An examination of the presence of andragogy in paramilitary law enforcement recruit academies on the eastern seaboard of the United States

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Frank, Jennifer M.
Law enforcement officers are entrusted with the most sacred of responsibilities, that of protecting and serving the community, safeguarding their property, and protecting the innocent from those who wish to do them harm or cause disorder. In preparation for this challenge, every police officer must undergo and successfully complete a police academy training program where they will learn the basic knowledge, skills, and philosophies necessary to effectively complete the task. The purpose of this qualitative study was to determine to what extent the principles of andragogy were present in the academic instructional blocks of paramilitary law enforcement basic recruit academies. This task was undertaken as a result of best practices in the field of education which have identified the theoretical and conceptual practices of andragogy as the preeminent method by which to educate an adult population. While this methodology has been confirmed in research studies to be present and utilized in a variety of adult education career fields that share similar challenges and hurdles to that of law enforcement, such as the military, medical fields, and fire services; there is little research on whether this model of adult learning, anchored on the notions of self-concept, experience, readiness to learn and the internal motivation of adult learners to learn, exist within the instructional processes at paramilitary police academies. To research this phenomenon, a phenomenological qualitative approach was utilized, mining data from three different sources: site visits, interviews, and surveys. To help facilitate a deeper understanding of the presence, or lack thereof, of each of the tenets of andragogy and its resulting impact on the learning experience of the recruit and their preparedness for the career field of law enforcement post academy graduation; nine site visits were conducted at police academies in five states, forty interviews were conducted with current police officers and training academy staff, and one hundred and seventy-two surveys were collected from police academy recruits and graduates.