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Should Officers be Trained as Specialists?

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Technology Volume: 30 Issue: 11 Dated: November 2003 Pages: 56,58,60
Carole Moore
Date Published
November 2003
4 pages
This article discusses the issue of whether police officers should be trained to specialize in specific areas of law enforcement.
A trend toward generalization began for law enforcement officials in the 1970’s, and the term specialist has become one that agency officials shy away from using despite employing specialists in one form or another. Describing the specialist model, the article indicates that there is a hefty price tag associated with training police officers to conduct highly specific and technical investigations such as arson, computer fraud, and homicide. Furthermore, the article states that such specializations require greater numbers of officers to handle the various other types of investigations. Generalizing police officer training works if a department uses fixed geographical assignments, 24-hour shift responsibilities, centralized decisionmaking, and close cooperation with the larger community. The most effective approach is a balance between generalization and specialization, and that when developing personnel deployment and training, police department planners need to recognize that a combination of approaches is the most economical and effective method of delivering law enforcement services to the public. The author indicates that policing is a fluid profession that must remain open to new and innovative approaches such as striking a balance between generalized and specialized training for police officers.