Blending Storytelling with Technology in the Professional Development of Police Officers

Blending Storytelling with Technology in the Professional Development of Police Officers

Kenneth H. Anderson (York University, Canada) and William Muirhead (University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1930-2.ch008


Policing is a storytelling profession. Storytelling is a linguistic medium for the sharing of experiences, values, and culture. Organizations have a need to promote the sharing of experiences from senior to junior members. Organizations desire to ensure that proper values and culture are reinforced during this sharing process. Technology affords a tool for the sharing, and for the mediation of what is shared. This study focuses on a case where technology was used for the direct sharing of experiences. This sharing was done through the use of storytelling in the form of video presentations delivered in an e-learning course. Participants viewing these videos reported feeling a sense of engagement and immersion in the experiences of the teller. Participants reported that stories aid their retention and recall of the content of them. Other storytelling professions will benefit from using similar approaches.
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Organization Background

The organization involved in this study is a mid-sized Police Service in the Province of Ontario, Canada. It is responsible for policing a large geographical area consisting of a mix of urban and rural populations. The services provided by the organization include crime prevention, law enforcement, assistance to victims of crime, public order maintenance, and emergency response. Approximately nine hundred sworn officers are employed by the Police Service, working in ten different physical locations within its jurisdictional boundaries. The annual budget for 2012 is approximately $150 million, wholly supplied through local and provincial taxation streams.

The provision of police services in the Province of Ontario is governed by the Police Services Act, an act of the province’s legislature. This act and its regulations provide requirements for minimum standards in the area of service provision, including the ongoing training and development of police officers. In particular, Ontario Regulation 3/99, in section 33 specifies the following in regards to skills development and learning:

  • 3.

    Every police force must have a skills development and learning plan that addresses,

    • a.

      the plan’s objectives;

    • b.

      the implementation of a program to coach or mentor new officers;

    • c.

      the development and maintenance of the knowledge, skills and abilities of members of the police force, including,

      • the police force’s criminal investigators,

      • members of the police force who provide investigative support functions, if any,

      • members of a public order unit, if any, and

      • members of the police force who provide any emergency response service referred to in sections 21 and 22. (O. Reg. 3/99, s. 33).

In order to meet its requirements under this legislation, the organization employs a number of different formal training delivery systems. Officers receive classroom instruction, physical training, and courses delivered through computer technologies. Training using computer technologies is a relatively new delivery method for the organization. Training within this method is primarily didactic in nature with content delivered through text pages sometimes accompanied by audio voice-over. Developing enhancements to training delivered through computer technologies is a focus of this study.


Setting The Stage

The organization uses an e-learning system to distribute courses to its members through its on-line intranet network. Officers access these courses in their workplaces through computer terminals configured for this task. The computer terminals provide keyboard, mouse, and viewing screen devices along with audio and video capabilities. The system employs learning content management system software, which automatically records attempts and completions of the courses offered. Design and maintenance of these courses is a combined effort of an instructional designer, a media developer, and course-specific subject matter experts.

The study explored the efficacy and desirability of the use of storytelling as a pedagogical delivery method within a technology-mediated learning environment. It attempted to gain some measure of the officers’ perceptions of the effectiveness of storytelling in engaging a learner, and the retention of the content delivered. As well, the researchers were interested in whether or not this delivery method was useful in acclimatizing newer officers to the policing culture. As a result, study participants were limited to front-line officers in their early years of training and development (one to three years of service). It was desired to find out what this specific group prefers in terms of e-learning instruction, and how their preferences affect their knowledge acquisition, as seen through their eyes.

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