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Management Training for Police Supervisors.

A Cost-effective Approach

Deriving the greatest productivity from their officers has become the primary challenge of today's law enforcement leaders. Agencies invest a considerable sum of money in each recruit before they even complete the police academy. In one department, an agency's initial cost to recruit, test, select, conduct physical and psychological examinations, and complete an in-depth background investigation exceeds $3,500 per applicant. [1] By the time the applicant has completed the traditional 4 to 6 months in the training academy, the agency will invest another $15,000 to $25,000 in training costs and officer compensation. [2]

Each state requires entry-level police training or certification as a condition of continued employment. Yet, this certification of basic law enforcement skills for entry-level officers has not progressed to mid- and senior-level training to support the needs of the law enforcement community. Many law enforcement agencies simply do not make management training a priority. In fact, many administrators believe that training at the police academy level remains sufficient for the agency workforce and that a formal system of continuing education and training for sworn officers is unnecessary or too expensive. For many of these agencies, training costs become a second or third priority to the more immediate needs of salaries, overtime costs, patrol vehicles, and fixed operating expenses. As a result, sworn officers seldom receive a systematic program of instruction in law enforcement education that will provide the leadership, supervisory, and management training necessary for effective police operations. This res ults in the inefficient and unproductive use of one of an agency's most valuable and expensive resources--the patrol officer. Without effective supervision and competent leadership, the trained and certified patrol officer becomes increasingly disillusioned and disaffected. Thus, law enforcement agencies have a significant interest in maximizing the patrol officer's day-to-day efforts by providing effective mid-level management.

Fortunately, during the past decade, some senior law enforcement officials have recognized a critical need for mid-level management training. While some departments traditionally have focused their programs on developing the skills of the chief or senior staff officers, other agencies recently have addressed the professional development of mid-level supervisors. In response, several well-recognized law enforcement training institutions have developed courses of instruction for mid-level managers. These courses focus on the practical aspects of police administration (e.g., decision making, problem solving and analysis, and budget formulation).

However, the tuition costs of $3,000 to $5,000 per attendee can impede agencies from sending supervisory officers to such courses. Only the most generously funded agencies can afford to enroll their entire command structure of sergeants and lieutenants. The continuing conflict of providing quality training and affording the costs associated with such a long-term endeavor has prompted other organizations and educational institutions to offer alternative courses.

Offering a low-cost instruction program presents one of the most important challenges in law enforcement management training. This training must prepare officers for a leadership position within the agency, while requiring the least amount of time away from their supervisory duties. This requirement is true particularly in the small- to medium-sized agencies that represent the foundation of law enforcement. Very few of these agencies can afford the training cost of $3,000 to $5,000 per officer. Additionally, many agencies cannot operate without one of their key employees for 10 to 12 weeks while they receive training. The Alabama Department of Public Safety (DPS) recognized this need and responded accordingly.


Alabama occupies approximately 50,000 square miles and has a population of 4.2 million. Most of the police and sheriff departments in Alabama are small to medium in size. Of the state law enforcement agencies, the Alabama DPS employs the most officers--700 state troopers--and provides state law enforcement services, such as highway patrol and motor carrier enforcement, as well as related police support services.

In 1998, DPS encountered serious budgetary shortfalls, a lack of experienced command staff, a new and more streamlined operational structure, and a transition to a newly elected administration. As a result, DPS needed to develop a cost-efficient management program for their officers. In addition, Alabama law enforcement officers wanted to provide their small- to medium-sized law enforcement agencies with a low-cost, mid-level, management training course but did not have the funding to start a program.

After determining the need, the Alabama DPS began planning a training program for its officers. [3] Extensive research identified several important steps in the planning process.

Planning the Program

One of the first steps in planning the program included analyzing the areas of training and instruction that other institutions used in their curriculums. First, the program coordinator analyzed the training curriculums other institutions used. Every curriculum covered leadership (theory and values), operational management (personnel issues, budgets, training), and critical incidents (crisis management). DPS structured the management course around the most commonly accepted programs of instruction and designed a three-phase course centered on these areas.

Second, DPS determined the appropriate amount of training and identified a target audience. The department focused on sergeants as the program's intended audience because under DPS rank structure, the sergeant is the second-echelon supervisor and, in many instances, serves as a mid-level manager. Additionally, the department took several issues into consideration when determining how much training to devote to the course--the state code requirement of a 40-hour workweek, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, and the critical lack of supervisory personnel throughout the department. The program could not interfere with existing supervisory work or case management, yet it had to provide a sound basis of professional instruction. Therefore, DPS decided to use a modular concept of three blocks of instruction conducted during 32 hours of classroom instruction per week. Classes begin at noon on Monday and end at noon on Friday. DPS resolved another issue--appropriate class size--by limiting classes to 25 students per class.

Next, the department had to choose a textbook. DPS reviewed several nationally recognized texts and chose one for the entire course. Using one text provided a general framework for the students and addressed the department's economic constraints as well. The department used the academy's operating funds to pay for the textbook. Each student received the book and the course outline approximately 3 weeks prior to beginning the course. Each student had to complete reading assignments for the course's entire first segment prior to the first day of class. Instructors supplemented their blocks of instruction with additional handout material and notes.

Selecting instructors for the course presented one of the department's most difficult challenges. Originally, the program coordinator planned to have supervisory personnel with a college degree--of the rank of sergeant or higher--to serve as instructors, particularly individuals who had completed the FBI National Academy (NA). But, in 1998, only a few NA graduates remained in the department. The program coordinator prepared and sent a survey to each captain, lieutenant, and sergeant in the department to locate qualified instructors. From the survey, DPS determined the number of personnel who held a college degree or had completed a management course. Next, the program coordinator recruited qualified instructors and matched their individual skills to course topics. Three committee chiefs, one for each major topic of instruction, selected a primary and an alternate instructor for each block of instruction and developed supporting lesson plans for each topic. The committee chiefs also selected a list of courses or schools to help instructors obtain professional competency and qualify for their particular areas of instruction. Finally, because the program required that each instructor hold a valid Method of Instruction certificate from a recognized training institute, DPS worked with the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission (POSTC), the state's licensing commission for law enforcement officers, to develop and implement a formal method of instruction training course.

As the department developed the course, it requested that POSTC fund part of the training for instructor development. They sent a formal request to POSTC commissioners, the seven-member panel that oversees the operation of the state agency, for $15,000 to pay for instructor development. POSTC appropriated the money, contingent upon DPS's agreeing to offer the course to supervisors from other law enforcement agencies. As a result, the department now trains officers from city and county agencies throughout Alabama.

Analyzing the Results

DPS identified several valuable purposes of the training program. First, the economical use of resources provided several benefits. The program costs less than $500 per student, which reflects room and board costs for a 3-week period. Living in dorms at the training academy eliminates a long commute for students who attend from agencies around the state. DPS assumes the actual cost for instructors and facilities as part of its operating expenses.

The department did not experience any long-term loss of key personnel because the training program lasted only 3 weeks. Student-officers suffer minimal disruption of their work or family lives by staying at the DPS academy for 5 days and 4 nights per segment. Additionally, because the course follows a modular mode, if student-officers miss a segment, they can enroll in a subsequent class to complete the required instruction.

Second, attending officers receive standard training. They use a nationally recognized police administration textbook and receive training from qualified, college-graduate instructors. This uniformity of text and classroom instruction theoretically should result in the development of a common doctrine for police administration and operations within the state.

Finally, the program encourages professional growth within the agency. The use of department instructors required that DPS develop at least one primary and one alternate instructor to serve as subject-matter experts in their designated training areas. DPS will direct future training funds to develop qualified individuals to teach the management course. In the future, DPS officers who have attended a senior management course will assist the instructional staff.

The Alabama POSTC adopted this program recently as a standard course of instruction for Alabama police supervisors. The program satisfies the educational and instructional needs of the department's sergeants and lieutenants without disrupting the department's current operations. Law enforcement agencies in metropolitan or regional areas can adapt this curriculum, with appropriate modifications for state law and procedure, to train supervisors from several agencies. An agency's training academy or a community college can absorb overhead costs to administer the program, with each attending officer paying a proportional share of the administrative costs (approximately $25 per day).


The development of the DPS Management Course has become an important first step in the professional development of Alabama law enforcement supervisors. The course has laid a foundation for leadership training and the development of more advanced training courses. Although the DPS course provides an essential foundation in management training, it does not equal the training courses at nationally recognized institutions nor did DPS intend the program as a substitute for a formal 10- or 12-week training course. However, the 3-week course represents an important first step in providing a statewide, inexpensive, and cost-efficient management training program to Alabama law enforcement supervisors.

Additionally, and perhaps more important, other agencies can model and adopt the program, as well. Training in leadership, supervision, and management does not come without costs, but the alternative-- inefficient use of police resources--is much more expensive. By making mid-level management training a priority, law enforcement agencies will provide their officers with the leadership and supervisory skills necessary for effective police operations in their communities.

Formerly a lieutenant with the Alabama Department of Public Safety, Mr. Mahaney developed the department's management training program. He now serves as a legal instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia.


(1.) The author based these figures on his experience hiring officers for the Alabama Department of Public Safety.

(2.) Ibid.

(3.) The author served as the project officer and coordinator of the Alabama Department of Public Safety's "DPS Management Course." He designed a cost-efficient management program to satisfy the educational and instructional needs of the department's mid-level management. To meet this objective, the author thoroughly researched courses osffered by other institutions and organizations.

Department of Public Safety Management Program Course Syllabus

Segment 1

* Registration/Welcome

* Pretest

* Organization Theory

* Leadership Principles

* Management of Police Organizations

* Organizational Goals

* Media Relations

* Problem Solving/ Decision Making

* Time Management

* Stress Management

* Ethics and Integrity

* Test

* Effective Communications

Segment 2

* Yearly Operational Budget/ Fiscal Management

* Hiring Process

* Training Process

* Measuring Productivity

* Employee Evaluations

* Police Discipline

* Special Problems in Personnel Issues

* Legal Aspects of Discipline and Termination

* Public Relations and Public Interaction

* Motivation--Theory and Practice

* Test

* Effective Public Speaking

Segment 3

* Laws of Public Order

* Civil Liability

* Use of Force and Escalation Principles

* Contingency Planning

* Tactical Operations

* Exercise (table top)

* Intelligence Preparation

* Logistical Support for Operations

* Communications and Reporting

* Psychological Aspects of Critical Incident

* Critical Incident Debriefing

* Review of Critical Incident

* Final Exam

* End of Course Critique

* Graduation
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Article Details
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Author:Mahaney, Patrick
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2000
Previous Article:Officers' Perceptual Shorthand.
Next Article:NCIC 2000.

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