Law Enforcement Training: Identifying What Works for Officers and Communities

Report #265, November 2021


California spends millions of dollars on law enforcement training each year yet lawmakers do not mandate serious or thorough evaluation of how that training affects officer behavior on the job. Assessing and improving training for peace officers is an essential step toward meaningful law enforcement reform, and California must take on this crucial work to ensure training achieves intended goals and positively impacts officer behavior, the state’s independent government watchdog urges in a new report.

Law Enforcement Training: Identifying What Works for Officers and Communities, a new report from the Little Hoover Commission, calls on California to address current law enforcement training deficiencies and enhance training for its nearly 700 law enforcement agencies and more than 87,000 full-time sworn and reserve peace officers.

This is the Commission’s third publication on law enforcement training and the first to include policy recommendations. It previously released two Issue Briefs on the topic, California Law Enforcement Survey and Comparing Law Enforcement Basic Training Academies, that provide critical context and insight into peace officer training in California without making recommendations.

“Law enforcement training is a powerful tool that often sets the tone for an officer’s career, yet there is far too little evidence demonstrating which types of training work best for our officers and communities,” said Commission Chair Pedro Nava. “This must change, and our recommendations provide a clear path forward toward reform.”

In its report, the Commission recommends that the state incorporate academic research into training curriculum by creating a permanent academic review board within the Commission of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), among other things.

The report identifies additional aspects of law enforcement training in California that require improvement, including basic training academies, entry level officer training, and ongoing officer education. No overall assessment of California’s 41 basic training academies has been conducted to compare how effective each model is in preparing individuals to become peace officers, the Commission found, and entry level training does not always line up with the knowledge and skills officers need in the field.

To correct these deficiencies and strengthen the law enforcement training officers receive, the Commission urges California to assess its basic training academies for effectiveness, right size its approach to entry level training, and develop robust ongoing education for officers throughout their careers.

“These reforms will have a significant impact on our officers, our communities, and our state, and California must commit to making the investment necessary to implement them,” said Commissioner Janna Sidley, member of the Commission’s law enforcement study subcommittee.

The Commission also calls on California to create a more representative POST Commission by adjusting current membership to add additional public members, including individuals with expertise in academic research and adult education as well as members of vulnerable communities.

“While maintaining a majority of seats for law enforcement, it is imperative that the POST Commission reflects both officers and the communities in which they serve,” said Chair Nava.

Written testimony from hearing witnesses can be found in the corresponding event agenda.

Relevant Reports

(Report #264, November 2021)
(Report #263, November 2021)

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