Skills for keeping the peace in the 21st century
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
In my 30-year law enforcement career, I’ve seen how changes in our culture and changes in crime have affected the types of skills a police officer needs and the training required to build those skills.
I can remember a day when many officers were selected on the basis of muscle. Back in that day, if you were big and could physically break up a bar fight, you were hired. But now, the challenges to which law enforcement responds are so much more complex and varied, and today’s approach calls for officers who can work smarter, not necessarily tougher.
While physical strength and toughness can help the officers of today, it may be even more valuable to have good communication and decision-making skills. These skills hold more power than toughness. Communication has the potential to defuse a situation and possibly allow the officer to make some inroads toward addressing the root causes of a conflict and propose appropriate resources for help.
All along the way, an officer assesses the dynamics of a situation, the reactions of those involved, and the facts so far ascertained. The best avenue for communication rests upon these and other factors. The skilled officer anticipates how a message will be received and what effect it’s likely to produce.
Today’s training, too, reflects the importance of these types of skills. In our academy at Colorado Mountain College, we emphasize scenario-based training to help individuals think through common conflicts and effective responses. In this training, quick decisions are tested in the classroom before students are confronted with dangerous situations on the street.
Anticipation is a key element of preparation. In scenario-based training, students can review real cases and participate in hands-on video simulations, which can better equip them when faced with similar, real situations.
Just as law enforcement philosophy and training have changed, so have even the names themselves. In the last couple of decades, the term “peace officer” has come to replace “policeman” and “cop.” The name emphasizes the facilitative nature of keeping the peace.
Perhaps what hasn’t changed in law enforcement is the need for peace officers. It’s still a stable and secure career, even in tough economic times. If anything, the demand on officers has increased because of economic hardships.
And it’s also true the desire to make a difference still exists and is one of the top reasons people choose to become peace officers.
Kevin Brun is the director of the Colorado Law Enforcement Training Academy (CLETA) at Colorado Mountain College’s Roaring Fork Campus. Training academies are offered three times per year. This summer’s academy begins May 11. Call Kevin at 947-8283 for more information.
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