What if we rebuilt the curriculum for policing in Canada?

News and stories about instances of police misconduct and other police-related material.

What if we rebuilt the curriculum for policing in Canada?

Postby Thomas » Mon May 29, 2023 3:10 pm

Instead of reducing education requirements for police officers, we need to dramatically increase the training and strengthen the curriculum to give candidates the best possible tools to do the job well.

OTTAWA—Policing has an issue with hiring and retaining officers, just like every sector in Canada these days.

The Ford government in Ontario has decided to remove any post-secondary education prerequisites for police officers in Ontario to address the staffing gaps in forces. Now candidates will only need 13 weeks at the provincial police college.

It’s a nightmare for Indigenous Peoples, who are already at high risk of being shot by police. Less education, less knowledge and judgment is not the mix we need for police officers.

There’s a long list of sectors who didn’t celebrate this move. Premier Doug Ford probably created some serious cringing amongst another group: police officers.

In British Columbia, candidates go through a 42-week program in class and in the field, through the Justice Institute of British Columbia. The RCMP does just half of that, with a 26-week training regime at the Regina Depot.

It turns out that the education and training required to become a police officer in Canada is different in every jurisdiction. We might be doing better than the United States, which averages about 21 weeks, but we are failing in comparison to other countries. In Finland, the prerequisite to become a police officer is a three-year bachelor of police services, including field placement. In Brazil, it seems the training can take a full year.

A rough measure of policing quality is the number of police shootings, albeit complicated by the number of guns in circulation per country. The assumption here is that police officers are supposed to avoid shooting citizens and use communication, mediation and de-escalation instead. Finland has a rate of one per year, the United States a rate of almost 1,000 per year. Canada sits at about 35 to 40 per year.

There seems to be a correlation between the length of police training and number of police shootings. More training can reduce police shootings of citizens, but can’t eliminate it. But it’s more complicated than that.

The quality of the education is important. Setting aside how it might work for the military itself, a military approach to training appears to instill hierarchy instead of public service and integrity when it’s applied to policing. This is what it appears to do in Brazil, with accusations of abusive military-type regime training for police candidates. Brazil also hit a mark of more than 5,800 police shootings per year.

Instead of reducing education requirements for police officers, we need to dramatically increase the training and strengthen the curriculum to give candidates the best possible tools to do the job well. This is not the time to do it half-way or just partly. The safety of our officers is important. The safety of citizens is important.

Policing in Canada is a public service. Curriculums for candidates should be based on a value of public service, shored up with ethics and judgment. Teaching adults how to make ethical decisions under stress is an advanced course.

In addition, police candidates need to have strong knowledge of justice principles and the legal system, communication, how trauma can affect an individual’s reaction to stress (both in citizens and self as a police officer), cultural competence, and how to build strong relationships with social services for referrals of citizens. Then there are police competencies. A three-year or four-year educational path sounds just about right.

I want the next police officer I have the fortune of meeting on a street to have excellent education and training, and to have excellent cultural competence. And I bet I share my hope with that officer’s partner.

(For transparency, this writer is on the board of the Coalition for Canadian Police Reform. My opinions and sometime rants are my own.)

Rose LeMay is Tlingit from the West Coast and the CEO of the Indigenous Reconciliation Group. She writes twice a month about Indigenous inclusion and reconciliation. In Tlingit worldview, the stories are the knowledge system, sometimes told through myth and sometimes contradicting the myths told by others. But always with at least some truth.

The Hill Times

https://www.hilltimes.com/story/2023/05 ... da/388394/
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