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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services

145 N Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20530

May 2022 | Volume 15 | Issue 5

As the United States begins to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and eyes a return to normalcy, law enforcement continues to confront issues of budgetary and personnel deficits while communities demand more and better training. Throughout the pandemic, individual officers and agencies alike have turned to online training, which can be delivered either live or on-demand (asynchronously), without incurring the same types of costs that go along with in-person training. With online training, there is no need to fly in a trainer, pay for lodging and meals, or even rent a space when a jurisdiction does not have their own training facilities. Most importantly, there is no need to put a large group of people into an enclosed space for hours at a time.

But now, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance saying that these kinds of gatherings no longer pose the same risks as they did just a short time ago, how will agencies approach training? While in-person training has its unique value, online training still retains all of its own advantages. The same cost savings still apply. With asynchronous courses, an entire squad, district, department, or even state can be assigned a specific training to complete without pulling people off the street all at once, or even in large groups. An individual officer who seeks education on a particular topic does not need to convince their department that time away from their assignment is necessary; instead, they can complete training without ever leaving their office, home, or even squad car.

As Lynda Schwartz, Executive Director of the Virginia Center for Policing Innovation (VCPI), explained, "With web-based learning, agencies realize they are able to efficiently and effectively achieve training goals that might otherwise take months and tremendous amounts of resources to roll out in-person. . . As other professions have done, public safety is integrating web-based learning into organizational learning and development, not just as an alternative to in-person training, but as a fundamental approach.”

The question thus becomes, will online training remain available to those who want it? For the COPS Office, the answer is a resounding “yes!” Available since late 2017, the COPS Training Portal, which is administered on behalf of the COPS Office by VCPI, provides law enforcement with a suite of high quality, on-demand, and most importantly free trainings available 24/7/365. Over the last two years, the Training Portal has seen exponential growth, with registrations increasing from just over 3,200 at the start of 2020 to more than 24,000 at the beginning of March 2022. To meet the increasing demand for training, the COPS Office is regularly deploying new courses and resources, with eight new trainings added in 2021 alone, and about a dozen courses launched or in some stage of development in the first half of 2022. COPS Office Acting Director Robert Chapman noted, “The COPS Office is committed to providing valuable, timely courses on a diverse range of topics that address the needs of the law enforcement community. The COPS Training Portal provides a unique opportunity for us to reach law enforcement where they are.”

The Training Portal provides a “unique. . . place where agencies and individual officers can experience the entire library of on-demand eLearning and multimedia resources funded by the COPS Office in recent years,” said Director Schwartz. "When traditional training regimens were upended during the pandemic, thousands of organizations sought out the Portal's flexible, accessible, and no-cost resources to help fulfill their training needs.” Moving forward, the COPS Office is committed to not only expanding the topics addressed in the Training Portal, but also adapting to the newest technological advances and most effective training modalities. Currently in the midst of an assessment of the performance and capabilities of the Training Portal, the COPS Office and VCPI look forward to incorporating live, instructor-led online trainings, webinars, and other media to provide even more impactful ways of reaching, and teaching, our law enforcement stakeholders.

“The COPS Office Training Portal is a cornerstone of our overall training program at COPS, and we anticipate it continuing to grow, develop, and expand as we strive to provide the best possible services to the law enforcement community,” said Acting Director Chapman. “Advancing community policing across the United States requires a multifaceted approach, and the Training Portal is a key ingredient in that work.”

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