Samantha A. Moul, University of New Haven
Since the turn of the century, the policing profession has seen a shift towards evidence-based practices, in an attempt to integrate empirically validated research into policies, programs, and training (Mays & Ruddell, 2019). In addition, recent high-profile incidents of officer use of force and the officer-involved deaths of several unarmed individuals, particularly Black men, has renewed public and political interest in understanding how law enforcement officers are trained to interact with the communities they serve (Siegel, 2020; President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, 2015). To begin to understand the breadth of law enforcement training, the Bureau of Justice Statistics has routinely gathered data on state and local agency trainings across the country (Reaves, 2012; 2016). The quantity and quality of training that officers receive differs widely from agency to agency, both at the recruit and in-service/veteran levels. In fact, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that state and local academies can vary anywhere from 650 to over 1,000 hours of training (Reaves, 2016). Additionally, the content of that training, in terms of the hours dedicated to various topics and the overall orientation of the academy as a stress-based or non-stress based curriculum, can also vary significantly (Reaves, 2016). While these trainings typically focus disproportionately on physical skills and firearms training, many academics have advocated for a more “soft skills” emphasis that helps improve officer communication skills, empathy, and public health awareness (Antrobus et al., 2019; Csete, 2019).
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