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Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Value of Experience over Training in Criminal Justice Management

MCJ6405: Organizational Leadership

Week 5
Assignment 4
The Value of Experience over Training in Criminal Justice Management

Problem Statement

The ability to think strategically cannot be taught in a classroom or through formal training; it only comes with experience on the job.

Which one of the two is more important in a leadership position-experience or training? Why?

Experience will trump training as a leadership component value in most cases; however, the two qualities each have valuable contributions, and should reinforce other; “leadership can be learned in formal academic settings, they also believe that it is imperative that the knowledge and skills gained need reinforcement within the workplace” (Carmenaty, 2013, p. 21). One one side of a values comparison, “One could argue that most degree-seeking majors are unaware of law enforcement
realities, and are therefore unqualified to espouse valid assessments” (Carlan, 2007, p. 61), and yet, studies indicate that law enforcement officers that have attained higher levels of education beyond a high school diploma were more versatile within their environment” (Carmenaty, 2013, p. 61). By understanding that these qualities can complement each other, criminal justice leaders can use strategies that synthesize the qualities in creating future leaders, as this discussion will review shortly.

Do you believe experience is more valuable in a criminal justice leadership position than in the corresponding positions in other fields? Why? Examine with reference to the fact that the detailed field knowledge gained on-the-job cannot be collated and condensed into the most comprehensive of the training programs.

Experience is even more valuable a quality in the criminal justice field than in other professions due to the high stakes involved in resolving issues; people die, officers go to jail, taxpayers pay the brunt of lawsuits . Examination of the balance between leadership and experience has been sparse; “Literature on leadership in policing has, with a few notable exceptions, focused on either the possible application of general organizational and leadership theories within policing contexts...Less has been done to examine leadership within the cultural and occupational contexts of policing” (Schafer, 2009, p.240). However, many of those that work in the profession, as opposed to the academics that study it, have chimed in conclusively; “From the perspective of craft, professionalism is defined quite differently. Experience,
not scientific knowledge, is the foundation of effective police work. By encountering a variety
of situations and people over time, patrol officers learn valuable, practical knowledge and develop specific skills” (Willis, 2013, p.3). Perhaps a field sergeant can summarize the comparison:

Administrators looking at people's paper accomplishments vs what they have been doing in
the fieeld. The guy who has avoided getting dirty and punched his ticket vs the guy who is in
the mud puddle getting the job done. Administrators tend to focus on the firrst group rather
than the second or a combo of the two […] we have diminished the quality of our leaders.
We promote those who can take a good test or build a paper empire but have little “real”
experience in the fieeld. (Schafer, 2009, p.248)

Do you think that a leader who has been trained in the latest management techniques will have less tension with more experienced subordinates? Why? Conversely, how can an experienced leader manage subordinates who possess more qualifications?

The perspective of the field sergeant quoted above shows the level of tension that can arise when those that “learn” management techniques are set above those that learn in the field. “From the inception of academic criminal justice, law enforcement personnel (administrators and officers) have espoused skepticism toward the practical value of a college education” (Carlan, 2007, p. 609). This skepticism extends to management training, and there are reasons for it. Schafer references McCall and Hollenbeck in this statement; “Despite 'an unending flow of books, videotapes, and leadership gurus, despite leadership development that costs millions of dollars each year' there is still an absence of true and effective leadership in most organizations( 2009, p.242). Paterson discusses research in the 1990's which indicated that LEO's were asking “questions about the value of higher education beyond the legitimacy and credibility provided to the police by accreditation (2011, p. 289). On the other hand, some
officers with higher education [felt] that they have an advantage over officers with no or only a partial college education ‘in some practices such as accepting responsibility, undertaking leadership roles and initiative” (del Carmen, Butler, & Odo, 2006, 213). Eastman and McCain support those officers' position; “It is difficult for an intellectually inferior officer to successfully supervise a subordinate who is more intelligent than he by virtue of a four-year liberal arts education” (Eastman & McCain, 1973, p. 114). However, there is an assumption that formal education in itself is a sign of intellectual superiority. “Bayley observes that ‘in several respects universities, American ones at least, maybe even less rational than the police, despite their pretensions to intellectual superiority, rationality, and selfless service.’ This is extremely ironic, since academics have been in the forefront in criticizing police organizations as ‘rigid, unreflective, ineffective, wasteful, unaccountable, bureaucratized, self-serving, and hide-bound.’
The paper can be taken as a word of caution for those police and reformers who might idealistically believe that higher education has all the answers for the problems of the police. (Cordner & Shain, 2011, p. 283)

In the volatile environment of criminal justice, what are the problems that the leader might face if he relies too much on either of these:
  • Experience
  • Training
Provide in-depth reasoning as you consider both situations and support your response with examples.

Despite the criticism of formal credentials in the preceding discussion, it should not be inferred that training and education have no value. To repeat, utilizing leadership training in conjunction with experience is the best way of developing leaders. Because experience matters most, it should be a priority in the process; “Once officers gain employment experience, they should be capable of
judging educational value” (Carlan, 2007, p. 616). Schafer recognizes this in his research; “Respondents recognized the value in teaching fundamentals and theories of
leadership, but felt this learning would be enhanced through the guided application” (2009, p. 247). A criminal justice leader that relies on experience only may neglect to internalize some fundamental concepts of either the criminal justice task or of simple leadership principles; “the fair and
equitable application of criminal justice plays an integral part of a liberal education” (Kingshott, Hughes, Mullendore, & Prinsloo, 2008, p.65). A leader that fails to utilize either value to advance skills simply won't succeed; “In an environment that is as unpredictable and volatile as in law enforcement,
leader’s that fail to develop eventually become victims of their own demise...” (Carmenaty, 2013 p. 35).

How can leaders in criminal justice develop the skills in areas in which they have a deficit? What are the organizational conditions which can facilitate this leadership training? Explain the techniques and theories that can be adopted.

The first thing that a criminal justice leader must do to develop his leadership skills is to make the personal commitment to do so; “mastering the environmental context is simply an act
of choice and willingness to interact in a manner that requires intimate and engaging
relationships with self and others” (Carmenaty, 2013 p. 19). These leaders need to take advantage of training opportunities provided by their agencies; “Successful organizations typically provide leadership development programs to enhance the skills of their employees, supervisors, and managers” (Moriarty, 2104, para. 7). This is fairly common;”A number of states also operate “command colleges”
intended to further the leadership and management development of participating
officers” (Schafer, 2009, p.241). For those leaders without such resources to draw upon, they need to locate and act upon such opportunities they can secure themselves, lest they “ eventually become victims of their own demise”.


Carlan, P. E. (2007). The criminal justice degree and policing: Conceptual development or occupational primer? Policing, 30(4), 608-619. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/13639510710833893

Carmenaty, D. (2013). Examining the relationship between the effects of formal education and the police manager’s leadership style through the full range leadership dimensions (Ph.D.). Our Lady of the Lake University, United States -- Texas. Retrieved December 6, 2014 from http://search.proquest.com.southuniversity.libproxy.edmc.edu/docview/1321226042/abstract?accountid=87314

Cordner, G., & Shain, C. (2011). The changing landscape of police education and training. Police Practice & Research, 12(4), 281–285. doi:10.1080/15614263.2011.587673

Del Carmen, A., Butler, R. R., & Odo, J. C. (2006). Criminology and Criminal Justice through the Lenses of the Law Enforcement Community: An Attitudinal Assessment. Criminal Justice Studies, 19(2), 209–222. doi:10.1080/14786010600764583

Eastman, G. D., & McCain, J. A. (1973). Police managers and their perceptions of higher
education. Journal of Criminal Justice, 1 , 113-124

Kingshott, B. F., Hughes, F., Mullendore, K., & Prinsloo, J. (2008). A leadership approach to criminal justice education: developing tomorrow’s decision makers. Criminal Justice Studies, 21(1), 61–77. doi:10.1080/14786010801972712

Moriarty, S. (2014, December). The Leadership in Police Organizations Program in the Delaware State Police: Recommendations for law enforcement leadership development. The Police Chief. Retrieved December 6, 2014 from http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_id=1792&issue_id=52009

Paterson, C. (2011). Adding value? A review of the international literature on the role of higher education in police training and education. Police Practice & Research, 12(4), 286–297. doi:10.1080/15614263.2011.563969

Schafer, J. A. (2009). Developing effective leadership in policing: perils, pitfalls, and paths forward. Policing, 32(2), 238–260. doi:http://dx.doi.org.southuniversity.libproxy.edmc.edu/10.1108/13639510910958163

Willis, J. J. (2013). Improving police: What’s  craft got to do with it? Ideas in American Policing, 16. Retrieved August 10, 2014 from https://www.policefoundation.org/sites/g/files/g798246/f/201306/IAP16_Willis_2.pdf


  1. "The ability to think strategically cannot be taught in a classroom or through formal training; it only comes with experience on the job."
    What a bullshit theory, you can have years of experience, but if you lack the knowledge, then you will be still poor at what you are doing.

  2. "The ability to think strategically" vs " knowledge" are two different things. Look at it the difference between knowing how to fix a car academically, and having the experience to see where a retaining bolt may be cracked.

    This article is about having the best of both worlds, but when it comes down to it in real life, reading about the theories of mental disturbance doesn't help the guy on the line when he is face to face with an armed assailant.

    1. Maybe as a car mechanic, but if you are a translator or a doctor, then you need theoretical knowledge. Experience won’t help you much if your German grammar and vocabulary is poor, such translator can have tons of experience, but will be still slaughtered by a newbie who has an extensive knowledge of both.
      "reading about the theories of mental disturbance doesn't help" Who told you that? Following your hypothesis there is no need for psychologists to attend any theoretical courses at all. It will be funny when they won´t know difference between schizophrenia and paraphilia or if a dentist won’t be able to tell the difference between caries and fluorosis. Sorry to tell you, but without extensive knowledge in your field of expertise, you can have tons of experience, but you will still be poor at what you are doing. There are many cases of doctors with 20 and more years of experience who are bad doctors. Tell me the reason. I am studying for my master degree in Teaching German language at Masaryk University in Czech Republic and i can tell you that without proper knowledge acquired through study or self-study you won’t be alright at what you are doing. I know a dentist with 25 years of experience who has a terrible reputation and young one who just finished her study and is a great dentist.