by Gregory Saville
In the 1960s, Abraham Maslow, the brilliant psychologist who uncovered the nature of basic human needs, said “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. In spelling out this law of innate human behavior, he echoed a concept called The Law of the Hammer by an earlier scholar,
"We tend to formulate our problems in such a way as to make it seem that the solutions to those problems demand precisely what we already happen to have at hand."
This afternoon I searched a popular law enforcement website for police training conferences and workshops in June. I counted 193 courses and workshops across the country and that was only June! There is obviously no lack of training opportunities for American police officers.
Digging a bit deeper I discovered that, of those 193 courses, 75 were focused on SWAT-techniques, weapons training, and defensive tactics and another 50 covered investigation methods (interrogation, homicides). The rest included a mix of digital photography, lock picking, and drone usage.
A few seminars included an obsolete, 50-year old recruit field training program called FTO. Another taught how to deploy chemical aerosol projectiles.
In other words, almost 75% of all courses in June dealt with retroactive investigation long after a crime occurs (investigation, after all, requires a crime to have already happened), or they taught techniques in the use of, and response to, force - the bluntest hammer of them all.
WHAT WAS MISSING?
There is no shortage of training opportunities in policing, but the majority use very similar hammers and, I respectfully submit, end up with the same results. We need something different.
Missing from this buffet of training courses:
- Prevention of crime before deadly situations arise, such as neighborhood strategies like SafeGrowth
- How to help officers problem-solve with residents to build bridges and community support
- How to work with the disenfranchised, the poor, and the mentally ill (the very people who get interrogated, get photographed after they become homicide victims, or get arrested following moments of illness or intoxication).
To a person with a hammer…
This year two upcoming conferences provide a different set of tools into the hands of officers and community members seeking a different way forward. These conferences are rooted in long-proven police methods and educational strategies that create a more comprehensive set of problem-solving skills. None of those 193 training courses cover these themes.
THE POLICE PBL CONFERENCE
- The Annual Conference of the Police Society for Problem-Based Learning is called “Training for Resiliency: The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Policing”. It is in Madison, Wisconsin, June 5-7th and features exceptional guest speakers including behavioral scientist, Kevin Gilmartin.
For 15 years the Police Society for Problem-Based Learning has offered education, certification, and skills-training for instructors, academy educators, and field trainers in modern education methods and mental tools for intelligent problem-solving.
THE POP CONFERENCE
- The 29th Annual Problem-Oriented Policing Conference in Santa Cruz, CA., Nov 11-13. Each year this conference is run by the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing.
The Problem-Oriented Policing Conference features projects from around the world where officers partner with communities to resolve difficult crime and disorder issues. Fellow officers show how to tackle, (and more importantly, prevent), gang violence, shootings, neighborhood disorder, sexual assaults, robberies, and many others.