Blue Line


December 21, 2015  By Geoff Gruson

1042 words – MR <<< CONFERENCE PRESENTER – Gruson >>>


Professionalizing police

by Geoff Gruson


The Police Sector Council (PSC) – a national not-for-profit looking at occupational standards and training standards for policing – began looking at the issue of “professionalization” of policing from the perspective of common training standards and qualification standards in 2006. This question was of real interest to police and security managers and had been posed by numerous police chiefs, HR heads and board members across Canada.

The PSC worked with the heads of the 14 provincial and national academies across the country, including the military police, to do a comparative study on training. A primary line of the investigation looked at the curriculum and processes of the academies – how 151 constable tasks were being trained, to what level of proficiency recruits were being graduated and which competencies were being instilled. The results showed that every academy was developing its own curricula, learning objectives and training standards; there was surprising little in common – even in firearms training.

How could academies training police “professionals” not ensure they had all met some national qualification standard and curriculum?

National occupation standards were developed and numerous meetings and workshops were held with academy heads. There were studies on common use of force training and skills perishability. Curriculum-mapping software to support curricula re-design was developed and tested.

After all that money and years of hard work, results show… academies still, for the most part, develop training independently. There continues to be little congruence in training models, considerable variance in training time and methods and significant differences in the outputs/outcomes of the training resources expended. The latent efficiencies and effectiveness of common training standards remains elusive.

So, the answer to the “professionalization” question seems to be – “although we certainly have grounds to regard ourselves as ‘professionals,’ there are critical elements missing – so, not yet, but we are getting close” – but without provincial/national direction to implement national training standards and transform to common training processes and practices, and without clear direction to integrate their training curriculum, academies remain, for the most part, insular.

On the bright side, competency-based national curriculum is recognized by all academies as the future of learning, to be developed through dedicated and integrated effort of trainers and curriculum designers.

“We fully believe in a national standard,” said one academy head. “It is very important that police services across the country are consistent in training and practice.”

The academies are willing to collaborate, and there is more opportunity for competency-based integrated curriculum development. Most academies (8 of 13) are assessing the national competency-based management framework (CBMF) to develop or refine their curriculum, some are re-designing curriculum based on national competencies, and a few are also incorporating the investigator and leadership competencies in their curriculum design work.

So, what does it take to be a recognized profession?

A professional is recognized as somebody with unique knowledge, education and training, often gained through years of rigorous study. Through membership in a professional self-regulating body the professional ascribes to a strict code of conduct that includes ethical and moral obligations. They are a step above skilled trades and crafts in learning and competencies.

Interestingly, in a recent survey of young people’s attitudes towards a career in policing, many respondents aligned with this response “…it is a blue-collar job, and my parents don’t want me to make a career in the trades…”

Professionals are clearly recognizable in our daily lives – doctors, lawyers, nurses, engineers. To work in a specific jurisdiction, most professions require a statement of professional standing – a certification from a licensing authority or government department that verifies or authorizes that an individual has been accredited according to rigorous qualification standards and is in good standing – never suspended, cancelled or revoked. Most of these individuals have a diploma or degree from a college or university signed by an appropriate official from a central governing authority.

Even some of the traditionally “blue collar” work can be attributed to professionals. In Singapore, the licensing & regulatory department conducts an annual grading exercise of all law enforcement institutions. Singapore police use this data to address service quality, motivate policing/security to improve operational capability and to elevate operational standards.

Today, policing/security in Canada is neither recognized nor managed as a “profession.” There is no self-regulating body that sets and enforces standards for entry into the sector. Some parts are regulated by provincial bodies, with varying standards and enforcement of them across the country.

This presentation looks back at the history and evolution of policing and security in various societies and at various times, and provides a focus on what has changed in today’s policing and security environment that would suggest the time is right for professionalization:

<> Police and security employees work in a sector with certified professions as critical partners – medical, legal, social services and education professionals – in most day-to-day activities and operations.

<> The need to manage the dynamics partnerships – the social, political, and economic partners important to policing/security.

<> Occupational standards are in-place and can benefit workforce management, career management and labour mobility.

<> Economic efficiencies can be realized from national training standards and standardized curriculum.

<> There is increasing need for “defensibility” of policing actions in a court of law.

<> The service environment is dynamic – there is a need for auditing/evaluating curriculum and changing learning products and services to meet changing work demands.

<> There is an increasing demand for the contribution professional police should and can make to the social policies being developed by the education, health and social services professions.

The work of policing continues to change dramatically – police and security organizations have the primary role in the safety and security of Canadian communities, and in their long term economic sustainability based on crime reduction and community safety strategies. Increasingly police personnel are being asked to not only act like professionals but be professionals. The time is right to make that so!

<<< BIO BOX >>>

The Police Sector Council (PSC) is a national initiative to identify common human resource challenges and find innovative solutions to human resource issues in policing. Geoff Gruson is the national coordinator and will be presenting at the 2016 Blue Line Conference. Visit and click on EXPO to register or for more information.

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