Shaping the Next Generation of Law Enforcement at BTC
October 23, 2020
"To recognize always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them." Sir Robert Peel wrote these words in 1892. Peel, known as the father of modern policing, is one reason why Troy Egger, Blackhawk Tech's Law Enforcement Academy Coordinator, considers himself both a progressive officer and, to a certain extent, a regressive one.
When Troy took over in December of 2019, he knew the first thing he needed to do was shift the Academy's mindset away from paramilitary order-following. "Before I got here," Troy said, "students had to stand at attention when the instructor walked in, if they made a mistake, they had to do pushups, they had to park farthest away and run into the classroom." Respect is invaluable, Troy acknowledges, but so is critical thinking and problem-solving.
Officers that patrol neighborhoods and cities must think on their feet and make decisions that will help solve community problems without having immediate access to a commander who could approve or reject any given course of action as soldiers do. This is one of the significant educational philosophies that Troy has learned by pursuing his two master's degrees – one in criminal justice to understand law enforcement aspects and one in training and development to know how to train officers most effectively to do that enforcing.
"We encourage our students to fail forward," he explained of the Academy's new education model. "In other words, to make mistakes and to then learn from them. Indecision is the worst thing you can engage in as an officer." He's also worked to implement training to help officers improve their problem-solving skills, cultural competency, emotional intelligence, and understand their own implicit biases by connecting students with community activists and other experts.
Students feel the impact of these changes and seek to live up to what they see as their future role in police enforcement. "Looking at police when I was younger," said academy student Nicholas Cervantes (pictured), "they were cookie-cutter personalities. Very military. The newer generation is friendlier and more personable. We want to build relationships and change the community's perspective of officers."
It is currently a challenging time for anyone in the field of law enforcement. Highly publicized civil unrest is making the public as a whole take a look at what policing should and should not be.
"With what is happening now in the world, I am worried more," said academy student Cody Oudinot. "But at the same time, it makes me want to be out there more. I think I'm a better fit for that role versus officers who don't have the right motivation."
Experience is invaluable when keeping the peace, but Troy encourages his students to be ready to speak up for what is right from day one on the job, whether that's when encountering an issue while on patrol or working with veteran officers on the force. "Because of the rigorous standards set by the Department of Justice and the access they have had to exceptional instructors, I always tell my students that they are the most trained they will ever be the day they graduate from the academy," he said.
This is not to say that veteran officers are not trained; on the contrary. However, new officers have extensively studied their craft when they finish the Academy, and it is fresh in their minds. After the Academy, they transition to their new departments and positions where they are typically immersed in four months of field training with a senior officer. This in-depth field training helps recruits apply what they have learned in the Academy at BTC.
The state's enhanced training standards require recruits to engage in an increasing amount of scenario training in their 18 weeks at the Academy. BTC's facilities are not keeping up with today's standards by using hallways, public parking lots, and rented facilities to provide for appropriate scenario development and training. If approved by voters on November 3, 2020, a new Public Safety + Transportation Center on the College's main campus will allow students to train in more realistic and appropriate settings to practice the skills they are learning.
The proposed PSTC includes a simulated training village, emergency vehicle operator course (EVOC), deep water rescue pond, and confined space training areas, which would allow students to train for these real-life scenarios in more realistic settings. "Right now, we spend so many resources renting and traveling to and from an Illinois racetrack to practice required high-speed driving and maneuvers. With the proposed new facilities right here on Central Campus, we'll be able to easily and regularly practice those skills as well as many others – like pulling up outside of a home or business with an incident in progress."
Sir Robert Peel could never have conceived of what modern policing would become as officers today branch out from jails, courts, and street patrols into K-9 work, DARE officers, school resource officers, SWAT teams, and lake and field patrols. However, he would be proud to see our modern officers striving to be community problem solvers and keeping the peace instead of just enforcing the law.