Evaluating the Communities Foundation of Texas's Gift to the Dallas Police Department

The Caruth Police Institute's First Leadership Course

by Robert C. Davis, Karin E. Kitchens

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Research Questions

  1. How did the Caruth Police Institute's (CPI's) lieutenants' course affect participants' approach to their jobs, their career aspirations, and their opinions of the Dallas Police Department? How did they apply concepts from the course in their daily work, and how have these efforts been received by senior department staff?
  2. How did participants in the CPI lieutenants' course differ from a control group of nonparticipating Dallas Police Department lieutenants both prior to and six months after the course?

History has shown the importance of strong and effective police leadership, but it is no longer enough to learn the principles of policing early in one's career: The explosion in technology has made it essential that police managers keep current with new developments and that organizations have the flexibility to change appropriately. In 2006, the Communities Foundation of Texas allocated $15 million to the Dallas Police Department, of which $10 million was used to establish the W. W. Caruth Jr. Police Institute (CPI), a partnership between the department and two local universities. CPI was designed to provide training for police officers at all stages of their careers and to serve as the research and problem-solving arm of the Dallas Police Department. The hope is that the institute will play an integral role in supporting leadership training, staff development, and career advancement among all Dallas police officers. An evaluation of the first course offered by CPI, a leadership training course for lieutenants in which participation was voluntary, revealed that participants had favorable opinions of the course in terms its impact on their approach to their jobs, their relationships with supervisors and subordinates, and their sense of solidarity with their coworkers. The evaluation contrasted the experiences of participants with those of a control group of lieutenants in the department to determine whether there were changes in leadership style as a result of completing the course. It also included interviews with senior Dallas Police Department staff to gauge their perspectives on the course and how the institute could be used for the benefit of the department.

Key Findings

Participants Had Highly Favorable Opinions of the Leadership Training Course for Lieutenants

  • According to most participants, the course changed the way in which they viewed their jobs, encouraging them to be more analytical in making decisions or to take a longer view of their role and responsibilities as lieutenants in the Dallas Police Department.
  • A majority reported having a better understanding of their leadership role and responsibility to develop junior staff.
  • Participants reported having more pride in the department and closer bonds with their coworkers and reported developing a common language and way of thinking about policing issues.

The Evaluation Uncovered Potential Problems with the Course That the Dallas Police Department Should Address

  • Focus group members six months after the conclusion of the course expressed disappointment that none of the officers selected for promotion from lieutenant to chief had been among the participants enrolled in the course. According to senior department officers, this was due primarily to the fact that participants tended to be new to their careers and leadership roles.
  • A standardized leadership assessment instrument did not show any change in leadership styles among course participants relative to a comparison group of lieutenants.

Recommendations

  • Several key questions will determine the future of the Caruth Police Institute (CPI) as a leadership development resource for the Dallas Police Department. CPI and department leaders should consider whether courses should be open only to Dallas officers (which would promote solidarity) or to officers in other police agencies as well (which would promote sustainability).
  • The Dallas Police Department should decide whether the courses should be mandatory or voluntary for officers.
  • In addition, the department should reconsider reimbursing officers who enroll in CPI courses to encourage more participants to take courses for university credit.

This research was conducted under the auspices of the Center on Quality Policing (CQP), part of the Safety and Justice Program within RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment (ISE).

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