Teaching procedural justice and communication skills during police-community encounters
Results of a randomized control trial with police recruits
Rosenbaum, D. P., & Lawrence, D. (2017). Teaching procedural justice and communication skills during police-community encounters: Results of a randomized control trial with police recruits. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 13(3), 293-319. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-017-9293-3
To describe and evaluate Chicago’s Quality Interaction Program (QIP) for police recruits. The training focused on procedural justice, interpersonal communication, decision-making, cultural awareness, and stress management during encounters with the public. Attention was given to emotions, empathy, and communication skills.
The QIP is an underutilized approach to police training that involves engaging recruits through applied case studies, role-playing scenarios, repetitive opportunities for practice, and individualized feedback. The impact of QIP training on 142 officers’ attitudes and behaviors was evaluated in a randomized control trial. Treatment and control groups were assessed through responses to self-reported questionnaires as well as research-coded videos that recorded officers during role-playing scenarios.
The QIP did not change recruits’ attitudes toward procedural justice, nor did it impact their self-reported interpersonal communication skills. However, the program was effective at creating more respectful and reassuring behaviors during role-playing scenarios that were videotaped. The program also improved recruits’ decision-making during a scenario with rebellious youths and reduced officers’ reliance on force and arrest relative to controls.
The QIP initiative was instrumental in moving police training beyond “talking heads” to interactive adult education, while promoting a more sophisticated understanding of human dynamics during police–public encounters. The results, however, were mixed, due in part to a training academy environment that emphasized aggressive policing and officer safety. Thus, reform-minded agencies may need to rethink the totality of the training experience to achieve strong results.