Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Police futures - A PBL conference in Madison

Madison, Wisconsin is one of those rare gems - a small city, a university town, nestled on northern lakes. Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Monona Terrace graces the waterfront. Designed by Wright in 1938, it met opposition until final construction in 1997. A good idea, it seems, persists.

The University of Wisconsin in Madison was the perfect location for the annual Police Society for Problem Based Learning (PBL) conference where I attended this week.

Police PBL conference venue - the University of Wisconsin South Union 
I was impressed by this year’s amazing group of future-thinking police instructors at the conference. They explored PBL and showed how to keep the community at the core of training.


President Obama’s recent Task Force Report on 21st Century Policing makes that very point when it claims PBL “encourages new officers to think with a proactive mindset, enabling the identification of and solutions to problems within their communities.”

Given the depressing police news of late, this message was elixir for the soul.

We heard from one police agency implementing the PTO 2.0 street training program, a PBL replacement for obsolete field training known as FTO.

We heard from keynote speaker Michael Scott, director of the Center for Problem Oriented Policing, who connected some PBL dots. Mike is a long-time supporter of the police PBL movement and he drew a line connecting Herman Goldstein’s problem-oriented policing method and the PBL style of learning.


Professor Herman Goldstein also attended the conference and mingled with attendees throughout, offering participants golden opportunities to rub shoulders with a giant in the world of police scholarship. Few have contributed as much to great policing as Herman Goldstein.

Afternoon walk along Monona Terrace waterfront
I came to Madison after co-teaching emotional intelligence with Gerry Cleveland to the staff of the Law Enforcement Training academy in South Dakota. In You In Blue Gerry and I write about the impressive gains in South Dakota with their academy staff and curricula.

From this latest PSPBL conference and its problem-solving POP cousin, and from the South Dakota academy, I hope we are finally glimpsing the rebirth of American police training.  A good idea, it seems, persists.