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The Police Academy: Police Training In The United States

3259 words - 13 pages

Prior to the creation of the formal police academy, officers were taught using various methods that were not always effective or conducive to the work required of an officer. As a result, ill-equipped officers flooded the streets of nineteenth-century America, often unable to perform the primary duty of their job: protecting the public. The United States, inspired by England and other countries with better-developed public safety systems, desperately needed a method of ensuring safety for its people. The creation and evolution of the police academy defined what being a police officer entailed by teaching officers what is expected of them, not only job-requirement wise, but also morally and ethically. The Police Academy prepares an individual for the civil, educational, managerial, and everyday duties of police work while ensuring moral sturdiness and commitment to public service. By combining classroom lectures, CSI training, building search training, firearm training, and combative/defensive training, each officer that graduates the police academy is well prepared to handle every aspect of the work of a police officer.
In the early to mid-1800s, officers were often trained using various methods with questionable reliability. The first training in the police service, as in other professions, made its appearance in the form of apprenticeship (Gammage 5). A neophyte was to observe an experienced officer for a short time before beginning independent police work; this concept of training was based on the “rookie-see, rookie-do” model. An apprenticeship was considered lucky; in most departments recruits received no formal preservice training. They were handed a badge, a baton, and a copy of the department rules (if one existed), and then sent out on patrol duty (Walker 29). The political era, which spanned from the 1840s through the early 1900s, was characterized by "watchman" style policing, and saw officers recruited informally and learning the ropes of policing on the job (Chappell 1). The consequences of such training weren’t seen immediately; the only significantly negative concern that arose instantly as result of informal training was an ineffective police department full of unethical, inaccessible officers. Many reports indicate that officers easily evaded duty and spent much of their time in saloons and barbershops (Walker 29). Lacking direct supervision and internally-driven motivation, many street officers slacked off and began to use corruption as an additional form of income and power. As street officers worked their way up to leadership positions within the police departments, patronage became a significant issue; officers were selected entirely on the basis of their political connections. Men with no formal education, those in bad health, and those with criminal records were hired (Walker 28). The intense need for a secure, reliable police department became evident. The police academy was born as a...

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