Law enforcement training requires a significant investment of resources. The time, money and manpower needed to conduct proper training practices can drain even the largest and most well-funded department. Training compliance is particularly difficult for agencies in smaller communities.

During a 1958 law enforcement conference, former New Jersey chief of police Fred Hess noted that, as mobility increased, police departments would find themselves “with situations that require more versatile leadership” to satisfy the need for training. Advancements in technology and shifts in criminal activities since then impact the way in which training is conducted. However, limited resources—such as insufficient funding and access to certified trainers—continues to be the greatest challenge for small departments.

Communities overcome resource constraints together
Officers working in small and mid-sized communities—defined as fewer than 500,000 residents served—are expected to have both practical and academic understanding of situations they may encounter while on the job. They must also be prepared for a wide range of emergencies, as less populated areas generally lack specialists that could provide needed insights.

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Although rural areas often exert more effort to provide sufficient law enforcement training, the situations for which they must prepare are similar to those of urban first responders. According to The National Center for Victims of Crime, increased mobility of Americans made geographic differences less of a factor for public safety than they once were. Furthermore, law enforcement personnel from those smaller communities may be called upon to help with a nearby crisis. Location does not lessen the requirements for readiness.

Resource-strapped agencies benefit from online training courses. By leveraging the content available through learning portals, agencies can make sure each officer is receiving the same standard information as larger organizations. Online training affords officers the flexibility to complete assignments and tests at their own pace and may produce lower total costs than traditional courses.

“When an agency hires a trainer for an in-person program,” OSS Academy training coordinator David Salmon II told Government Security News, “they have to not only pay the fee for the training program itself, but also cover the trainer’s transportation and housing expenses to come to the facility. This can easily add up to anywhere from $5K-$9K per course, depending on the trainer.”

Addressing his fellow police chiefs the year before New York became the first state to establish basic training, Hess cited the collaboration between different towns in New Jersey as one of the most effective ways to elevate the standards of the police profession. When dozens of local municipalities comprise an ad-hoc large organization, participating agencies are able to develop relationships with each other to help coordinate joint emergency response. These same relationships can be leveraged to improve and share expertise.

By pooling resources, departments ensure that every officer receives their necessary training and agencies can augment general knowledge with quick access to specialists in nearby towns. In addition to cost savings, innovations like skills exchanges and online courses provide opportunities to spread knowledge in a way that facilitates better collaboration in the future.

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