Training for the whole person : an exploration of possibilities for enhancing the spiritual dimension of police training

Smith, Jonathan Ashley

July 2004

Thesis or dissertation

© 2004 Jonathan Ashley Smith. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

Many organisations emphasised the importance of its employees and phrases like "Our people are our most important asset" were common. The author suggested that if people were to be motivated and committed to that organisation, these phrases had to refer to whole people, and the organisation had to nurture the mind, body, and soul of its employees. He argued that people's spiritual needs were often the element that was overlooked in this although there now appeared to be a growing international trend that focused on this area at work.

This research took place in Centrex; the centre of excellence for policing, and the organisation that trained trainers for the police services of England and Wales. As was typical of its drive for continuous improvement, Centrex supported this study into whether an exploration of the spiritual dimension in its training of trainers would increase the effectiveness of those trainers. The researcher argued that more effective trainers would mean that operational police officers were better trained which would in turn, lead to a more effective service being provided to the public. The study also considered whether it was possible to introduce a concept such as spirituality onto one programme of training, or whether it was necessary for this to be supported by a higher-level organisation-wide initiative. The focus utilised the researcher's position and experience as a civilian Director of Study at Centrex as he was one of the people who facilitated this training.

One of the difficulties found with exploring the topic of spirituality was in defining this term. In the diverse multi-cultural arena of British policing, it was important to be as inclusive as possible and a broad interpretation of spirituality was used in this research. It was assumed that everyone had a spiritual dimension to their lives although not everyone recognised this dimension. The broad definition that was used did not capture all facets of spirituality and it could have included areas that were not regarded as spiritual by some, or were not acceptable within the police. The police service therefore still needed to specify acceptable forms of spirituality under this definition.

The study took a systemic approach by examining how the wider police service impacted on students entering the training. It was conducted from a constructivist paradigm although this created some difficulties in an organisation that the researcher perceived was often more at ease with a positivist stance. Data were collected from three groups of people using three different methods so that a wide variety of perspectives were gathered. The data collection was divided into two phases, the first used semi-structured interviews and the researcher's reflective journal, and the second used a questionnaire. This second phase generated more quantitative data and the research adopted a dominant-less dominant paradigm model. Using this model, the study was presented within a single dominant qualitative paradigm but with one small component of the overall study drawn from the quantitative paradigm so that a consistent paradigm picture underpinned the research throughout. The researcher's prior understanding of both the training and the organisation added greatly to the research. He argued that as he was an accepted part of the organisation, respondents had been more candid and this had led to a fuller appreciation of the issues. However, difficulties were encountered with the researcher investigating his own area of work, including: tension between him as researcher and him as course director, perceived power attached to the Director of Study role by some students, and the added potential for bias in the research.

The study focused on how an exploration of the spiritual dimension might assist in a trainer's development and identified a number of possible benefits of doing this". It gave some indication that an exploration of the spiritual dimension might provide students with the opportunity to gain a greater awareness of themselves and their beliefs, values, attitudes, feelings and emotions, and assist them in managing how these impacted on their training role. It could provide a greater appreciation of how trainers needed to support their students, give more understanding of how group dynamics limited a person's expression of their sense of identity and could potentially result in trainers demonstrating more self-actualised qualities including being more welcoming of diversity, creative and able to resist negative cultures. This exploration could contribute more broadly to reducing some of the negative aspects of the police culture, and assist trainers to feel more motivated, fulfilled, and valued as whole people by the police service. The study also indicated that there might be possible benefits to the wider police service focusing more on the spiritual dimension, although further research was required to confirm this.

The introduction of spirituality in police training did create some difficulties, including it being problematic for facilitators who did not recognise the spiritual dimension in their own lives to assist students in the exploration of spirituality. It would be time consuming, both in building a sufficiently safe environment for students to feel able to discuss issues that may be central to their sense of identity, and in working through resistance. To provide the time for an exploration of the spiritual dimension, the trainers' course would need to be redesigned and it was likely that some of the current inputs would need to be dropped, shortened, or covered outside of the TDP course. It would be necessary to provide additional spiritual and counselling support mechanisms outside of the classroom, and as all the Directors of Study needed to facilitate this exploration, they would need to be trained in this area of facilitation. These preceding two points would involve extra expenditure in the provision of the TDP course.

Another difficulty the research revealed was that experiences in operational policing had an effect on some officers who joined the training course. The researcher felt that these operational experiences impacted so significantly on students joining the course. that whilst he recommended that an exploration of the spiritual dimension be included on the trainers' course, he suggested that this could only follow a larger, organisational-wide, strategic-level commitment and initiative. This larger initiative needed to begin by undertaking further research into the benefits of an increased focus on spirituality in the wider police service. By recommending this approach, a unified policy throughout the organisation was provided, which ensured that training was aligned with operational policing and offered a strategy to address the root cause of some of the difficulties that police training experienced.

Department of Education, The University of Hull
Stern, Julian
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