Teaching Procedural Justice and Communication Skills During Police-Community Encounters

Journal Article

Teaching Procedural Justice and Communication Skills During Police-Community Encounters

Results of a Randomized Control Trial with Police Recruits

Abstract

Objectives: 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.

Methods: 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.

Results: 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.

Conclusion: 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.

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