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Research to Help Upgrade Law Enforcement Training Infrastructure

by Kim Gudeman, Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute

The infrastructure that supports law enforcement training has remained largely the same for decades. However, as the tech landscape has introduced new training possibilities, federal agencies are recognizing the potential of nextgeneration training systems to help train law enforcement for the unique challenges of this decade and beyond.

William Cope Researchers in the Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute (CIRI), a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence led by the University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign, are heading up an effort to assess current infrastructure and offer a blueprint for upgrading training systems, research, infrastructure, products, expertise, and services for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC). FLETC provides career-long training to law enforcement professionals to help them fulfill their responsibilities safely and proficiently. The one-year, $750,000 project will address all systems that contribute to creating, delivering, and managing curriculum.

“Law enforcement personnel are on the front lines of many critical social issues,” said William Cope, a professor of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership at U of I, who leads the project. “They need a modern, highperformance education and training infrastructure – from local to federal – that uses cutting-edge techniques for addressing the many challenges they face every day.”

These next-generation systems would support new ways of teaching and learning, taking advantages of the latest technologies and training methodologies. In addition, through an analysis of the current state of training, Cope envisions developing a knowledge sharing environment that would enable digital interactions between peers in the law enforcement community writ large. For example, a student from a tribal force in South Dakota could create a local community law enforcement initiative, as could an officer in urban Washington, D.C. Through a peer review process, they could offer feedback on each other’s initiatives, thus sharing knowledge, deepening each other’s professional capacities and leading to better outcomes across the nation.

A pilot intervention in this project will use the e-learning and knowledge community platform CGScholar, which started at the University and is now being offered and maintained by Common Ground Research Networks, a not-for-profit founded by Cope and colleagues.

Law enforcement trainers need additional exploration and exposure to modern training technologies and e-Learning that augments traditional law enforcement training techniques to help overcome institutional preferences. However, Cope is confident that an ecology of learning can be demonstrated that nurtures active participation in learning, where participants work together as knowledge creators and problem solvers.

“Students or trainees would be able to take advantage of wisdom of people in different communities and different subject matter domains,” Cope said. “It’s a much more holistic environment for learning and more like the real world which requires the negotiation of different perspectives.”

Additional College of Education researchers on the project are professors Mary Kalantzis and Denice Hood, as well as doctoral students Jen Whiting and Shannon Holubetz. Project collaborators include Mike Schlosser of the U of I Police Training Institute, Dementro Powell in the Division of Public Safety (and also an Education doctoral student) and Randal Sandone and Andrea Whitesell of CIRI.

The research is funded through the DHS Science & Technology (S&T) Directorate’s Office of University Programs and the DHS S&T Training and Performance Optimization program.