Education, Leadership, and Oversight

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The past few meetings have made it clear that education is vitally important for modern policing. It provides a sound foundation and the skills necessary for a police officer and agency to perform well. However, strong community leadership from police, political officials, educators, and activists is needed to advance the importance of expanded education requirements. Additionally, state policing commissions must take the lead in professionalizing policing in America. This of course is no cure all for all the potential problems that come with policing. Oversight independent of the police is critical for establishing community control over the actions of officers and departments. Education, leadership and oversight are the key to great policing

Is American Police Training Lagging behind Western Europe?

Today, I visited the University of Applied Science for Public Administration and Management of the North Rhine-Westphalia. Once again, my host were very helpful and kind. They gave me a thorough overview of the 3 year program for police officers. Yes, I said three years. This is consistent with the structure of training in Ireland, and based on my conversation with the retired commander of the Metropolitan Police, the English Police as well. You might be wondering why so long.

Well, the NRW have developed a program that combines university courses, traditional training, and field training over a three year period. The German program recognizes the skills needed to be an effective officer are multidimensional. Critical thinking, emotional intelligence, stress management, conflict resolution, negotiating, history, culture competence are just as important as the police based training and field training.

The program is a staggered process. Recruits start with basic theoretical university courses followed by police training and then field training to apply the new concepts they have learned. This is followed by the second year of the same steps were old concepts are reviewed and re-enforced and new concepts and skills introduced. The third year is similar but includes a thesis based on a current topic in policing. At graduation, officers receive a Bachelor Degree. Commanders must obtain Masters Degrees. Similar to other European police agencies, clearly defined training protocols are put in place for specialized positions and ranks.

The question one might ask is does all of this produce a better officer or collectively a better department? Can we improve American Policing by investing more in educating our police? The research has indicated we can. Before retiring, the St. Louis Police Academy looked at individual outcomes in basic training, field training and longevity and found that the less educated were more likely to struggle in all phases of the training. Logically, this would translate into their operational, investigative and communication skills. And by extension, a department with a significant amount of officers and managers in this category will not reach its full capacity. Police departments consume 30 to 40 percent of communities’ budgets, operations are more complex then ever before, and expectations higher. How much more efficient or effective might agencies perform in this modern environment if communities invested more significantly in the education of officers and commanders?

In Dusseldorf Reflecting on the Second week in Ireland

The week couldn’t have started any better. Monday was a holiday so I was invited to play at the oldest golf course in Ireland. I enjoyed the round and the conversation. The weather was perfect Monday and to everyone’s surprise 70 and sunny all week.

Donal de Buitleir set up another well rounded and interesting program. I first met with Mark Toland at the Garda Inspectorate. At the meeting, we actually talked more about the Metropolitan Police. Mark had worked for the Met for 30 years commanding one of the toughest areas in London and running the training college before he retired. He provided me with some great information. The quality of the Mets training and department was supported by Mary Toomey who as a member of the committee to make recommendation to the Garda Commissioner, visited the Met and Germany too.

Sinead McSweeney introduced me to Chief Superintendent Pat Leahy. His operational strategy for community policing is based on an analysis more detailed then anything I have ever heard. Chief Superintendent Leahy is obviously one the best commanders in the Garda. Former Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy was even more impressive. Commissioners Murphy exudes the qualities of a leader in every way. He was very generous with his time and provided me with mounds of information.

The Youth Justice Department gave me good information on their youth intervention and engagement strategies. They also provided me with information on their diversion program. Father Peter McVerry also gave me ideas about community engagement and re-enforced the need for government to invest more in rehab programs.

It was a nice train ride to the police college at Templemore. I spent the entire day at Templemore. It’s too much information to recount other than to say it is a college not a training center. The breath and quality of their basic and command courses are of the highest quality.

The Garda is a highly trained and professional department. I learned a lot about oversight and training from both the North and South. I thank all who helped me. I had a great time.

On the Train from Belfast to Dublin

I am on the train concluding my first week in Ireland. The Eisenhower Fellowship has organized a terrific learning experience. The meetings and connections have been a perfect mix of discovery and understanding of policing, politics, history, culture and friendships found.

Wednesday, David Lavery picked me up and we met with the Chair of the Police Board. The Police Board is an oversight body established in the Patton report after the Good Friday Agreement. The structure of the Board was to have an equal amount of representatives from both political parties and a group of independents diversely constructed by appointment to provide a balanced oversight body. The members are independent of the political structure. The Board is responsible for the oversight of the Chief Constable. Oversight includes issues of budget, overall operations strategy, review of major incidents, and employee and citizen satisfaction. The Chair was pleased with the progress of the Board and the PSNI indicating overall satisfaction had increased in the community for police.

At the University of Ulster, I met the Vice-Chacellor, Richard Barnett, he spoke about the university police connection. The university and police had established a combined academic and training arrangement. Within the reforms, it was recognized that a broader academic background was needed to police the complex political and social problems in Northern Ireland.

These complex issues that put the police at the center of conflict and distrust meant that oversight had to be seen as uncorrupted by the history of policing. The Police Ombudsman was thus created as a separate entity responsible for investigating complaints against individuals, groups, or the entire police service. The Ombudsman is a completely self sufficient law enforcement investigative agency responsible for all complaints minor to major present or past regarding police. Non-criminal investigations conclude with recommendations to the Chief Constable and criminal investigations are offered for prosecution. This has lead to strong support for the legitimacy of oversight and the police service as a whole.

Wednesday concluded at dinner with William Crawley of the BBC and Jim Gamble a member of the Special Services Branch. The night presented another theme. When two groups believe their cause is noble and their group to be harmed, how do you move forward. Conflict between groups and police are inevitable. There is no doubt villains and heroes emerge on both sides. However, the few villains on both sides become the obstacles to progress.

On Thursday, I met Maura Muldoon Head of the Policing with Community Branch. She was very pleased with the progress of the police as were most but raised thought provoking questions about the value of officers’ activities and the disconnect between policing and community values. Such that, policing has not developed performance measures, rewards, and training that adequately reflect the desired goal of community policing. I had an opportunity to meet with the Chief Constable for a few minutes. He has a tremendously difficult job but in my humble opinion appears to be very capable of handling the challenge.

The shooting range gave me a great document that I will use and share called the National Decision Model for use of force incidents. It will be a very helpful tool for police departments.

Thursday ended with a tour of North and West Belfast. The divisions in Belfast are unique to that community but produce violence and conflict in the community and with police that are rooted in the same psycho-social factors. Social and economic deprivation create irrational divisions and a culture of survival of the fittest that result in community violence and violence against the state (police).

Friday was at Queens University. Dr. Graham Ellison and Dr. Shadd Maruna, from St. Louis, discussed community engagement and grassroots surveying as the appropriate means to find public value and determining whether a police agency is delivering community specific service. We will continue to talk. This will be a great long term academic contact for collaboration.

I concluded the week with a wonderful and wise family man, Tom Frawley. He took me to Derry to stay at his home. I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend. He is a great historian. It was like having a personal history book. I learned so much about the history of the Irish and English. It was fascinating. I might no more now then the average citizen. Tom’s hospitality made me feel welcomed and at home. He also set up a meeting with the local Superintendent who introduced us to Trevor, the embodiment of the perfect community police officer. I have met these types of officers in my career but they are rare breeds. They can single handedly change the relationships between the police and community. The question Tom and I had is how do you train this, how do transfer it, and how do you manage it. Dennis Bradley another community elder former priest who negotiated the Good Friday Agreement gave me many questions to ask and possible solutions. His understanding of the complexities of policing and the required mindset needed for progress and effective service was astounding. I hope there is an answer to this beyond character and experience are the only teachers. I will continue to search.

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First Day of Meetings

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In the first two days, I have already found Ireland to be a most amazing country. The landscape and scenery are incredibly beautiful and the people friendly and welcoming. What makes the country even more remarkable is how the people have managed to begin to resolve centuries old conflicts and disputes through a transformation of their political and social structures. This is no small accomplishment, many nations have attempted to resolve conflict between factions within their country with limited or no success. Often successful countries’ accomplishments are superficial. But, the progress of the Irish appears to be quite sincere based on what I have learned so far, particularly as it relates to law enforcement reforms.

Starting with the Justice Minister, it was evident that significant change had occurred in policing. The take away from the meeting was that collective political and community support in the form of a well defined plan, The Patton Report, lead to significant changes in policy, structure, command, and oversight. The result has been police accepted in areas where they would previously have been shot and killed without the support of the military.

I then met with two members of the Northern Ireland Justice Committee. Each talked about the success of policing reforms and the legislators role in policy and oversight. Although they were from opposite ends of the political spectrum, the fact that the new structure was relatively free from political operational influence was key to reform. They both felt that community policing had actualized in practice on a grassroots level between police officers and citizens and the effect has created a relationship of trust. The other key factors in building trust mentioned by both were commitment to building a police department that was reflective of the community but also diverse in terms of citizen influence or their ability to have access to resources. This notion that all members of the community needed the ability to be heard and their needs valued was a common theme throughout.

The last meeting before dinner was with the Criminal Justice Inspectorate. The CJI is a kind of independent audit unit over criminal justice policy, programs, and performance. Three of the inspectors were former police officers who have had first hand experience with the changes that have occurred in law enforcement. Their office has been an important piece of the reform process by providing objective transparent evaluations of police operations so all constituents have the opportunity to assess progress. However, one inspector stressed that training, leadership, and oversight have all been important factors leading to better police community relations in neighborhoods where it previously did not exist. But, he also felt that a critical piece was a recognition that government, as a whole in Ireland, needed to accepted its role as partners in community policing for the reforms to work. He felt this had a significant impact on the ability of the police to service the needs of disadvantaged communities’ multidimensional problems which helped build trust and improve relationships.

I ended the night with a delightful career law enforcement professional of almost 40 years who worked in Ireland, England, and Scotland. He had seen it all. His confirmation that the reforms are working validated all I had heard earlier in the day. Retired cops are brutally honest, if all of this was show, he would have had no problem telling me. The reforms are real!!!

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