The Academy Innovations research project is supported by the U.S. Department of Justice COPS Office. The project is designed to develop evidence-based training methods for the law enforcement industry. The goal is to identify improved methodologies for delivering entry-level law enforcement training content.
When performing official duties, law enforcement officers rely heavily on knowledge and skills learned during basic academy training. This includes the law, officer safety tactics, and communication skills to name a few. Entry-level law enforcement training is typically delivered in topic-centric classes with little or no connection between concepts, even though significant amounts of content overlap. For example, legal knowledge about arrest, search, and seizure applies to every type of criminal investigation, use of force, and interrogations. Communication skills are needed across the board to be effective at interviewing people, de-escalating, and building relationships with the community. Existing research from other professions recommends integrating or reinforcing foundational and overlapping content consistently to help people retain critical knowledge and skills. The concept of integrating and reinforcing training content consistently has not previously been tested in law enforcement. The Academy Innovations research project aims to evaluate if reinforcing a critical foundational skill (i.e., communication and de-escalation) across multiple topics on several occasions during a basic academy setting improves recruit learning.
This project attempts to evaluate whether the methods and timing of training content improves knowledge and skill retention at the basic academy level.
To evaluate the effectiveness of delivering foundational information consistently across multiple topics throughout an academy, the project team delivered a 16-hour “Communication Skills” lesson at the beginning of several basic academies across the United States. Approximately 30 days later, identical segments of the “Communication Skills” lesson, specifically de-escalation, was integrated with a second topic (Responding to Persons in Crisis) for delivery. Approximately 60 days later, the identical de-escalation content was integrated into a third topic (Motor Vehicle Stops) for delivery. The study included control groups who only received the first 16-hour lesson and no additional integrated lessons. All participating students took multiple written tests throughout the academy to quantify learning differences between students who received the integrated de-escalation content and those who did not. The research also used both in-person and online deliveries to evaluate student learning differences between the two mediums.
This first of its kind research aims to answer two questions:
Does frequency of instruction on a topic (integrated into the curriculum at specific intervals) impact knowledge retention?
What impact does online instruction have on knowledge retention (positively or negatively) compared to traditional classroom delivery?
Academy Innovations Curricula
Each of the zipped files below contain Instructor's Guide, Student's Guide, PowerPoint Presentation, Handouts, and Practical Exercises Directions:
Communications Skills Documents (37MB)
Persons in Crisis Communications Documents (4MB)
Motor Vehicle Stops Communications Documents (7MB)
Academy Innovations References and Resources
Download Resources Document (PDF)
Available Spring/Summer 2023:
The project team includes: Peggy Schaefer, Senior Project Manager; Dianne Beer-Maxwell, Project Manager; Jon Blum, Curriculum Development and Instruction; Dr. Timothy Bonadies, Online Training Developer and Lead Researcher; Dr. Jessica Herbert, Data Analysis.
The project team is grateful to the project advisory group and the five academies participating in this critical work. Without their support, this study would not have been possible.
For additional information about the Academy Innovations project or questions about the communications curriculum used, contact project manager Dianne Beer-Maxwell.
This project was supported, in whole or in part, by cooperative agreement number 2020CKWXK049 awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. The opinions contained herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. References to specific agencies, companies, products, or services should not be considered an endorsement by the author(s) or the U.S. Department of Justice. Rather, the references are illustrations to supplement discussion of the issues.