Advancements in Criminal Justice Training

By Thomas Dworak, Sgt. (Ret.), Virtus Group

Criminal justice training is again in a state of flux due to recent events that have garnered media attention and have sparked strong public reaction. In response to these incidents new buzzwords have appeared, such as "de-escalation" and "implicit bias." Ethics began to enter discussions about use of force and decision-making. The landscape of criminal justice training is changing in the following ways:

Emotional Intelligence

Learn More About CJ DegreesVirginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring in a Washington Post article revealed a two-part police training strategy for Virginia. The program will include training in "bias awareness, impartial policing, de-escalation and when to use force."

Another program is called “Blue Courage.” Blue Courage is a two-day training course designed to educate officers on human effectiveness, purpose-driven work, resilience, positive attitude and sound judgment. The Bureau of Justice Administration (BJA) funded a study through the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST) to bring the Blue Courage philosophy into academy training. For additional information see the BJA report titled Educating the 21st Century Police Officer – Teaching Blue Courage as a Way of Life.

These programs share a common goal of improving emotional intelligence (EI). EI addresses how you control your emotions and your response to others. There are five key components of EI:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

You can read more on the five areas at

In criminal justice the return on investment of this type of program is officers who are more aware of their own emotions and biases, who respond empathetically to others and who are motivated to solve problems. Officers aware of and in control of their emotions are better decision makers.

HIG Training

The High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) brings together personnel from the US intelligence community to conduct interrogations of high-value terrorism subjects. The goals of the HIG are to serve as a model of interrogation best practices, training, and research. A USA Today article reported that HIG training "is clearly able to show that interview strategies based on building rapport and seeking to understand a suspect's motivation to cooperate are more effective than accusatory practices that attempt to raise anxiety levels, fabricate evidence and minimize a suspect's perception of their own culpability."

The FBI has conducted HIG training with investigators at the Los Angles and Philadelphia police departments. The training includes ways to overhaul the traditional police interrogation room. While time will tell the effectiveness of the HIG training, it is time for a change in how law enforcement conducts business.

According to David J. Thomas, Ph.D., LMHC , Lead Faculty, Criminal Justice Masters’ program, Columbia Southern University, “It appears that over the years the profession gets comfortable and becomes complacent. The result of these actions is that we lose sight of what we need to value which are people and professionalism.” Thomas added, “Hopefully Criminal Justice professionals will understand the value of such training and continue to mandate it and not do it just because it’s mandated.”

As millennials continue to enter the criminal justice field, the methods used to provide training will shift to an online format.

As millennials continue to enter the criminal justice field, the methods used to provide training will shift to an online format. This shift will occur as technology-proficient new employees require training to be provided in a format with which they are comfortable. The online format will allow for synchronous, asynchronous and blended learning opportunities.

There are businesses that service the public sector with everything from individual courses to very robust learning management systems (LMS). The LMS can provide several training options for any size agency. Options include pre-loaded training, specialty training for a fee or an agency can create and upload their own training programs.

The online option allows for 24/7 access to training. For example, if the midnight shift needs compliance training but due to staffing can't attend training, you can video the course and place it on the LMS. Then your night shift can still participate in the training and everyone in the organization is provided the same training.

Training and education are closely related. Begin or complete your criminal justice degree online. An online learning option gives the busy criminal justice professional on-demand learning. Demonstrate your commitment by earning your degree in criminal justice. Seldom is opportunity given, it is often earned by those courageous enough to step forward.

Bio: Sgt. Thomas Dworak served the Wilmette, Ill. Police Department for 31 years in a wide variety of assignments. Now retired, Sgt. Dworak is a consultant for The Virtus Group, providing adaptive leadership training to law enforcement and corrections officers through the Growing Courage leadership program.