IT Hero Awards: CPKN online training helps TO police deal with real-life situations

Balancing the need to deliver relevant and up-to-date training for police officers and provide adequate police coverage of city streets is a constant concern for many law enforcement agencies.

In the Toronto Police Service’s efforts to solve this challenge, the use of self-directed online learning modules from the Canadian Police Knowledge Network (CPKN), a non-profit learning provider, is a vital tool.

For instance, CPKN’s recently released course titled Recognition of Emotionally Disturbed Persons, has helped Toronto police officers to conveniently access information and training on a subject that would have been difficult to obtain without research and classroom instructors.

The Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island-based CPKN is among several Canadian companies that were nominated for the 9th Annual ITAC IT Hero Awards presented by Intel.

The awards, which will be presented at the annual ITAC (Information technology Association of Canada) Chair’s Dinner on June 23, celebrate and recognize the creative application of information technology that significantly improves the lives of Canadians and demonstrates social and economic benefits.

The IT Hero Awards program was developed in 2001 by ITAC in partnership with Industry Canada. There are two categories of award:

• The Community IT Hero Award, sponsored by Innovapost, recognizes an individual, group or not-for-profit organization that is able to creative use IT to improve the lives of Canadians

• The Corporate IT Hero Awards, for which CPKN was nominated for, recognizes a for-profit public or privately owned business that is able to creatively use IT to improve the lives of Canadians

The Recognition of Emotionally Disturbed Persons course is designed to help police quickly and accurately identify, and defuse potentially violent situations involving emotionally disturbed person. The course and other self-directed online modules allows officers to study at their own pace but also enables the force to double its training output, according to S/Sgt. Jon Schmidt of the Toronto Police Service education and training unit.

Police officers are supposed to complete various training courses either to upgrade skills or to move up in the service. Prior to the use of online training tools the education and training unit, Schmidt said, has always been challenged to produce enough graduates without unduly impacting the police force’s operational demands. “The idea was to get effective courses that take officers away from the beat at the minimum possible amount of time.”

“Through our collaboration with CPKN and use of their online modules for example, we were able to double our graduates for the investigator courses from 300 a year to 600 a year,” said Schmidt.

The Toronto Police Service has worked with CPKN in developing several online courses such as: Characteristics of an Impaired Person, Fatigue Management, Drinking and Driving and Urban Group Dynamics.

The Flash-based Recognition of Emotionally Disturbed Persons courses uses online illustrations, instructions as well as an interactive questions and multiple answer selection process, according to Sandy Sweet, president of CPKN.

The course was developed in collaboration with the University of Dalhousie’s Department of Psychiatry. The course reviews the broad categories of EDPs and provides recommended response strategies to deal with individuals in crisis situations.

“This course shed light on a topic that isn’t discussed as often as it should be…it provided me with the information that will be useful when dealing with EDPs,” according to Bryan Snider, of the Canada Border Services Agency.

More than 1,350 individuals from police and law enforcement agencies across Canada have completed the course, according to Sweet. “Surveys indicate that 93 per cent of the learners would recommend the course to their colleagues”.

The typical return of investment in online course comes by way of increased personnel availability and reduced classroom expenditures,” Sweet said.

For example, a traditional classroom-based course for 24 people is likely to involve three-days of lessons and costs an average of $25,000 taking into account instructor fees, material and venue expenses.

“The same course delivered online will probably take six hours, costs just $4,500 and can be taken whenever the learner’s schedule permits,” Sweet said.

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