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The Recruit Training Programme – Its Impact on Behaviour of Police Officers

By Vernon Francois
Assistant Commissioner of Police (A.C.P)
B.Sc. (Hons) Management Studies (U.W.I)

The Royal St. Lucia Police Force is by its nature a service oriented organization with the principal functions of protection of life and property, prevention and detection of crimes, detection, pursuit and arrest of offenders and the preservation of the peace.

To perform the functions alluded to above, the Force operates through people who comprise its membership. The success or otherwise of the Force is heavily dependant on its membership.

Invariably persons who seek entry into the Police Force are from diverse backgrounds and socialization. They are individuals who differ in terms of personality, attitude, aptitude, learning and perception. These factors would have undoubtedly shaped their outlook on life and consequently their behaviour. It is expected that they would bring these influences into the Police Department and it would determine to a large extent how they behave in the organization.

The Royal St. Lucia Police Force, like any other organization, has a shared system of beliefs, which keeps its members together. Notwithstanding the differences alluded to above, a concerted effort is made to socialize Police Officers into the culture of the Police Force. This process typically commences during the initial or recruit training and is generally aimed at influencing the behaviour of Police Officers.

But to what extent does the recruit training process influence the behaviour of members of the Royal St. Lucia Police Force? How much is it reasonable to expect that Police Officers, subsequent to their initial training, deviate from their earlier socialization and adopt the culture and behaviour dictated by the Police Department.

The Royal St. Lucia Police Force Training School is the initial Police Training Institution for the Police Force. Persons who attain the Force’s entry requirements are expected to undergo a six months initial training programme. The programme is aimed at converting “Raw Civilians” from the referred to diverse background and socialization, among other factors, into the culture of the Police Force. The training usually takes the form of classroom sessions, physical exercises, military training and drills. It is anticipated that during the training period, enforcement of discipline would be paramount.

The recruits are expected to comply with the rigid training programme as it determines whether they graduate into the Police Department. At the end of the training period, the recruits are also expected to be fully ‘acculturated’ into Policing and subservient to authority. They are supposed to behave like Police Officers. Regardless of the well-intentioned efforts of the initial training programme, the recruit from the Police Training School who graduates into a full-fledged member of the Royal St. Lucia Police Force, shows occasional glimpses of his or her earlier socialization. This is reflected on a daily basis by reports of Police Officers who are involved in wrong doings either criminal or otherwise.
It must be noted that a majority of Police Officers who comprise the Police Force, behave and continue to behave in an exemplary manner and this can arguably be attributed to the initial training programme conducted at the Police Training School.

How much can the initial training programme impact on the behaviour of Police Officers? What about other factors? The training period at the Training School is relatively short. As such, a situation is engendered where there is so much to do in so little time. The natural tendency is to coerce Police Recruits into compliance through the use of drills and other means of restrictive control. Invariably, Police Officers who are coerced into conforming would be improperly socialized and the consequence is inappropriate behaviour, which impacts negatively on the public image of the Police Force.

Drills and other means of restrictive control have a place in the initial training of recruits. However, it is difficult to construe that drill by itself can in any meaningful way influence behaviour. The Police authorities should be careful that Police recruits do not adhere to the regimental style just for training purposes and as soon as they are out of the Training School, they revert to their normal and sometimes inappropriate behaviour.

Thankfully, Police Officers are, generally speaking, properly socialized into the culture of the Police Force and they are able to harmonize what they learn outside of the Police Force with the initial Training Programme.

There will, however, be continuous instances where Police Officers would stray from the expected appropriate behaviour. Such a situation is not unique to the Police Department. All efforts should be made to discourage negative behaviour through punishment and encourage acceptable behaviour through rewards.

There must also be recognition of the work, which has to be conducted on human behaviour by Behavioral Scientist and Sociologists. They have expended countless hours in attempting to ascribe reasons why human beings, Police Officers included, behave the way in which they do. These factors range from the individual’s early socialization, to biological factors and from environmental factors to the make up of the individual. New entrants into the Police Force would have been influenced by some, if not all of the mentioned factors.

The initial training programme has the capacity to influence the behaviour of the members of the Police Force. Modification of the training programme should take the form of a longer training period, coupled with a de-emphasizing of drills as a means of discipline. Emphasis should be placed on behaviour related subjects, whereby Police Officers would, through learning, develop a greater appreciation of behaviour, which would ultimately benefit the Police Department and the country in general.