Blue Line

An alternative to ‘restful lectures’

August 22, 2016  By Dorothy Cotton

886 words – MR

An alternative to ‘restful lectures’

A police service called recently to ask if I’d be interested in teaching a session on mental illness, which I know a fair bit about. Another service called later that day to ask if I would conduct a session on a subject I know nothing about.

A few days later, another service asked my opinion about a workshop advertised by alleged “experts” on a specific mental health disorder targeted specifically for police. The hitch was that as far as I could tell, the perpetrators were not mental health professionals, had only self proclaimed credentials and nothing to do with policing. Maybe it was a very good workshop – and maybe not. I am not sure how one would know.


Clearly, police education and training are a big deal these days – and a big ticket item for police organizations. It has to be challenge to figure out how to provide the necessary education in a cost effective manner while ensuring high quality and reliable content. Many agencies have their own in-house training folks, of course, but what is less clear to me is whether these folks are always the best people to develop and deliver all types of training.

Education is a complicated business. Aside from the need for subject matter expertise, there are issues related to adult learning styles, knowledge of contemporary teaching techniques (including online and blended learning), evaluation methods, awareness of organizational and police culture – the list goes on.

Frankly, I tend to think it might be preferable to buy this kind of expertise rather than re-invent it (or not) each time a subject comes up. I suspect it will not come as a shock to readers that many police services are dealing with the very same issues (who knew!?!?!). I know for a fact that both big cities and rural areas are concerned about interactions with people with mental illnesses, the cost of policing, appropriate use of force, interviewing techniques and – well, pretty well ‘Everything Police’.

Agencies differ by region, of course, but my guess is that the similarities are greater than the differences. This leads to one of the great philosophical questions of all time: why do so many organizations feel they have to start from scratch when training on a particular topic?

Back to those inquiries I mentioned. I often suggest people check out the Canadian Police Knowledge Network offerings ( before they go off on a wild goose chase. These folks have the right idea in a whole variety of ways. Their material really is police stuff, written for police by police. Perhaps more importantly, it’s not for profit. You just have to look at their web site and board of directors to see they know what they’re talking about. They’re not a bunch of opportunists trying to make a buck through training.

They have a longer reach than your average individual police service so their courses are also developed by and vetted by subject matter experts who just might NOT be police. Seems like a good blend to me.

Needless to say, given its non-profit status, it’s also time and cost effective to use something like CPKN. I note that money is rather a big deal in policing these days. CPKN takes care of all the design, development, delivery and support issues with their courses so you don’t have to. They have the infrastructure and seek out funding to do stuff that many organizations do off the corner of someone’s desk.

Did YOUR organization get $15,000 from the Motorola Foundation to develop a suicide prevention course? If not, then I am guessing you either (a) have not done such training; (b) spent your own money to develop something; or (c) figured it was not rocket science and anyone could develop such a course (good luck with that).

If CPKN makes a bit of money on one course, it reinvests it into updates, new courses, etc. It has adult learning expertise that the rest of us can only admire from afar, and it can assess, evaluate and report on participation. Rumor has it that the average cost per user for a CPKN course is under $8. Tough to argue with that.

It’s also hard to disagree that most of us are hopeless at keeping up with technology – and that’s one area where CPKN shines. I used to think online learning was talking heads and endless PowerPoint presentations, but the world of education has changed. We now know that blended learning often outpaces traditional ‘you-lecture-while-I-sleep’ approaches. Most of us don’t have the skill set or technology budget to keep up with this stuff like the CPKN does.

All in all this seems like a pretty nifty way to go about things, whether you need a general course or supplement to an in-house thing. They can even design something from scratch for local purposes. If you have ideas or experts that others might benefit from, they can also move that along.

You might want to head to the Stanhope Conference one of these years (

If you want to know what other police services have that you might leverage, check out the National Police Training Inventory (, a searchable database of police training rubrics from all across Canada.

Sounds like a good idea to me!

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