Exploring the Tacit Nature of Police Work

Stephen M. Cox, Central Connecticut State University
Jennifer Hedlund, Central Connecticut State University
Mark J. Ludwig, Central Connecticut State University

The training of police officers occurs primarily through two main methods: formalized classroom instruction (e.g., academy, in-service training) and on-the-job experience. It has been suggested that a gap exists between what is learned in the classroom and what officers need to know to perform the job. This gap can be explained, in part, by the fact that much of the knowledge that is relevant to performance is tacit - it is knowledge that is acquired through one's everyday experience and is not readily articulated or widely known (Hedlund & Sternberg, 2000). This paper presents a qualitative analysis of the "tacit knowledge" of police detectives in a northeast police department. The goals of the study are to elicit knowledge that tends to remain tacit among experienced police detectives and to compare that knowledge to what is taught in formalized police training. Specifically, we will examine where tacit knowledge serves to supplement or supplant formalized knowledge in order to understand potential gaps and inconsistencies between formal training and on-the- job experience.

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Updated 05/20/2006