The more than 2,000 new reform measures that have passed through state legislatures in the last 12 months have created new demands on officers and their leaders. Paired with this movement towards reform is ever-evolving research into the nature and practice of policing. A common theme in both the reform legislation and research is the need to expand and enhance the scope of law enforcement officers’ duties and capabilities – which requires that officers develop skillsets related to recognizing and responding to mental illness, de-escalating conflict, engendering good community relations, and so much more. Just as these officer responsibilities grow, training must evolve with it to suit changing community needs.

In our previous article, we looked at new training methodologies being implemented to respond to these needs. In this article, we will look at how the more established training framework is growing to meet the challenge of new policing reforms. It is important to note while there are many general similarities, training methods and requirements can vary widely from agency to agency and state to state.


For many (but not all) officers, training begins at the academy. Traditionally these are often bootcamp-style basic training courses not only meant to impart critical skills, but also to enculturate recruits to concepts like chain of command, rank, and an overall organizational style of discipline. Academy training is seen by many to be the first chance departments have to impart a lasting sense of culture and expectation on new recruits that will, ideally, guide them throughout their careers. New officer training costs can be as high as $200,000 so it is critical that initial training be as effective as possible.

For at least the last twenty years and, more recently in response to reform measures, some departments are rethinking the emphasis on the use of bootcamp-style training in their academies.  A recent paper published in Police Chief Magazine suggests that transitioning a portion of the instruction to a more a professionalized “adult-learning” model is worth considering for departments. Some elements of the more intense and traditional style of training are worthwhile and demonstrably effective, such as scenarios designed to induce stress in decision-making, and pushing recruits to the edge of physical limits. Other tactics, like instructors inducing via more aggressive tactics are seen as less effective as they model behavior and a relationship to power that is increasingly seen as counterproductive to the aims of reform measures and good community relations.

Research is providing new evidence as to the effectiveness of a modern style of academy training though. There is also survey data that may confirm that this evidence-based approach is also increasingly aligned with officers’ beliefs about their jobs. According to a 2017 Pew Research Center report, 65% of officers surveyed believe that officers should “show respect, concern, and fairness when they deal with the public”. Training that emphasizes the value of good community relations, especially in initial academy training, is likely to be a key factor in any successful reform effort.

In-Service Training

In-service education is also being thought of in a new light in this era of reform. Much like other elements of police training, reform and a stronger desire for evidence-based training methods is propelling these changes forward. The same Pew Research Center study mentioned above shows that, based on officer responses, that in-service training has typically dealt with tactical or procedural matters – firearms training and certification, nonlethal restraint methods, and other similar training. However, this same study also shows that training designed to expand awareness of mental illness, bias, and general community relations rank just behind these more tactical types of training.

law enforcement training police car

Requirements for new types of training designed to enhance awareness of such issues is a common element of many of the reform measures passed in the previous year. Some of these new requirements are highly targeted in their scope, such as HB162 in Utah which calls specifically for crisis intervention and de-escalation training related to the treatment of subjects experiencing a mental health crisis. Minnesota passed one of the more comprehensive packages of reform legislation that, among many other things, mandates new training to help officers in areas like recognizing individuals with autism and mental health needs. Others, like executive order 2020-11 in New Hampshire call for the establishment of a committee made up of policymakers and law enforcement officials charged with delivering new training recommendations.


The efficacy of higher education in law enforcement training is something that is fairly well-understood in both the academic and agency leadership worlds. It has been shown that officers with higher educational attainment experience fewer sustained misconduct complaints and are less likely to be involved in use-of-force incidents. A higher level of educational experience often positions an officer on a leadership track within their agency. As in many other aspects of law enforcement, new methods of data analysis are complimenting leadership selection processes that were once driven largely by intuition. Aspects like interaction data, job performance, and education level figure prominently in these new methods of analysis that can determine an officer’s advancement.

The Power of Data Management

 Benchmark Analytics is a leader in research-based early intervention and police force management software systems. As reform measures are driving changes to the way training is conceptualized and executed, agencies are relying on comprehensive solutions that manage and make sense of the data they’re collecting. The Benchmark Management System (BMS) provides leaders a comprehensive view of their agencies incorporating training, community engagement, and educational data. These data points – when collected along with many others – create a holistic view of the performance of both individual officers and their agencies.

Using some of the same data streams, First Sign® Early Intervention system (EIS) goes beyond the limitations of a threshold or trigger-based EIS and is, instead, preventative in its design. Using a research-based approach to analyze officer interaction data, First Sign® is designed to spot off-track behavior early on. This empowers agency leaders to guide an officer towards appropriate in-service training or make other educational opportunities available to them to help get them back on track.

Reform Efforts and Law Enforcement Training

Reform measures coupled with new research are driving much of the rapid change officers and agencies are seeing in the scope of their responsibilities. With these changes in approach to policing as a whole comes a change to the systems and methodologies agencies use to train officers. No longer is relying on traditional concepts and tactics alone adequate to train officers for the ways in which they will serve their communities now and in the future. New data and research-driven approaches are placing an increased emphasis on law enforcement training that promotes a culture of respect and fairness, especially when dealing with the public, but also within departments themselves.

Calls for policing reform, the adoption of new law enforcement technologies, and changing community needs all require high standards in officer training and education. Put simply, as citizens and policy makers ask more of law enforcement agencies, additional training and greater education for officers is required. This is nothing new in the world of law enforcement. Since the professionalization of policing nearly 200 years ago, training and ongoing education have been one of the defining features of law enforcement and have generally been a marker of its progression as a profession over the years.

Now two decades into the 21st century, the way law enforcement training is thought of has advanced past simply academy and field training. Mirroring the rest of the country, experience in higher education, whether it is a two- or four-year degree, is increasingly seen as a valuable qualification. This is especially true in law enforcement in which, during any given shift, an officer may be required to draw on skills from the fields of psychology, sociology, social work, criminology, law, and much more. Higher education gives an officer a broader selection of not only tools but experiences to draw on to better equip themselves for this reality.

Looking Back

As explained in detail in a 2020 IACP Leadership Series conversation between Bill Bratton and Benchmark Analytics CEO Ron Huberman, policing in the United States has constantly evolved to better suit the needs of the society it serves. As the country grew in the 19th century and the Industrial Revolution took hold in American cities, a population shift occurred along with a shift from a largely agrarian society to a more industrialized one. Driven by new technology and a changing economy, people sought newly created jobs near urban centers. With many American cities seeing rapid growth, a need for law and order surpassed what volunteer constables and night watchmen could reasonably provide.

These societal changes spurred by the Industrial Revolution occurred on the same scale but earlier in the United Kingdom. Recognizing the need to rethink the role and scope of policing, Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel, now widely thought of as the father of modern policing, established the Metropolitan Police Force in London in 1829. Most notably, this moved policing away from informal, volunteer units to a trained and professional force. These ideas spread quickly to the United States and in the following years with most major cities professionalizing their departments in the next two decades.

Reform as a Constant

“The Reform Era” of policing is generally thought to have started in the 1930s when both internal and external factors led to another major shift in how departments functioned. The Evolving Strategy of Policing, a landmark study jointly published by Harvard University and several federal law enforcement agencies, describes this era as when police departments became “law enforcement agencies” — in that the training, services, and operational scope once again moved further towards uniform standards. This era continued through the 1970s. During this time, things like emergency medical transport and social services, once provided in one way or another by police departments, were delegated to more specialized professionals (EMTs, social workers). Advances in technology, most notably 911 dispatch, changed not only the public perception of police capabilities, but also the demands on officers and their departments.

From the 1980s onward, efforts have been made to develop a more holistic view of crime and how policing addresses it. CompStat brought in a new, analytical frame for viewing and responding to statistics, and researchers used this new wealth of data to understand policing on a more rigorous academic level than had even been pursued before. With the events of September 11, policing once again shifted from a predominantly community-based focus to one incorporating international intelligence-sharing and data gathering.

A Culture of Self-Improvement

What these leaps forward in policing scope, technology, and philosophy all have in common is that they involve greater demands placed on the officers, leaders, and departments charged with enacting them. At the intersection of all of this is an emerging consensus on the benefits for formal education among officers. Additionally, police officers – like social workers and medical professionals – also have a long history of continuing education and training requirements that reflect the profession’s commitment to continual self-improvement. Education and Law Enforcement

Beyond simply upholding a tradition of ongoing education and training there is an increasing body of evidence that shows higher educational attainment produces all manner of positive outcomes for police officers, their departments, and, most importantly, the communities they serve. Research over the last two decades, compiled in an article appearing in the October 2020 issue of Police Chief published by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), has shown that a correlation exists between officers with two- or four-year degrees and “…avoidance of situations that have recently brought so much public criticism of policing, such as the use of force, miscommunication, and accountability”. Further studies add to the body of evidence that officers tend to receive fewer citizen complaints overall, fewer policy violations, and are less likely to be involved with “severe or career-ending” misconduct.

On the more subjective side, it is well-understood higher education plays an important role in exposing students to points of view and experiences unlike their own. It has long been held in the world of higher education that this exposure to different ideas plays a vital role in increasing one’s ability to empathize as well (more on this in a future article). Furthermore, college or university experience is generally thought to improve the critical thinking skills of those who have completed even some curriculum. Studies show as many as 92% of students at large intuitions reporting they’ve made some gains in critical thinking which, in turn, is linked with “higher levels of self-control, analytical thinking, and reduced impulsivity”.

As demands on law enforcement continue to be a part of an ongoing evolution reflecting the changing needs of the communities they serve, officers with a broad scope of knowledge derived from formal educational experience will likely find themselves better positioned to manage these expectations. In conjunction with tactical, hands-on training as well as new approaches to community relations, higher educational attainment has been shown to generally improve law enforcement interactions and outcomes. Though the job of policing has changed dramatically since its professionalization, the need for more rigorous training and higher educational standards is certain to remain a constant.

Look for our next article focusing on new training methodologies focusing on interpersonal relationships and de-escalation.


Computer-based training can be traced back to the mini-computer and mainframe of the 1960s and ‘70s. It was the first-time training was conducted without having to rely on printed worksheets or face-to-face instruction, and instead, employees logged into shared terminals to access training materials. It was 1998 when we experienced the first generation of online instruction.

(Source: eLearning Industry

Curated Content as a Service

Today, many organizations deliver online instruction through training platforms, which are online tools that provide training administrators and employees access to information and resources that support training delivery and management. However, not all training platforms are the same, and there are pitfalls to having a legacy platform in place.

What is a legacy training platform?

Legacy training platforms refer to software applications that rely on old methods and have become outdated, such as traditional Content-as-a-Service (CaaS).

Traditional CaaS software provides a content repository, such as a collection of videos, research papers and PowerPoints, to be accessed by organizations for training and professional development needs. While having content in one place is certainly beneficial, there are disadvantages to having this type of legacy system within your organization. Legacy System

For example, some organizations purchase off-the-shelf training that is designed for a mass-market audience versus a specific organization’s need. The traditional CaaS will store the off-the-shelf training, but it lacks the capability to distinguish what training is relevant to your organization’s specific needs. Additionally, protocols and industry standards constantly change, and traditional systems aren’t wired to update courses and content that would be considered outdated or obsolete.

It can also be difficult for training administrators to get to the content they want within the traditional CaaS platform because they’re spending time filtering through unneeded training. In the end, organizations may have learning content that they do not utilize or worse, is not relevant to their current needs.

What is Curated Content-as a-Service?

Engagement is critical when training your employees. According to HR Daily Advisor, “When learners are provided access to personalized, curated learning content that is applicable to their current roles and career trajectories, they will constantly search for opportunities to exhibit the skills they’re learning at work because they’ll be relevant. And when they optimize their performance and see how their learning paths are helping them achieve their goals and move forward in their career trajectories, they’ll be more engaged at work.”

Curated Content as a Service

At Benchmark, we understand that the most successful LMS outcomes is research-driven, evidenced-based eLearning content. Equally important, the most effective LMS is one that engages your employees in a way that inspires them, elevates their skills and improves their performance in meaningful, measurable ways. Which is why our LMS strategy employs Curated Content-as-a-Service™ (C-CaaS) as our differentiating, breakthrough process for enabling 21st century workforce skills in the workplace.

We’ve adapted the 21st Century Workforce Skills model to serve as a roadmap for partnering with public sector entities to create a thoughtful, curated content plan that will elevate your employee skill sets – and measurably improve performance levels ­– to better meet the needs and goals of your agency.

Here’s how the process works:

  • Meet and Assess
    Meet to understand and assess your current training program and compliance needs — as well as the level of workforce skills.
  • Establish Objectives
    Set eLearning objectives to comply with your training guidelines and address specific areas in need of improvement.
  • Curate Content
    Assign a Benchmark C-CaaS team of research-driven content curators to identify and deploy content that meets your objectives — accessing our robust library of eLearning offerings.
  • Configure and Implement
    Collaborate with your employee development team to configure and implement our LMS platform to meet your unique needs.
  • Evaluate and Evolve
    Evaluate your LMS content regularly to track performance, obtain feedback and make informed adjustments to evolve and advance your offerings.

Our LMS was built specifically with public sector agencies in mind. The Benchmark eLearning team includes thought leaders with years of experience in government operations, policymaking, education, professional development and eLearning proficiency.

Their expertise includes research and data analytics, software architecture and design, research-based content curation — along with highly skilled platform configuration, implementation and customer support.

To learn more, visit our Benchmark eLearning Differentiator: Curated Content-as-a-Service™ page at

More than ever before, public safety and other local government agencies – including state, county and all municipalities therein – face a host of challenges within their respective communities.  Creative thinking and discovering new ways to problem solve are critical at this time — as is identifying the most effective means for communication and collaboration between colleagues.

21st Century SkillsWith that said, it is essential for today’s public sector workforces to be equipped with 21st century skills that allow them to be successful in complex work environments . . . while executing daily operations. These skills include:

  • Critical Thinking: The ability to observe, analyze, problem-solve, and make decisions.
  • Creative Thinking: The ability to organize, see what’s not there, and problem-solve in an open-minded, stimulating environment.
  • Collaboration: The ability to work effectively with others, compromise, and delegate.
  • Communication: The ability to share ideas in different formats, both oral and written, as well as actively listening and engage with one another.
  • Information Literacy: The ability to identify, find, evaluate, and use information effectively.
  • Media Literacy: The ability to identify and utilize different types of media — and understand the messages shared.
  • Technology Literacy: The ability to use and understand technology to access, integrate, create and communicate information.
  • Flexibility: The ability to adapt to change, as well as the willingness and ability to respond to changing circumstances.
  • Initiative: The ability to think individually and innovatively, develop and implement something new, unique or improved . . . and make incremental, bold changes to improve processes.
  • Social Skills: The ability to listen, cooperate, and have empathy for others.
  • Productivity: The ability to problem-solve, manage time, handle stress, and make solid, actionable decisions.
  • Leadership: The ability to think strategically, manage people, initiate change —and plan and deliver on proposed activities and projects.


How Do We Advance 21st Century Skills in the Public Sector Workforce?

We are two decades into the century so the concept of  “21st century skills“ is not a new one, and some may assume that today’s workforce has embraced these skills. Yet, research shows that, for many, 21st century skills are still lagging. According to an American Management Association Critical Skills Survey, 51.4 percent of survey respondents said employees had average communication skills — and 46.9 percent stated employees had average skills in creativity. Additionally, in a report by the Stanford History Education Group, individuals in the study demonstrated a lack of literacy skills and had a hard time distinguishing advertisements from news articles . . . or identifying where information came from.

As community leaders, public safety and other local agencies must all take action to continue building these skills. This is not a lofty aspiration.

21st Century WorkforceWith the right tools and plans in place, organizations can provide the training and courses to build their current workforce. Public safety agencies and municipalities can begin by utilizing technology, such as an effective learning management system (LMS), to turbo-charge the learning experience. The Journal stated a 21st century LMS should have an intuitive interface, collaboration tools that go beyond standard teacher-learner communication, analytics and reporting dashboards — and the capacity to structure learning for and individuals, as well as for an entire organization.

Additionally, an effective LMS can provide courses that build specific 21st century skills. A few examples include:

  • Courses that are collaborative and measure success by department or unit results build collaboration skills.
  • Courses that promote cross-cultural understanding build social skills.
  • Courses that provide opportunities for learners to lead, implement and delegate develop leadership skills.

The entire public sector workforce can develop 21st century skills by establishing mentoring programs where individuals collaborate, share knowledge — and communicate both in-person and through written formats. The Alliance for Innovation also suggests organizations can create career development programs, utilizing features in the LMS, where employees move in various directions – gaining essentials skills to keep pace in today’s workplace.

The Benefits Are Clear. 

The benefits of developing your workforce goes far beyond day-to-day operations. By advancing 21st century skills, employees are increasing their capabilities to manage their responsibilities efficiently and effectively — and employers are strengthening their internal groups to develop, grow and lead the organization.21st Century Public Sector Skills

If you are ready to learn more about tools that can help your organization build 21st century skills, take a look at our blog post “The Benefits of a Learning Management System for Today’s Public-Sector Organizations.”

A robust learning management system (LMS) software can make a big impact on an organization’s training and professional development strategy. Case in point: e-learning can increase learning retention rates by 25 to 60 percent (TechJury), vs. 8 to 10 percent with face-to-face training.

So what exactly is a robust LMS?
A comprehensive, top-to-bottom software application that can administer, manage, track and deliver training and learning effectively across an entire organization. It’s software that provides easy ways for administrators to deliver content, as well as easy ways for your workforce to access the information, participate in threaded discussions, and complete courses. These systems built specifically for advancing learning can also be used to host compliance training, as well as generate required reports and certifications.

Public safety, in fact all municipal government sectors that utilize an LMS, can make a huge impact on the way their employees learn and experience professional development. Here are some fundamental things to keep in mind when considering an LMS software for your organization:

1. One size does not fit all.
The unique needs of public safety and municipal agencies are important considerations when it comes to selecting the right training platform partner. Not all systems are alike and can vary in their ability to meet the personalized needs and engagement criteria you’ve set for your team.

Learning Management System, One Size Does Not Fit AllFor instance, an LMS allows organizations to upload all their training content, multimedia, PowerPoints, and much more into a secure platform that allows them to assign training by person, job role, department, unit, or location — all depending on their unique training needs.

According to eLearning Industry, with the right LMS environment, employees feel empowered to interact and engage within the software platform, learn at their own pace, and participate in each step of every course/training session. If an individual prefers team-based learning, they can go through a collaborative training plan with their peers.

2. Enhanced tracking.
For organizations that provide training for multiple employees, it can be difficult to track learner progress and engagement, as well as course completion dates. With a robust LMS software, organizations can easily manage employee training schedules, track learning and professional development activities, and access certifications required for compliance.

Being able to track when individuals finish courses or training segments provides organizations the information they need to move employees along the learning path — whether to continue to develop their skills in current courses or move onto the next online learning activity. It can also inform when the last training was taken, and what must be retaken, to ensure employees’ skills and knowledge are up to date. Additionally, if leadership sees that an employee hasn’t successfully completed courses, they can connect with the employee and collaborate to create a training plan that leads to growth and success.

For public safety agencies specifically, tracking training activities is crucial for managing certifications to meet mandatory compliance. With an effective LMS in place, there is instant insight and visibility into your workforce’s compliance activity through tracking and dashboarding functionalities.

3. Easy access to information.
LMS software provides training administrators and end-users easy access to information, whether it be generating custom reports or access to specific courses. Reports can outline learner progress, as well provide updates on completion of courses and certifications.

Learning Management System Access to InformationGaining access to metrics around course completion and course abandonment allows administrators to evaluate if the content being delivered is serving its purpose by meeting the needs of their organization. It also helps training leaders develop next steps for the organization — whether it be adding new materials and resources or assigning a new version of content for compliance purposes.

The benefits of a robust Learning Management System are real and compelling — which is why so many organizations across the U.S. utilize them. If you are ready to adopt an LMS, or are looking to switch to one built for your public-sector organization, visit to learn more.

You can think about officer performance evaluation from three different, though equally important, perspectives. First, an officer’s performance is evaluated by field training officers (FTOs) based on how well they apply academy techniques to real-world scenarios as new recruits.

Continue reading “What Data to Consider when Evaluating a New Officer’s Performance”

A police department is essentially a small community. Departments are predisposed to sharing ideas, norms, attitudes, ethics, and values. Some may value proactivity and arrests, while other departments may value community action and non-enforcement contacts.

Continue reading “How Field Training Officers Influence Police Department Culture”

You’ve heard the saying, “Those who can’t do, teach.” That might be true for an aspiring actor turned high school drama instructor, but when it comes to field training officers (FTOs), it’s typically an agency’s top performers who are chosen to teach your department’s recruits.

Most FTOs will tell you that field training is one of the toughest assignments in an officer’s career. The role comes with four dimensions of accountability: your agency, your trainee, your community, and yourself. This multi-level accountability is why removing friction and adding automation to your FTO’s toolkit is essential.

Human error can be an inevitable part of policing, but acknowledging its potential is different from accepting it. In fact, up until recently, departments distributed and tracked recruit training with a pen, paper, and binders containing an entire forest’s worth of material. The inefficiencies of this outdated system only added to the stress of training a recruit.

The Two (Not So Great) Use-Cases for Paper Daily Observation Reports

mountain-paper-reportsA key component to field training is the Daily Observation Report. These reports track the evolution of a new recruit to full-time officer. As your agency transitions to more digital systems, the DOR becomes an essential data-point in understanding the effectiveness of your training (e.g., identifying gaps in the curriculum), and the career trajectory of your officers.

The typical DOR consists of four elements:

  • Assessment
  • Narrative
  • Training Tasks
  • End of Day Summary

When you capture this information on paper and file it away, you are essentially discarding any potential insight.

Best case scenario, those files live out the rest of their days in a beige cabinet. Worst case scenario, your agency scrambles to find records to either support or dispute claims related to an officer’s training history.

Outside of capturing those four elements, what else should your FTO software do?

Be Digital: Either On-Premise or in the Cloud

There are two approaches to implementing a new type of software. You can either choose to host it yourself on-premise (meaning your agency probably has an IT team with its server resources) or decide to use software living in the cloud.

police-field-training-digitalIf you’re reading this post, you’re likely familiar with The Cloud, or at least have used technology hosted in it. It’s a fluffy name for data or software that’s stored and used through someone else’s servers.

Regardless of your preference, it’s essential to digitize your DORs. This allows you to leverage the many advantages of software — functions like collaboration, reporting, automation, and integrating your other technologies like CAD and RMS.

Go Beyond Field Training

Field training is only the beginning of an officer’s (hopefully) long career. FTO’s understand that every officer they instruct becomes part of their legacy. The principles they instill will inform every subsequent in-service activity that recruit performs as an LEO.

A beneficial FTO solution will extend to integrate with your in-service training platform. This allows you to understand an officer holistically, without losing signals in the noise of re-certification and other procedural necessities. It also helps you detect patterns in long-term outcomes of your FTO program. This can be useful in recognizing exceptional trainers and preventing FTO burnout.

Configure to Your Agency’s Training Requirements

Finally, FTO software should align with your department’s particular needs. Law enforcement is a fluid, ever-changing profession, with new laws, regulations, and technology emerging yearly (California, New Jersey, and other states are currently wrestling with new mandates that will fundamentally change the systems and processes that departments in these states had in place).

Trying to manage all these changes with paper-based or cobbled-together solutions could lead to compliance violations, or worse. Training is a pillar of policing, and field training is the foundation of that pillar. A single crack can spread to imperil the whole structure. police-officer-cpr-training

Your FTO software should configure to support the following:

  • Your agency’s Assessment Categories
  • Your agency’s Evaluation Scale and Rubric
  • Your agency’s training activities
  • Your compliance or standards guidelines (e.g., CALEA or POST)
  • Your agency’s certification requirements (e.g., CPR or emerging technology like TASERs)

Beyond that, it should be easy for your FTO to input their assessment, narrative, and End-of-Day summary while allowing for other FTOs to review and collaborate on these reports. This ensures that recruits experience consistent training without having to fill in the blanks on their own.

You know that your FTOs are some of the best your department has to offer. However, the complex nature of today’s policing environment, in addition to the workload strain resulting from fewer recruits, means investing in FTO software that frees your trainers to focus on turning recruits into outstanding public servants and spending less time dealing with paper.