Public safety management Featured

8:00pm EDT July 26, 2007

Public safety professionals know that the correct training prepares them to perform their job functions expertly.

As these professionals look to advance, they need to acquire additional training to respond effectively to the different, but just as important, demands of running public safety agencies.

“For public safety personnel who aspire to become supervisors, managers and leaders in 21st century public safety agencies, higher education is not simply a benefit, it is a necessity,” says John R. Carruthers, Ph.D., chair of the Public Safety Management Program at Franklin University. “The ability to effectively deal with the increasingly complex challenges facing public safety leaders and managers demands education beyond the basic entry-level training.”

Smart Business asked Carruthers about the critical role a bachelor’s degree in public safety management plays in equipping modern public safety leaders for success.

What basic training is typically required for public safety professionals?

Public safety includes fire, police and corrections, and entry-level training requirements may range from several weeks to several months. The Ohio Peace Officer Training Council requires all law enforcement officers to complete a basic course of 550 hours. Many larger municipal agencies run academies that may be six months or longer in duration. Firefighters and corrections personnel are required to complete a basic training program upon entry into their profession. In addition to the basic training requirements applied to public safety personnel, an increasing number of public agencies are implementing entry-level requirements for education ranging from a high school diploma to a bachelor’s degree.

Why is it beneficial to have more than technical training?

Higher education enhances their problem solving, decision-making and interpersonal skills and abilities. Increases in the availability and use of technology, communication capabilities, 24-7 media coverage, threats to public safety in the post-Sept. 11 world, mobility and the demand for more efficient use of public funds are a few examples of the challenges that leaders and managers face in today’s public safety agencies.

What knowledge do individuals gain with a Bachelor of Science in public safety management?

Effective public safety management programs have a business administration core. The business core is reinforced with electives that include courses related to topics like decision-making and problem-solving, management and leadership, organizational behavior, business strategy and tactics, culture and diversity, ethics, communications and team-building. The major area of the program often includes courses in public finance and budgeting, administrative law and contemporary issues in public safety management. Finally, students will often complete capstone courses, which allow them to apply theories and concepts that they have learned in their coursework to a real-life problem or project.

How does a public safety management major help with advancement and promotion?

The one factor that seems to be shared among all public safety agencies is that more personnel are entering with at least some college education. In fact, many agencies provide tuition assistance and encourage higher education. The support for and emphasis on higher education in public safety agencies has resulted in greater competition for promotions. Many of those competing for promotions have achieved education above and beyond the entry-level requirements.

How does this education help people to understand the business of public safety?

People generally look at public safety agencies and think of the police officer who responds to a call for assistance or the fire-fighter who responds to a fire or medical emergency. What is often overlooked is that there is a business side to public safety agencies. This side involves activities such as decision-making, leadership, managing personnel issues, meeting payroll, planning, budgeting for general operations as well as capital improvements and coordinating activities, both internally and externally. The value of a college degree is directly related to the fact that the business side of public safety is generally not addressed in the basic training that public safety personnel receive. A Bachelor of Science in public safety management provides the student with the knowledge, skills and abilities to function in a leadership or management role.

How does a degree help develop effective leaders in public safety?

Critical thinking, analysis and problem-solving are all part of the learning process in strong public safety management programs. These programs are designed to expose students to various leadership and management characteristics and theories, which they can apply in a public safety agency. Finally, the students are often provided with the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of business, leadership and management theories through the completion of a capstone course.

JOHN R. CARRUTHERS, Ph.D., is chair of the Public Safety Management Program at Franklin University. Reach him at carruthj@franklin.edu.