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KSCPOST Spotlights

December 2022 Spotlight

Spotlight Issue: Mission (Not Impossible) Professionalism

We would like to start off wishing everyone happy holidays! From viewing various department’s social media pages, it is neat to see what officers are doing in their communities around the holidays to help those less fortunate. Programs such as Blue Santa, The Angel Tree, Shop-with-a-Cop, Home for the Holidays Benefit Auction, Toy-A-Thons, and Holiday Helpers are giving joy and perhaps a hint of hope to our citizens that need it the most. It is easy to see where the hearts of the men and women in blue are at. This month’s spotlight will take us off the beaten path as we explore the topic of professionalism.

KSCPOST Mission: The Kansas Commission on Peace Officers' Standards and Training is committed to providing the citizens of Kansas with qualified, trained, ethical, competent, and professional peace officers. It is also dedicated to adopting and enforcing professional standards for certification of peace officers to promote public safety and preserve public trust and confidence.

Most law enforcement agencies - state, county, or municipal - have their own unique mission statement that represents their core objectives, purpose, and values. In essence the agency mission should reflect in all provided services, actions, policies, and operations of the agency and its members. Are the words “professional or professionalism” in your agency’s mission statement? As stated above, the word “professional” appears twice in the KSCPOST mission statement and odds are it appears in most of Kansas law enforcement mission statements. However, the debate continues to determine if law enforcement is an actual profession or an occupation. Much has been written on the differences of a profession and an occupation. Let’s look at some of the widely accepted concepts:

Topic

Occupation

Profession

1. Code of conduct?

No

Yes

Law enforcement has an absolute code of conduct. Upon initial hiring, a law enforcement officer signifies acceptance of the Oath of Honor per K.A.R. 106-3-6 with his or her signature on the KSCPOST Demographic and Employment Form. Furthermore, officers can lose their certification for violations of the Law Enforcement Training Act and associated administrative regulations.

Topic

Occupation

Profession

2. Regulated by statute?

No

Often times, yes

Individuals that want to work as a Kansas Law Enforcement Officer are bound by statutory qualifications. Eligibility to be a Kansas law enforcement officer is dictated in the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Act (K.S.A. 74-5601 et seq.).

Topic

Occupation

Profession

3. Basis of compensation?

Based on production

Based on skill and knowledge

What is the basis of a Kansas law enforcement officer’s compensation? Kansas law enforcement officers don’t get paid based on how many citations they write or how many cases they close with successful prosecution. That would be highly unethical. Officers are compensated based on their skill, knowledge, and experience.

Topic

Occupation

Profession

4. Higher education?

No

Yes

Statutory education is minimal. K.S.A. 74-5605(B)(4) states that each applicant for position shall have either:

(A) graduated from a high school accredited by the Kansas state board of education or the appropriate accrediting agency of another state jurisdiction;
(B) obtained a high school education from a nonaccredited private secondary school as defined in K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 72-4345, and amendments thereto; or
(C) obtained the equivalent of a high school education as defined by rules and regulations of the commission;

Therefore, higher education in terms of a scholarly degree is not statutorily necessary to be a Kansas law enforcement officer. However, the benefits of higher education are worth noting. There have been multiple studies demonstrating the positive associations of education and an individual law enforcement officer’s success. Officers with more education are less likely to use force as the first response, more proficient in technology, have improved oral and written communication skills, are less likely to be involved in unethical behavior, and have a better adjusted life after retirement.

There is a licensing provision that requires law enforcement officers attend a basic academy and most agencies have formal field training that must also be completed. In addition, Kansas law enforcement officers must get a minimum of 40 hours per year of continued education to retain certification. An argument could be made that these training requirements are more consistent with a profession rather than an occupation.

Topic

Occupation

Profession

5. Independence?

Limited

Yes

6. Standards / Best Practices?

No

Yes

This brings us to the last two topics to examine: do officers work independently, and are there accepted standards of best practices? To a degree, department policies give officers guidance on what to do in specific circumstances, but there is a lot of independence built into most policies to allow for judgement. Policies may differ between jurisdictions due to available resources.

We may not have solved the debate of law enforcement being an occupation or profession in this spotlight, however an exciting opportunity to advance Kansas law enforcement professionalism is taking shape. A completely voluntary state accreditation program - the “Kansas Law Enforcement Accreditation Program (KLEAP)” - has been in the process of accrediting 9 beta test agencies this past year. The program has launched statewide as of December 1, 2022. This is a tremendous opportunity for Kansas law enforcement to further professionalize services to their citizens.

Here is what Andover Police Chief and Kansas Accreditation Chair, Buck Buchanan, said about the importance of accreditation:

“The importance of an agency becoming accredited gives the public and governing body the confidence that their agency is meeting the highest level of standards in law enforcement. It means requiring accountability for employees and supervisors, continually reviewing policies and procedures, improving work performance, and ensuring the citizens are provided the best possible service. Other benefits could include deterrence of lawsuits, community confidence and respect, greater accountability within the agency, and state recognition of the program at an affordable cost to the agency.”

For more information on KLEAP, visit their website at https://kletc.org/kleap

From our Families to Yours, Happy Holidays!

KSCPOST Spotlight Signature

November 2022 Spotlight - Law Enforcement Applicant Qualifications and Applicant Disqualifiers

October 2022 Spotlight -  KSCPOST Officer Status Change Form

September 2022 Spotlight- Field Training Officer's Program

August 2022 Spotlight - FY2022 Review

July 2022 Spotlight - Self-Report Form

June 2022 Spotlight - Annual 40 hours of Law Enforcement Education or Training

May 2022 Spotlight - Part-time Officers and Auxiliary Personnel

April 2022 Spotlight - KSCPOST as an Agency Resource for Applicant Background Checks

March 2022 Spotlight - The POST Approach to Mental Health and "Fit for Duty"

February 2022 Spotlight - KSCPOST Investigations

January 2022 Spotlight - Updated Demographic and Employment Form