It is time for a National College of Policing
We expect a certain level of education and professionalism from physicians. We expect them to be well educated, well-spoken, and most importantly, able to help us with our health. When they don’t adhere to those expectations, we have significant recourse with their governing bodies, the various Colleges of Physicians around the world.
Lawyers need to have an undergrad degree and a degree in law to practice. Chartered Accountants go to school for years, as do engineers. Social workers, teachers, nurses, hairdressers, interior designers and many others have to complete lengthy programs before they are certified. Even those apprenticing in trades have stringent requirements! By way of example, in Ontario, Canada,
Apprenticeship programs can range from two to five years in length and generally require three levels (Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3) of in-school training during this period of time:
· Each level of in-school (classroom) training is generally 8 weeks in length if taken full-time. (Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, 2011)
In Ontario, Canada
For many years under the Police Services Act of Ontario,
police officers only required four years of secondary education (some services have added two years post-secondary),
be physically and mentally capable of performing the duties and,
be of good moral character and habits. (s43 Police Service Act of Ontario RSO 1990)
This was corrected in 2019 with section 83 of the Comprehensive Police Services Act. The education component was amended to include university degree, college diploma or an equivalent certificate. Further changes were made to include completing training in deescalation, human rights, systemic racism, and respect for diversity and First Nation, Inuit and Metis people.
While these measures are laudable, the issue I have for some post-secondary education would be its relevancy to policing and making policing better.
Following hiring, police officers must attend the Ontario Police College for 13 weeks. Following that, most new officers are with a coach officer for at least two months, though that does vary from service to service.
In other countries, training standards fluctuate widely. While searching for a topic for my MBA dissertation, I briefly investigated the idea of writing about police training. The initial research revealed a striking disparity in the levels of training around the world to “qualify” an individual as a police officer. For instance, in some European countries, training is done in blocks of 3-6 months and takes as long as three years, incorporating a combination of classroom and apprentice-like training on the road.
At the other end of the spectrum is a program (that will remain nameless) that promises to churn out functional police officers in as little as six weeks. The program only accepts those with university degrees. Everything else falls in between with varying lengths of classroom and apprenticed or coached periods of months or years.
But, can policing be called a “profession”?
If you ask most serving or veteran officers, they would most likely say “yes”. I know I certainly felt so when I wore the uniform after all, police put in thousands of hours working. But as a former police trainer, I can say, that the level of training for professional designation is not there…not with any consistency. There is constant pressure to get officers back on the road, to shorten training to just meeting standards and in times of fiscal restraint, to reduce training budgets. Yes, some agencies encourage officers to take extra courses and even offer bursaries, but many don’t take advantage for a variety of reasons. There are also courses offered at the provincial and federal training schools, but those courses are not open to all and competition for entry is fierce and is usually only granted following transfer or promotion.
I am struck by an incongruity. We demand that the individual who fixes our plumbing, hooks up our lights, and fixes our car has passed a rigorous apprenticeship. But, the individual to whom we have granted the ability to investigate us, apprehend us, suspend our rights, and to whom we have given the right to use force to perform these tasks has to accomplish far less by comparison.
I can hear some saying, “Oh, but the Basic Constable course was intense!” Yes, it certainly seemed so, but in hindsight, it wasn’t enough. I have seen first-hand the positive effect of advanced education during mental health crisis calls where officers who had far less experience than veteran officers but who held degrees in social work, and used that education to mitigate some very dangerous and potentially volatile situations. Their increased understanding and capability were directly related to their success. These examples alone convinced me of the need for far more education related to mental health for police.
In Ontario, the government has raised the bar for hiring to include post-secondary education but, is not enough? Just think of the positive results that if you were to include other professional level training in a myriad of other disciplines given by an accredited institution over the length of a dedicated policing degree program!
I think that the community has every right to expect this level of education from their police services. In fact, they have every right to demand more.
This is where a College of Policing comes in.
Part One of this series is available HERE
Part Three - The College of Policing can be found HERE.
Happy Canada Day!
Works Cited in the Series
Gibson, V., 2020. iPolitics. [Online] Available at: https://ipolitics.ca/2020/06/11/ford-acknowledges-systemic-racism-in-police-argues-driving-efficiencies-different-from-cuts-to-police-budgets/ [Accessed 22 06 2020].
Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, 2011. Ministry of Colleges and Universities. [Online] Available at: http://tcu.gov.on.ca/eng/eopg/publications/OALCF_GPD_Apprenticeship_Oct_11.pdf [Accessed 22 06 2020].
Peel, S. R., 1829. A Bill Intituled - An Act for improving the Police in and near the Metropolis. London: s.n.
Ross, N., 2019. Society for Evidence Based Polcing Winter Conference 2019. London, England, Society for Evidence Based Policing.
Sherman, L., 2020. Heroes and Heartaches: Evidence-Based Policing of Rogue Cops. London, Society of Evidence Based Policing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bO1HuXsccGQ.
Slaughter, G., 2020. CTV News. [Online] Available at: https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/lucki-acknowledges-systemic-racism-in-rcmp-1.4982165 [Accessed 22 06 2020].
Smith, R., 2020. LinkedIn. [Online] Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6673630949739110401/ [Accessed 22 06 2020].
Tulloch, J. M., 2017. Report of the Independent Police Oversight Review, s.l.: Queens Printer for Ontario.
Ward, R., 2020. CBC News. [Online] Available at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/alberta-police-chiefs-systemic-racism-1.5610353 [Accessed 22 06 2020].