Training and development in policing

Harding, Richard (2024). Training and development in policing. In: Randall, Julian and Burnes, Bernard eds. Agency, Change and Learning. Routledge, pp. 121–140.



In this chapter, the author draws on their 30 years of practice experience in policing as an agent, leader, and recipient of change, and subsequently as an academic co-producing change with policing organizations, to explore the role of the internal change agent. It draws on both practical and theoretical experience and is intended for practice audiences in the hope that by sharing the author’s learning from and experience of successful and not so successful change, others might be more successful, more quickly, and more often. Contextualizing their experience with an overview of their policing and academic experience, they explore their personal change journey to a greater understanding of their role as a change agent through trial and error, practice, learning from others, and the addition of academic knowledge, theories, models, and insights. These latter elements are highlighted as important tools for sense-making and success for aspiring change agents.

The chapter then develops themes around the political and operational imperatives of changing environments and the challenges peculiar to enacting change in policing organizations. In particular, it highlights the importance of understanding the nature and root causes of the problem change is being initiated to resolve, the vital imperative to successfully differentiate between tame and wicked problems, and the importance of understanding (and measuring) the effects (what it does/did) and affects (how people feel about) of change.

The author then shares some of the practical and theoretical learning arising from their journey as change agents. They share insights they have uncovered (often painfully), such as the challenges of averages, the fact that people do not really resist change as much as expected, and strategies for managing enforced change. Building on these themes, they explore thoughts on managing change in complex operating environments, the importance of critical self-reflection, and understanding the context of change, in particular the cultures that shape the environments that change is (hopefully) enacted upon and within. Finally, they provide some dos and don’ts for practitioners and reflect on the importance of being able to utilize both practice and academic knowledge to develop capabilities as change agents.

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