Professional competences in police training in Catalonia and Sweden: the perspective of those who aspire to be police officers

In the framework of the research project Europeu RECPOL, the study Recruitment, Education and Career in the Police has just been published about the perception of those applying to be police officers in relation with the competences necessary to practise the profession. It was carried out by researchers from the Swedish university of Umeå Thomas Bäck i Mojgan Padyab and Catalonia public security institute Lola Vallès. All have developed their research activities in organisations providing initial police training in the two countries.

The basic aim of the article, as indicated by its title, is to compare how necessary police applicants in Catalonia and Sweden regard three types of competences in order to appropriately carry out police functions. The study is based on the administration of identical questionnaires for would-be police officers from both countries at two times: at the beginning and end of his / her initial police training. The questionnaire asks them how necessary they regard specific knowledge (technical competence), practical skills (initiative and autonomy) and reflecting on actions (ethical competences and attitude).

The study, however, goes beyond simply comparing the perception of trainee police officers in Catalonia and Sweden, as it begins to describe both police systems and training in the two countries and provides an interesting review of the state of research in very relevant areas in the police training process, such as:

  1. The relevance that knowledge, skills and attitudes must have in the process of police training.
  2. To what extent trainee police officers change their perspective about the importance of a range of types of competences in their profession and, therefore, in the police profession.
  3. The incidence of social origin, level of education and gender of trainees during the process.

As far as the main objective of the study is concerned, after analysing the results of the questionnaires, it concludes that there are common patterns in both cases. Therefore, specific knowledge of the profession and of the norms received in most cases (except in the first questionnaire in Sweden) the highest assessment (above 4 on a scale of 1 to 5), which shows that trainee officers regard it as important, both at the start and end of official training. There are, however, differences between students from both countries. In the case of Sweden, for example, the importance of knowledge, although it is high, is lower than that of Catalonia and goes down slightly when the initial training period is completed. Indeed, Swedish students give the three competence groups a lower score once the course is finished. In the Catalan case, students continue to rate knowledge highly, but practical skills and the ability to reflect receive a significantly higher rating. The importance of practice continues to be slightly higher in the case of Swedish trainees.

As far as gender is concerned, in both cases women rate the importance of the ability to reflect more highly than men.

The study ends by offering a wide range of bibliography about police training, which is vital, in most cases, for any consistent study of the issue.


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