Law enforcement has an interesting relationship with change. We are strong advocates of it, but when change occurs, it is something that we vehemently fight.
Vast changes have been forced upon the policing profession over the past 20 months, leaving officers weary and suspicious of what will come next. While the nation is normalizing, our profession remains in the midst of a crisis. Budgets are tight, ranks are depleted and officer morale is abysmal. Added to all of this are the ongoing challenges of the COVID pandemic. These factors all have an impact on the ability of leaders to effect positive change.
While the road ahead is difficult, times of crisis can lead to innovation and efficiency. The LAPD Leadership Program has been teaching change management for over 20 years, and the prescribed steps are codified in our Leadership Lexicon, but do these change management steps work in practice? There is no greater laboratory than the real world. Below, we take a look at the leadership program’s efforts to create a distance learning platform using our change management model.
Step 1: Identify the problem
Change management starts with correctly identifying the problem to be solved.
Like many agencies across the country, LAPD training has been largely closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, our regulatory body (POST) continued to require 24 hours of training per agent over a two-year cycle. The problem was how to keep our 9,300 sworn members certified.
This was a logistical challenge that included budgeting, allocating space for socially remote classrooms, and how to summon officers given the constraints of deploying patrols after the loss of 700 staff. sworn in upon retirement and resignation.
Interim solutions included decentralizing training, using large outdoor spaces, or hoping that conditions would improve. The analysis indicated that none of these changes would produce acceptable results; we needed something more dramatic. To foster real change, you need to articulate a clear and optimistic vision for the future.
Step 2: Develop a vision
At the start of the pandemic, the LAPD leadership program was playing with a mobile training app to serve as a compendium for in-person sessions, but we had no way of funding it for wider use. At the same time, our children have started to adjust to an online home learning environment and adult learning programs like EdEx and Coursera have gained prominence.
Fortuitously, at the end of 2020, POST awarded a distance learning scholarship to the LAPD leadership program to support a new approach to training. The vision was the creation of LAPD University, a distance learning system where officers could complete the training required by POST from the convenience of their mobile devices – imagine yourself sitting in court or in court. hospital and learning new skills and credits from your iPhone. Now, with a vision identified and the money for a solution, we have entered the next phase of our change management process – building a coalition.
Step 3: Build Coalitions
Officers generally like training; it’s a chance to get out of black and white, develop skills and hang out with friends. Our detractors also want us to have more training. Reports from a myriad of groups in the wake of the 2020 civil unrest included police training as a recommendation. However, agents generally don’t like online learning. While effective in conveying a consistent message to the masses, online learning is considered painful and uninviting.
How to bridge this gap? We had to create a platform that would be interesting, entertaining and deliver results. To do this, we used the talents of our Media Relations division to create well-produced videos, enlisted interesting people (including a Seal Team Six Commander) to record podcasts, and created a chat feature to provide a more interactive experience on social networks. We then used this team of content creators to recruit participants.
Step 4: Prepare for the resistance
Organizational change will always meet resistance. Preparing for this eventuality is essential to any leader’s action plan. LAPD University was not immune to this resistance and has experienced a learning curve.
We found that people didn’t want to install apps on their personal phones and had the first issues typical of any new technology, including uneven font size and differences in Android and iOS functionality. But by engaging the early adopters who were excited about the platform, we were able to increase usage and overcome resistance to the idea.
Regarding technical issues, the vendor has been very responsive in working with our Office of Information Technology to get the app onto the department’s phones and have the content available on a desktop computer.
Communication was vital to ensuring that agent concerns were addressed and that each individual had a broad understanding of our end state.
Step 5: Look for short-term gains
Developing systems to foster short-term victories for your coalition is essential to managing change. With the LAPD University team, our gains focused on creating four courses and attracting a targeted number of students. Initial success benchmarks for the courses were established based on the launch date and the achievement of 400 participants in four months per course.
We also celebrated the students. The first cohorts received minor kudos for their willingness to adapt to new learning, and we created systems to ensure that their completion is immediately reflected in each student’s training record.
Step 6: Implement durable solutions
For change to be successful, it must be structured to last. This requires monitoring, evaluation and the flexibility to adapt to new conditions.
The heart of our endurance strategy has been the quality of content and accessibility. The app is designed to be accessible to all law enforcement personnel, anywhere, anytime. Currently, LAPD University is open to employees (sworn / non-sworn) of agencies around the world at no cost (this will be reassessed when grant funds expire). As LAPD University heads into 2022, we have planned a series of new courses reflecting the challenges of the new year. Classes include leadership, expanding our use of force de-escalation course, and tactical medicine.
It was reassuring to see that the theoretical material we teach in the leadership program has been successful in implementing real change.
If you want to see LAPD University firsthand, download the app from Google Play or the App Store and email us for access codes at [email protected]
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