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Law Enforcement Training in a 70:20:10 World

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Implicit Bias and Law Enforcement Training

Posted on December 23, 2014 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (6)

Is it time that implicit bias training become a part of law enforcement training across the board? For those that are not familiar with implicit bias, it is an unconscious mental process where attitudes or stereotypes effect our understanding and actions in an unconscious manner (Staats, 2014). Implicit bias bears some discussion with recent events that have taken place in Ferguson, MO and Staten Island, NY. Is implicit bias effecting police officer’s use of force decisions? Most of the research on implicit bias has focused on racial bias, showing prominent results (Gove, 2011). In particular, is the 2005 study by Plant and Peruche, where computer-simulated “shoot, don’t shoot” scenarios were used. They found that some “officers were initially more likely to mistakenly shoot unarmed black suspects than unarmed white suspects.” It is this type of research that has potential implication for law enforcement training.

We all possess mental processes called schemas that are the basic templates of knowledge that help us organize our thoughts and behaviors. These schemas are helpful to our mental processes because they allow us to make decisions without extending a lot of effort; schemas make us efficient. Where do these schemas come from if not our upbringing, the media, our parents, our friends, and our culture? All of these help to form our opinions and attitudes. Try as we may to deny that these biases exist, but all this information gets buried in our subconscious. We try to tell ourselves that we are not biased, but hidden deep within the subconscious these biases lurk. When we are placed in stressful situations, these biases jump to the surface.

So what do we do? First, is recognizing that these implicit biases exist. Awareness in and of itself can help us to deal with our implicit biases. Implicit biases are flexible, and therefore can be unlearned and replaced with new mental associations (Dasgupta, 2013; Roos, Lebrecht, Tanaka, & Tarr, 2013). One test that helps us find these hidden biases is the Implicit Association Test (IAT). The IAT, started by Anthony Greenwald and colleagues in 1998, measures the relative strength of associations between pairs of concepts through a straightforward series of exercises in which participants are asked to sort concepts (Greenwald, et al., 1998). This matching exercise relies on the notion that when two concepts are highly associated, the sorting task will be easier and therefore require less time than it will when the two concepts are not as highly associated (Greenwald & Nosek, 2001; Reskin, 2005). Any time-differentials that emerge through these various sorting tasks provide insights into the implicit associations that the test-taker holds. These time-differentials (known as the IAT effect) have been found to be statistically significant and not simply a result of random chance (Kang, 2009).

Over a decade of research using the IAT has found that reaction times are statistically significant and pervasive. Obviously not everyone holds the same biases. Research is showing that implicit biases found by the IAT does predict behavior in the real world (Kang, 2009).

Again, so what do we do? Implicit biases are flexible and can be unlearned; however, unlearning can be a challenging process. Here is what the research suggests in successful purging of implicit biases:

1. Attending counter-stereotypic training in which efforts focus on teaching individuals to develop new associations that contrast with the associations they already hold through visual or verbal cues (see, e.g., Blair, et al., 2001; Kang, et al., 2012; Kawakami,Dovidio, Moll, Hermsen, & Russin, 2000; Wittenbrink, Judd, & Park, 2001).

2. Building new associations by exposing people to counter-stereotypic individuals. Much like de-biasing agents, these counter-stereotypic examples possess traits that contrast with the stereotypes typically associated with particular categories (see,e.g., Dasgupta & Asgari, 2004; Dasgupta & Greenwald, 2001; Kang & Banaji, 2006).

3. Fostering an atmosphere in which individuals share common goals and equal status, support from authority figure, laws, or customs, and a cooperative rather than competitive environment. (Allport, 1954).

4. Keeping every officer accountable for their actions, that is, “the implicit or explicit expectation that one may be called on to justify one’s beliefs, feelings, and actions to others, can decrease the influence of bias” (T. K. Green & Kalev, 2008; Kang, et al., 2012; Lerner & Tetlock, 1999, p. 255; Reskin, 2000, 2005).

5. Taking the perspective of others has shown promise as a de-biasing strategy, because considering disparity of viewpoints and recognizing multiple perspectives can reduce implicit biases (Benforado & Hanson, 2008; Galinsky & Moskowitz, 2000; Todd, Bodenhausen, Richeson, & Galinsky, 2011).

6. Engaging in deliberative processing can help counter implicit biases, particularly during situations in which decision-makers may face time constraints or a weighty cognitive load (Beattie, et al., 2013; D. J. Burgess, 2010; Kang, et al., 2012; Richards-Yellen, 2013).

Increasing tensions between the police and the citizens the police have sworn to protect are rising. The police are going to have to show they are doing their best in confronting their own biases not only in use of force situations, but in all interactions between the police and the community. As stated earlier, acknowledgment is the first step in counter-acting implicit biases. Next is providing solutions to deal with these implicit biases. Training law enforcement officers on how to deal with their own implicit biases could be the first step in calming the public that law enforcement has sworn to protect. Gove (2011) suggests that law enforcement officers need to be challenged to identify key decision-making situations that are at the greatest risk for exhibiting bias, such as traffic stops, stop and frisk, and consent searches.

Is Distance Learning (Training) in Your Future?

Posted on December 4, 2014 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

If you are a trainer or educator you must be aware of distance learning (training). Distance training is probably the biggest revolution in education in the last 75 years. At the same time you might be asking yourself, “How does distance learning work for me as a trainer?” Valid question. Before you go off the deep end of distance learning step back and listen.


Entire books have been written just on distance learning; the field is currently ever evolving. Before embarking on any e-training platform there are some words of caution that needs to be heeded. Many people think that e-training is a great way to save money on training. This can be a wrong assumption. If done properly, e-training can cost more money on the front end than regular training. The cost of design, development, implementation, and evaluation is substantially more than regular training. First you have to have SMEs that have a thorough understanding of the many e-training platforms. These people have distinct skills that are slightly different from your normal curriculum and instruction staff. Putting a PowerPoint on steroids and placing it on the web is not e-training. Much more detail is needed in the e-training platform in contrast to the dynamics of classroom learning. Also, forget about the assumption that the “younger” generation will fully embrace e-learning due to the fact they have been raised around computers. Studies show that unless your e-training is designed to meet the standards of modern day video games, the younger generation loses interest faster in e-learning platforms. Also be cautious of venders offering the latest and greatest in e-training. Many agencies have spent huge amount of money to only be disappointed by the final product. Investigate vendors thoroughly before spending a cent on distance training.


However with that said, stressed training budgets cause a serious examination of converting classroom training to e-training. Training professionals can find cost savings and improved efficiencies in e-training, but they can also find ways to meet other important agency needs such as getting on-demand training to employees, or delivering training to widely scattered workforces. In the end, it does not matter what is behind the decision to convert current instructor-led training into e-training. What is important is that agencies fully understand the forces driving them to consider the conversion process in the first place, and the factors will likely be different from agency to agency. There are some business reasons from converting from classroom training to e-training, they are:


Costs – examining travel, facilities, and materials.

Geographically Dispersed Workforce (especially true in state and federal agencies)

Consistent Message – some types of training such as legal updates or new employee orientation can be converted to an e-training format that is consistent every time it’s delivered.

Further, today’s officers have been conditioned to seek and absorb knowledge in ways that would have seemed impossible just a few years ago. Google, YouTube, Wikipedia and voice-activated applications, such as Apple’s Siri, have created generations of officers who seek information just in time and, very often, in ways that take advantage of social connections. They want information on their own terms, both personally and professionally. Also, more often than not, they do not seek that information via face-to-face interactions – they leverage the electronic media with which they are so comfortable. Training professionals must keep abreast of the needs of today’s talent pool or risk falling into irrelevancy in the workplace.


The types of training that can be somewhat easy to convert to e-training are:


On-boarding. New employee on-boarding can be great content to convert into e-learning, because some of the learning is purely cognitive in nature. In other words, you want to know whether the training participant comprehends basic information such as the location of employee manuals on your system, or how to find their remaining vacation or personal days on their pay stub. This sort of pure cognitive learning objective is ideally suited to e-learning.

New Policies or Updates. New policies releases create a range of challenges for officer training. Frequently, new policies launches require many officers to have immediate access to accurate information. Obviously, waiting for everyone to have the free time to attend a classroom session might not be realistic. So, e-training can be an excellent solution for the rapid development and deployment of new training content to large numbers of officers on a short time line.

Compliance. Training on many compliance subjects can be great blended learning opportunities. For instance, if you have to provide ethics training on a new set of rules and regulations, an e-training course might be a perfect vehicle for teaching large numbers of officers the basics of the rules and regulations. E-training will work very well to deliver this content and allow you an opportunity to test for basic comprehension. You can use platforms such as GoToMeeting to provide opportunities for in-depth group conversations around the complicated changes sometimes associated with new rules and regulations.

Safety training. For most safety training sessions, officers need to leave the classroom with knowledge of some specific equipment or procedures. These types of purely cognitive learning objectives work very well in an e-training course. You can deliver content, provide on-going access to the materials and allow officers to print any job aids or written materials they might need or want to reinforce the learning. You can also use tests, assessments or quizzes to ensure comprehension of the safety rule or equipment.

When converting classroom training to an e-training platform you still have to go through the Analysis Design Development Implementing Evaluation process. An effective and informative needs analysis requires you to identify several very important pieces of information starting with the primary reason to move this specific training content from an instructor-led class to an e-training course. For instance, you may be offering leadership development sessions that last three days. Your agency is finding the disruption to operations to be significant. A very good reason for converting two days of the training into an e-learning course could be to minimize the operational disruption by reducing the out-of-office time for the training from three days to one day.


E-training needs to be performance focused and have a meaningful context to officers. E-training is engagement-driven with authentic contexts. E-training needs to provide realistic decision models and individualized challenges. Finally, e-training should be spaced practiced with real-world consequences. Therefore, here are some thoughts about e-training:


Do not assume that e-training is the solution. Performance issues may be addressed by other means other than e-training.

Provide realistic practice. Simulations, scenario-based training, etc. need to be incorporated into an e-training platform, and the designs of these training methods are a big cost in e-training.

Provide guidance and feedback. The e-training officers need guidance and feedback to reinforce their comprehension, and develop effective performance skills.

Provide realistic consequences. During performance feedback the officers will need a sense of real-world consequences.

Adapt to officer’s needs. Employ e-trainings’ capability to create a learning environment this is flexible and adaptive to the officers’ needs.

Motivate meaningful involvement. Provide officers with a training experience that is relevant to their goals and motivate them to engage in the process of learning.

Use interactivity to trigger deep engagement. E-training should support application rehearsal, reflection, debate, synthesis, and evaluation, not just page clicking, rollovers, navigation, and memorization.

Provide support for post-training evaluation. Support instruction with the appropriate blend of after-training follow-up, providing venues that reinforce key learning points, collect supervisory support for learning application, and generate mechanisms that enable further on-the-job learning.

Sustain performance reparation. E-training officers need to be motivated to apply what they have learned, immunized against obstacles, and prepared to deal with specific situation.

Distance training can be a good fit for an agency, just do not jump at the first vendor that knocks on your door. If you are developing your distance training in-house be aware it can cost more than regular training development due to specialized skills needed for the development.

The Brain, Memory, and Training

Posted on December 4, 2014 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Anytime the there is a discussion about law enforcement learning and training there has to be a portion of that discussion dedicated to memory. Cognitive psychologists have spent years studying how we remember certain things, but do not remember other things; it’s a very complex process. Currently, what is agreed upon is that, as humans, we have three forms of memory, sensory memory, working memory (use to be called short-term memory), and permanent memory (use to be called long-term memory).


Sensory memory is memories based on temporary storage of information from the senses. Anderson (1995) describes as:


“Sensory memory is capable of storing more information or less complete records of what has been encountered for brief periods of time, during which people can note relationships among the elements and encode the elements in a more permanent memory. If the information in sensory is not encoded in the brief time before it decays, it is lost. What subjects encode depends on what they are paying attention to. The environment typically offers much more information at one time than we can encode. Therefore, much of what enters our sensory system results in no permanent record. (p. 160)


Long-term or permanent memory contains, organizing ideas, information, processes, and skills that are in the cognitive domain (described below). Everything that we know and understand is stored in permanent memory (Marzano & Kendall, 2007).


Short-term or working memory uses information from both permanent and sensory memory; it is information we actively process. However, this information is stored for a short period of time (about 12 seconds without reinforcement). Cognitive psychologist George Miller argued in his 1956 Information Processing Theory that short-term memory can hold from five to nine “chunks” of information, and that too much information given at once will likely be quickly forgotten.


High levels of stimulation or emotion will increase the ability to store information into permanent memory. Otherwise moving information to permanent memory can be challenging. Therefore, you must train to memory. The key to long-term memory formation is not the amount of time spent learning, but the amount of time between learning. We learn best when our brain cells are switched on and off, with short periods of learning and breaks in between. By switching your officer’s brain cells “on” (during learning) and “off” again (during breaks), the officer’s unconscious has time to internalize the knowledge and the repetition results in long-term memories. Research has also shown that longer breaks between teaching sessions can result in longer-lasting memories. You can enhance memory retention using the following methods:


Provide steady relevant practice

Create job-related problems and scenarios

Use team projects

Asking questions

Be consistent

Herman Ebbinghaus was a psychologist who gained fame for his early studies in the late 1880s on memory. Based on his own research studies, he came up with the concept of the “forgetting curve.” He used his study data to create a curve that showed people will forget 90% of what they learn within 3 to 6 days unless learning is reinforced with multiple repetitions. Since then, thousands of studies have been done on spaced repetition, forgetting, memory, etc. Will Thalheimer (2010) published a paper in that argues against Ebbinghaus’s global 90% statement. He points to these many subsequent studies – done in a more meaningful way – that show the percentage of forgetting is highly variable. It depends on numerous factors such as learners’ pre-existing knowledge, such as:


The type of material that is being learned

The learners’ prior knowledge

The learners’ motivation to learn

The power of the learning methods used

The contextual cues in the learning and remembering situations

The amount of time the learning has to be retained

The difficulty of the retention test (Thalheimer, 2010)

Officers’ forgetting what they have been taught is problematic, so what do we do. Here are some strategies to increase memory retention:


1) Provide frequent, spaced intervals of learning.


a) Organize content into small chunks or groupings.


2) Provide multiple repetitions


a) Early repetitions may be iterations of what an officer already learned.


b) Later repetitions should allow for greater elaborations. On the knowledge side, early repetitions may involve recall of the fact or a different presentation of the fact. Later repetitions may require the officers to apply the fact to a context of a specific setting. On the psychomotor side of things, think in terms of “show me. Let me practice.”


3) Provide immediate feedback for mistakes, and make sure officers get it right before moving forward.


a) Provide officers with feedback at the point where they made the mistake. Require officers to correct the mistake before they can move on. This action ensures they embed the “correct” way to respond of perform something rather than embedding incorrect responses.


b) Make sure feedback specifies exactly what the officer did wrong or offers a clear clue that the officer was successful.


In the end we want officers to remember what they have been taught, otherwise everyone’s time has been wasted.




Anderson, J. R. (1995). Learning and memory: An intergraded approach. New York: John Wiley.


Marzano, R. J. & Kendal, J. S. (2007). The new taxonomy of educational objectives (2 ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.


Miller, G.A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review, 63, 81-97.


Thalheimer, Will (2010). How much do people forget. Retrieved from:

Law Enforcement Training in a 70:20:10 World

Posted on December 4, 2014 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Not surprisingly, the way we learn in the workplace has dramatically changed under the pressures of evolving complexity, accelerated change, and the tidal waves of information, and content constantly bombarding us. In the mid 1990’s Mike Lombardo and Bob Eichinger found in their research that roughly 70% of a employee’s development comes from challenging jobs (such as law enforcement), 20% was learned from peers (both good and bad examples) considered informal learning, and 10% came from formal training. This coincides with the Intergovernmental Studies Program (2006) estimation that a modest “10 to 20 percent of knowledge or skills taught in training programs are effectively transferred to the workplace” (p. 1). The learning processes are broken down in the following:


Formal Learning – this is where learning objectives are set-up by trainers, which provides a learning product (i.e. training program).

Informal learning – in this case the learner sets the goals and objectives of their learning. Learning is not necessarily structure in term of effort and time (i.e. work station).

Nonformal learning – someone in the organization who is not necessarily part of the training department (i.e. FTO, supervisor), who sets the learning objectives or tasks.

In practical terms, formal learning consists of all the products offered by the training division or academy that has learning objectives, including instructor-led classroom training, online facilitated courses, and self paced web-based courses. Nonformal learning stems from communications from supervisors about requirements by the organization to learn a topic, read a manual, or gain a skill.


Informal learning encompasses everything else as long as it is self-directed. This includes discussions with peers, online searches, participation in communities of practice, use of job aids, requests for coaching and mentoring, book reading, blogging, and reading, writing wikis, and other forms of social media.


This is not to say that formal training is a thing of the past, this is not the point whatsoever. What is being stated is that having a training Academy or program 15 weeks are more is going to show very little return on investment (ROI). The Bureau of Justice Statistics found in 2008 basic recruit training for state and local included more than 19 weeks (Reaves, 2009). It is estimated that an agency can spend anywhere from $80,000 to $200,000 per recruit in basic training. The cognitive load factor for such an academy is way too high, and that is not counting the cost of a lengthy law enforcement academy or program. Yet, we have seen an explosion on the length of time in law enforcement training academies over the last 20 years. There are some academies that are now 30 weeks long; that’s equivalent of two years of college work. Yet, the U.S. Marines can get a group of people from all walks of life, and varying educational backgrounds, and have them marching in perfect formation, performing complex tasks (like shooting a rifle from 500 meters) in as little as 12 weeks. Why? Because their training program focuses on basic tasks, based on a thorough analysis; their concept: keep basic training simple. Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.


All this leads up to the fact that having a robust Field Training Program is critical to the overall training of an officer or agent. The field-training program is where the skills and abilities are truly evaluated and developed. In addition the field-training program can fill the gaps the academy does not have the time to train.


The major change is the fact that you cannot design a 70:20:10 approach as a three-step plan, starting with 10% structured learning, moving on to 20% learner-to-learner feedback, and ending with 70% learning in workplace. You may need to mix these elements up a little.


As with any training model, it’s best to start by clarifying the results you want to see, and then listing the different ways you might achieve your instructional objectives. This is the point at which to consider collaboration and workplace learning as helpful levers. Then, traditional design will follow – including storytelling, manager involvement, and the learning activities that best engage the target audience.