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How the Census of Law Enforcement Training Academies provides data on recruitment trends, training needs and officer performance issues

National data quantifying the amount and content of law enforcement basic training can identify what is working well and where changes are needed in police training

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When the CLETA was last administered in 2019, 90% of academies eligible to participate in the census responded, providing important information on basic training in the United States in 2018.

Leon Nguyen/hnguyen

By Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice and RTI International

Given the expansive and evolving role of policing in the United States, it is important to understand how law enforcement training is conducted and how it is changing over time.

With the dual staffing challenges in law enforcement of maintaining enough officers and increasing diversity in the workforce, information about recruit attendance and performance in basic training is valuable to law enforcement executives.

Likewise, following several highly publicized uses of excessive force, it is important to know the extent to which law enforcement training academies train officers to prevent the excessive use of force.

National data quantifying the amount and content of law enforcement basic training, as well as information about recruits and instructors, can help academy directors, law enforcement executives and policymakers identify what is working well and where changes are needed in police training. [1,2]

About the Census of Law Enforcement Training Academies (CLETA)

The CLETA is a recurring data collection conducted by the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) that provides important information on basic law enforcement training [1] in the United States for academies that are operated by state, county and municipal agencies and by universities, colleges and technical schools. The data and evidence collected through CLETA can drive decisions on policing and police basic training.

Basic training in the CLETA is defined as the mandatory pre-certification training for newly appointed or elected law enforcement officers as required by federal or state statute, rule, or regulation in the jurisdiction of the agency hiring the new officer.

The CLETA has been administered approximately every five years since 2002. In May 2023, BJS and their data collection partner RTI International invited eligible law enforcement basic training academies to complete the 2022 CLETA. They will be collecting data through the spring and summer of 2023.

When the CLETA was last administered in 2019, 90% of academies eligible to participate in the census responded, providing important information on basic training in the United States in 2018. CLETA data have produced nationally representative statistics that have been used to inform research and policy. Key findings include the following:

  • Gender disparities highlighted a lack of women entering law enforcement training academies in 2018: 19% of recruits who started basic training were female, 81% were male. [3]

  • Most recruits (64%) were white, though this percentage decreased in 2018 from prior census years, largely because of an increase in the percentage of Hispanic recruits and Black recruits. [3]
  • Most recruits (86%) completed basic training in 2018. A higher proportion of male recruits (88%) completed basic training than female recruits (81%). White (87%) and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (87%) recruits had higher completion ratios than recruits of other races or ethnicities. Across the nation, the most common reasons for not completing training included voluntary withdrawal (4% of recruits), poor academic performance (2%), injury or illness (1%), and an inability to meet physical standards (1%). [3]
  • Among police departments with in-house training academies, non-stress training (as compared to stress-based training) is associated with a reduction in the use of deadly force by officers only when agency turnover is high. [4]
  • During basic training in 2018, 82% of recruits across the nation were trained on identifying and responding to the use of excessive force by other officers. [3]
  • In 2018, most academies did not require full-time instructors to have a college degree. The plurality (42%) required a high school diploma or equivalent, 25% had no formal education requirements, and another 25% required at least a 2-year college degree. Most academies (70%) required full-time instructors to have previous law enforcement experience; the average amount required was 4 years. [3]
  • Despite differences in the length of basic training, the allocation of training time across content areas is similar among basic training academies, with seemingly too much time dedicated to traditional police functions compared to qualities like interpersonal skills and stress management. [5]
  • Law enforcement agency academies and academic institution academies that offer basic training differ in characteristics of the academy, characteristics of instructors and features of basic training. [6]

To continue providing up-to-date information on law enforcement basic training to stakeholders, eligible law enforcement basic training academies must participate in the 2022 CLETA. The 2022 CLETA will be administered over the spring and summer of 2023. BJS asks that if your academy receives an invitation to complete the 2022 CLETA, please participate.

If your academy offers basic training and is operated by a state, county, or municipal agency or a university, college, or technical school and you did not receive an invitation to complete the census in May 2023, please inform BJS or RTI using the contact information provided below. The International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training and the National Policing Institute are partners in this data collection and have endorsed the 2022 CLETA. The Major Cities Chiefs Association and Major County Sheriffs of America have also endorsed the 2022 CLETA as an important source of information for basic training academy directors, law enforcement leaders, policymakers and researchers.

To learn more about the CLETA, visit https://bjslecs.org/CLETA2022 and https://bjs.ojp.gov/data-collection/census-law-enforcement-training-academies-cleta. For more information, you can send questions to cleta@rti.org.

You may also contact:

  • Tom Scott, Ph.D., CLETA Principal Investigator, RTI International, 3040 E Cornwallis Road, RTP, NC 27709 tlscott@rti.org
  • Emily Buehler, Ph.D., CLETA Program Manager, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 810 7th Street NW, Washington, DC 20531 Emily.Buehler@usdoj.gov, 202-598-1036.

References

1. CCJ Task Force on Policing. (March 2021.) Effectiveness of police training: Policy assessment.

2. Police Executive Research Forum. (November 2022.) Transforming police recruit training: 40 guiding principles. Critical Issues in Policing Series.

3. Buehler ED. (July 2021.) State and local law enforcement training academies, 2018 – Statistical tables. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

4. Li D, Nicholson-Crotty S, Nicholson-Crotty J. (2021.) Creating guardians or warriors? Examining the effects of non-stress training on policing outcomes. The American Review of Public Administration, 51(1), 3-16.

5. Sloan III JJ, Paoline III EA. (2021.) “They need more training!” A national level analysis of police academy basic training priorities. Police Quarterly, 24(4), 486-518.

6. Sloan III JJ, Paoline III EA. (2022.) A National Comparison of Police Academies Operated by Academic Institutions and by Law Enforcement Agencies: Different Strokes for Different Folks? Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 33(4), 467-490.

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