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Educating and Training the Future Police Officer

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 73 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2004 Pages: 26-32
Michael Buerger Ph.D.
Date Published
January 2004
7 pages
This article examines the existing system of criminal justice education, the differences between education and training, and the future needs of the law enforcement profession.
Over the years, criminal justice education has developed three distinct types of programs. The first level for criminal justice education is the high school diploma or general equivalency degree (GED). Once hired, recruits are required to attend a police training academy, ranging from 400 hours to almost a year, to study a wide range of topics. The second level is the associate degree, a 2-year program that may offer purely academic courses, or incorporate basic law enforcement certification into its curricula. The third level is the 4-year bachelor’s degree generally regarded as part of the social sciences that focuses more on research than on skills training. This degree has not proven itself valuable as a preparation credential, since training itself begins at the level of the least skilled, rather than the more educated. Education and training are basically different tasks that should ideally complement each other. Education is more about obtaining the skills of learning how to learn, while training systematically builds particular skills to achieve certain ends. The article discusses the different strengths and weaknesses of education and training and presents three main models for improving the balance between educating and training future police officers. The three models are: 1) creating a new model of interdisciplinary criminal justice degree -- this approach may be possible in institutions that do not have a criminal justice program; 2) modifying the existing social science curricula to similar effect at institutions that already have a program; and 3) placing greater emphasis at the point of hiring upon the course of study, rather than on the mere possession of a degree, thus placing the onus of change on the professional rather than on the institution. Without integration, neither education nor training is an adequate preparation for the demanding tasks of police work. Endnotes