.”

These seasoned cops know that the training recruits get in the academy is largely irrelevant to the reality of day-to-day police work. As my study shows, police recruits leave the academy armed with plenty of tactical skills but relatively few communications and cultural competency skills – the skills, veterans of the force know, officers most need to use throughout their day.

Some people in the U.S. may not be happy with the police they have – but they are getting the police they train.

About The Author

Galia Cohen, Assistant Professor, Director of the Division of Public Administration, Tarleton State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


You May Also Like



follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

Marie T. Russell's Daily Inspiration


I Was Born during the late Eastern Han Dynasty...
I Was Born during the late Eastern Han Dynasty...
by Dena Merriam
I was born during the late Eastern Han Dynasty (25 CE-220 CE) into a family of ardent Daoists who…
Healing Otherness: Your Changes, Reflected in Community
Healing Otherness: Your Changes, Reflected in Community
by Stacee L. Reicherzer PhD
Seeking out a community of healing, being exploited in it, perhaps assuming the shame and…
Horoscope Week: June 14 - 20, 2021
Horoscope Current Week: June 14 - 20, 2021
by Pam Younghans
This weekly astrological journal is based on planetary influences, and offers perspectives and…
Being A Better Person
Being A Better Person
by Marie T. Russell
"He makes me want to be a better person." As I reflected on this statement later, I realized that…
Modeling Behavior is the Best Teacher: Respect Must Be Mutual
Modeling Behavior is the Best Teacher: Respect Must Be Mutual
by Carmen Viktoria Gamper
Socially respected behavior is learned behavior and some of it (for instance, table manners) varies…
Separation and Isolation vs. Community and Compassion
Separation and Isolation vs. Community and Compassion
by Lawrence Doochin
When we are in community, we automatically fall into service to those in need because we know them…
The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday
The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday
by Jason Redman
Ambushes don’t just happen in combat. In business and life, an ambush is a catastrophic event that…
A Season for Everything: The Way Our Ancestors Ate
A Season for Everything: The Way Our Ancestors Ate
by Vatsala Sperling
Cultures on every continent around the world have a collective memory of a time when their…


How to Build New Bone... Naturally
How to Build New Bone... Naturally
by Maryon Stewart
Many women assume that when their menopause symptoms stop, they are on safe ground. Sadly, we face…
IRS hitting you with a fine or late fee? Don't fret – a consumer tax advocate says you still have options
by Rita W. Green, Instructor of Accountancy, University of Memphis
Tax Day has come and gone, and you think you filed your return in the nick of time. But several…
How Well Your Immune System Works Can Depend On The Time Of Day
How Well Your Immune System Works Can Depend On The Time Of Day
by Annie Curtis, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences
When microorganisms – such as bacteria or viruses – infect us, our immune system jumps into action.…
A teen reads her phone with a confused look on her face
Why teens have a hard time finding truth online
by Stanford
A new national study shows a woeful inability by high schoolers to detect fake news on the internet.
From deadly enemy to covidiots: Words matter when talking about COVID-19
Words matter when talking about COVID-19
by Ruth Derksen, PhD, Philosophy of Language, Faculty of Applied Science, Emeritus, University of British Columbia
So much has been said and written about the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve been flooded with metaphors,…
Planning the Burial: Anticipating Possible Problems and Blessings
Planning the Burial: Anticipating Possible Problems and Blessings
by Elizabeth Fournier
In addition to the emotional and spiritual aspects of funerals, there are always logistical and…
The mystery of long COVID: up to 1 in 3 people who catch the virus suffer for months. Here's what we know so far
by Vanessa Bryant, Laboratory Head, Immunology Division, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
Most people who get COVID suffer the common symptoms of fever, cough and breathing problems, and…
An Open Letter to the Entire Human Family
An Open Letter to the Entire Human Family
by Ruchira Avatar Adi Da Samraj
This is the moment of truth for humankind. Critical choices must now be made in order to protect…

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.