Online, Is Out of Line, For the Thin Blue Line!

Thin Blue LIne

Distance learning should be kept at a distance.

Police officers have awesome responsibilities and powers. When granting them the ability to not only take one's freedom away but also their life, police officers must have superior training. Advances in technology can be both friend and foe for law enforcement. We cannot cut corners and substitute online training for the interactive classroom experience, where synergy is at its best! We have a whole new generation of police officers who primarily use social media as their method of communication. Often times their interpersonal communication skills have been diminished and many things are lost in translation.

Relaying, training, embedding or communicating what is in a book or one's brain to the other is far greater than words or print alone. As many articles have shown, words are less than ten percent of the communication process. We need officers in seats, in classrooms next to their peers learning from a human. They need to be able to ask questions and raise scenarios, in an effort to learn from one another and create an environment of exchange. I am a true believer that none of us are as smart as all of us.

Just as there are many types of learning styles, there are an equal amount of tools for teaching. A good instructor differentiates the content delivery in an effort to reach as many learning styles as possible. With online instruction, the officer sits at a computer, logs in, and away the instruction goes! It only reaches one kind of learner. Online instruction is absent of the hands-on learning experience, the peer work of collaboration with a partner, the group participation for the synergy and the dynamics or the body language from the message sender to the receiver which is vital in basic communication.

Online learning loses the human to human interaction. Who is monitoring the officer checking in with them to be sure that they understand as the content is being explained? There is no spiraling back. How does the officer ask a clarifying question? The officer could potentially walk away and use the restroom or get a snack and miss the online content being delivered. It is a far too casual approach for the formality that their job entails.

I understand that desperate times call for desperate measures. We tried distance learning and we should leave it in the distant past. The constant availability of an administrator or instructor was lacking; we experienced technological difficulties, less than ten percent of course offerings were used statewide and the money spent for online training could have been better spent in the academy setting.

Our Country was founded right here. We have one of the oldest police departments, and have the best colleges and hospitals in the world. In Massachusetts we are at the top of the list of who spends the least on police training. Policing in our time has evolved and become more complex, dangerous and specialized; the need for a well-trained officer is exponential. We should keep in mind that what we invest into our officers is equal to what we get out of them. If we skimp on the training, the impact on the officer and their job performance will suffer. Then our communities suffer and don't the citizens we pledge to serve and protect deserve more?

We need to convince our legislators to allocate the new five dollar fee on citations to the Municipal Police Training Council. We should further demand solid training in a classroom taught to human beings by human beings. Settle for nothing less. In my opinion, online is out of line for the thin blue line.

February 2014

Phillip A. Tavares
Marshfield Police
1639 Ocean Street
Marshfield, MA  02050