Serious Deficiencies in Municipal Police Officer Training

It has recently come to light that police officer training in Massachusetts is far from perfect. In fact, a study conducted by State Auditor Suzanne Bump has found that many municipalities are quite deficient in their officer training. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts mandates a minimum of 40 hours of in-service training for police officers. As many as 30 municipalities within the Commonwealth have failed to meet these minimum annual training requirements for their officers. Currently, there is no way to hold these officers and municipalities accountable for their failings. The deficiencies are due to a lack of funding, lack of available training options, limited enrollment, and shortage of instructors among other things. Massachusetts is one of only 4 states in the Union that does not have a Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) system to set minimum standards, regulate training programs and curricula, and set standards for maintenance of police licensure or certification. Based on the study, the Office of the State Auditor has summarized their findings and recommendations as follows:

Study Findings:

  1. The Municipal Police Training Committee (MPTC) is not meeting the in-service and specialized training needs of municipal police departments.
  2. The MPTC lacks the revenue needed to fulfill its training obligations, resulting in increased costs to municipal police departments.
  3. MPTC rules, regulations, and statutory language are hard to find, unclear, outdated, and limited in scope.
  4. There is a lack of accountability for tracking and meeting training requirements due to an absence of incentives or sanctions for police departments to comply with training mandates.
  5. Stakeholders from law enforcement find current MPTC facilities to be inadequate for current training needs.

Study Recommendations:

  1. Revenues generated from the rental vehicle surcharge should supplement, not supplant, existing appropriations to fund the mission of the MPTC.
  2. The MPTC should develop a long-term strategic plan to address instructional and facility deficiencies and submit annual reports to the Legislature to promote accountability and to justify the increases in additional funding resources.
  3. The MPTC should improve its guidance to municipal police departments as to how to fulfill their responsibilities regarding the in-service training of police officers.
  4. Massachusetts should establish a POST system in the Commonwealth.

If you would like to read more about this topic, please see the news article from WWLP here and the press release from the Office of the State Auditor here. For the complete study and findings, please follow the link here.