Police Training: What works, what doesn’t, and how we should change the future of police training

Renée Mitchell, Sacramento Police Department, ASEBP Executive Committee Member

Law enforcement training is one of the least researched areas in policing. Most training, especially at the academy level, centers around understanding and applying laws, hence the term ‘law enforcement’. Policing spends an inordinate number of hours learning how to get someone into custody, but the profession has grown well beyond the original intent of just enforcing laws, as police officers now respond to all types of social problems. Policing now faces the difficult challenge of determining what training should take priority, how training should be conducted, and whether the current training schemes obtain the results they claim to. For example, many academies still train based on the theory that people have ‘learning styles’ even though this has no scientific support.

Policing, like most professions, has difficulty adapting to new research that is counterintuitive to their beliefs, yet quick to adopt new training based on ‘everyone’s doing it’ mentality such as procedural justice and implicit bias training, or the newly titled transformational police training. Mental health and wellness trainings seem to be on the horizon as the next big fad. Many of these training programs could have beneficial outcomes, but how do we make that determination.  How do we evaluate police training programs? What techniques are supported by research? And why won’t agencies adopt those programs more readily? This presentation will cover some of the latest research on procedural justice, implicit bias, and investigative interviewing and discuss where police training research should be headed over the next decade.


Renée J. Mitchell has served in the Sacramento Police Department for twenty- one years and is currently a Police Sergeant. She holds a B.S. in Psychology, a M.A. in Counseling Psychology, a M.B.A., a J.D., and a Ph.D. in Criminology from the University of Cambridge. She was a 2009/2010 Fulbright Police Research Fellow where completed research in the area of juvenile gang violence at the London Metropolitan Police Service. You can view her TEDx talks, “Research not protests” and “Policing Needs to Change: Trust me I’m a Cop”, where she advocates for evidence-based policing. She is a co-founder of the American Society of Evidence-Based Policing, a National Police Foundation Fellow, a BetaGov Fellow, a member of the George Mason Evidence-Based Policing Hall of Fame, and a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge. Her research areas include policing, evidence-based crime prevention, evaluation research and methods, place-based criminology, police/citizen communication and procedural justice. She has published her work in the Journal of Experimental Criminology, Justice Quarterly, and the Cambridge Journal of Evidence-Based Policing. She has an edited book with Dr. Laura Huey, Evidence Based Policing: An introduction.