September is back to school month. As officers think about what their children are learning in school, we should also think about what we could be learning. Education is a lifelong endeavor and September is a good month to think about our continuing education in law enforcement.
There are many national schools available to officers that cost a lot of money and require a great deal of travel. Unfortunately, in these tight financial times it seems that the training budget is the first thing to get cut. Rarely is there money to pay for travel, tuition, and per diem expenses.
But just because money is not available from your department doesn't mean that training becomes any less important. As a proactive officer, you know that you must remain current on your training if you are going to be effective on the street. This article is designed to help you locate free training resources and remain on the cutting edge of the law enforcement profession.
One of the best resources for free training is the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) headquartered in Glynco, Ga. FLETC provides basic law enforcement training for more than 80 federal agencies, as well as myriad in-service courses throughout the country.
FLETC training sites include Glynco; Artesia, N.M.; Charleston, S.C.; and Cheltenham, Md. FLETC also exports training to numerous sites around the country through its State and Local Training Program.
For more than 25 years, the State and Local Training Program has fulfilled its stated mission of "providing quality, up-to-date, low- or no-cost training opportunities to state, local, campus, and tribal law enforcement officers." Classes offered in the State and Local Training Program include anti-terrorism intelligence awareness, domestic violence investigations, drug law enforcement, and elder abuse instructor training.
If you are interested in drug interdiction, you would be well served by attending courses offered by various counterdrug training centers throughout the United States.
The Northeast Counterdrug Training Center is a no-cost training center in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., with additional classes offered in Volksfield, Wis. Its mission is to "provide all necessary facilities, instruction, and support to enhance the capabilities to reduce and remove illegal drugs from our streets and educate our communities in the most up-to-date prevention techniques."
Training for about 40 courses is provided free of charge and students receive free lodging, coupons for free meals, and access to a fitness center. Classes include Identifying Deceptive Behavior, Interview and Interrogation, and Conducting Complete Traffic Stops.
Mobile Training Courses are offered throughout the country, but lodging and meals are the responsibility of the student. Experience has shown classes offered by the Northeast Counterdrug Training Center to be of the highest quality. All officers should access this free training.
If you are not located in the Northeast, two other centers offer classes in counterdrug training and anti-terrorism: the Regional Counterdrug Training Academy in Meridian, Miss., and the Midwest Counterdrug Training Center at Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa.
Officers wanting to further their education in drug interdiction should be aware of The Multijurisdictional Counterdrug Task Force Training program (MCTFT). It "provides unique, tuition-free courses covering all aspects of counterdrug law enforcement and training support for community anti-drug coalitions."
The program, headquartered at the Southeastern Public Safety Institute (SEPSI) at Florida's St. Petersburg College, serves the entire country with classroom and Web-based training.
Calling MCTFT a mere counterdrug training center does a disservice to the wide array of classes that it offers. All classes are related to counterdrug, but there are so many classes available that every officer should be able to find something of interest. The online classes are of the highest quality and are extremely convenient; this makes top-notch training available to even the busiest officer at no charge.
Cool Courses and Resources
Free online law enforcement training is also available if you want to learn Spanish. The National Institute of Justice (part of the U.S. Department of Justice) offers Español for Law Enforcement: An Interactive Training Tool.
"This online training was developed to help law enforcement officers obtain a working knowledge of Spanish and apply it to law enforcement situations. The course walks you through English translations, phonetic spellings, and pronunciations of Spanish words in situations involving interviews, crime scenes, motor vehicles, and domestic violence." This training is also free and convenient and allows you to work at your own pace.
The Police Officers Safety Association offers free and low-cost training through its Website. These courses are taught by experts in the field and cover a host of tactical and officer survival issues.
If one particular aspect of law enforcement is of interest to you, information can be accessed for free from "Google alerts." Once you are registered and enter a keyword, all articles that contain that word will be immediately forwarded to your e-mail account. Keywords can include "police training," "officer injury," or "criminal justice trends." Registering for Google alerts takes seconds and provides daily information on topics of interest.
One of the best sources of updated case law information is provided by FLETC. "The Informer" — published every month by the legal research unit at FLETC — provides the facts of a contested case and the court's decision. Often there will be legal advice designed to help you do your job better within the context of the court's decision. The Informer is available for free and is a vital and valuable resource to the officer who wants to remain topical in the area of case law.
Another excellent resource for case law information is generated by police officer and former prosecutor Ken Wallentine. His publication, Xiphos, "is a biweekly summary of recent court decisions about criminal procedure and other subjects important to public safety professionals. To subscribe, send a message to Xiphos-subscribe@KenWallentine.com." This publication arrives via e-mail free of charge.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't inform you about the POLICE Magazine Website. It provides up-to-the-minute features, commentaries, and news links about all aspects of law enforcement, including gangs, SWAT, weapons, recruit, patrol, technology, vehicles, and women in law enforcement. There are also articles about tactical issues authored by subject matter experts in the field.
Another great source for officer education and training is the POLICE Magazine trade show and conference, TREXPO. Held twice per year (once in Chantilly, Va.; and once in Long Beach, Calif.), TREXPO features hands-on, classroom, and extended training programs for officers of all ranks.
Law enforcement is an ever-evolving profession. We must be as proactive about our education as we are about making arrests, and current training is essential to that mission. Despite the fact that many departments have cut their training budgets, the innovative officer still has many low-cost options available for good police training.
Getting Your Degree Online
Online education for law enforcement is not limited to police training programs. You can get a bachelor's or master's degree from accredited universities through online academic programs.
One of the greatest benefits of online study is that you take the courses on your schedule. You don't have to be in a classroom at a specific time to attend a class. Schools that offer online education programs can also help you find financial aid.
The following schools offer a variety of degree programs specifically tailored to the needs of law enforcement officers:
California University of Pennsylvania
University of Maryland University College
University of Wisconsin Platteville
Det. Joseph Petrocelli is a 20-year veteran of New Jersey law enforcement. You can comment on this article, suggest other topics, or reach the author by e-mailing POLICE Magazine at Editor@PoliceMag.com.