Temple University’s Ambler Campus:
Focal Point of Training for Criminal Justice Practitioners
Temple University’s Campus in Ambler has become a focal point for training and curriculum development in Pennsylvania. Relatively unnoticed on this quiet, bucolic campus of the big city university, Criminal Justice Training Programs, a division of the Department of Criminal Justice at Temple, is quickly assuming a leadership role in the training of Pennsylvania’s criminal justice practitioners. From the Temple University Police Academy, a twenty week program which begins each summer at the Ambler Campus to curriculum development for Deputy Sheriffs and Constables training, to the training of probation and parole officers, the Ambler Campus Program is one of the busiest law enforcement training centers in the state.
“Our activity level has just exploded,” said Jon Clark, Director of the unit. “We have been conducting training programs for police for over thirty years and we have been responsible for providing the mandatory continuing education programs for all deputy sheriffs in Pennsylvania since the mid 1980’s. For most of that time we operated out of our offices at the Main Campus in the city. However in addition to those programs of long standing, four years ago we were also contracted to provide all of the constables in southeastern Pennsylvania with basic and continuing education training. Then this year we were contracted by the Pennsylvania County Probation and Parole Officers Training Commission to provide firearms training to all of the county probation and parole officers in Pennsylvania who carry firearms.” Additional space and staff became absolutely necessary to accommodate the new and expanding activities and led the program to establish a second set of offices at Ambler.
While some of the curriculum development projects are new, Temple University is not new to this activity. For many years the basic program of instruction that all certified police academies in Pennsylvania have used to train new police officers, including the Philadelphia, Allentown, Reading, and Pittsburgh Police Academies, was written by Temple University back 1987. “It was the really the first standardized, statewide training program for police in Pennsylvania,” said Clark who was the project director for the department’s curriculum development projects during the 1980’s. And every new deputy sheriff in Pennsylvania since 1985 has had to complete a basic training program that Temple’s staff wrote back in 1984. Today they are in the process of re-writing the basic training program for deputy sheriffs and they are also the agency contracted by the Pennsylvania Constable’s training board to produce basic and continuing education curricula for all constables in Pennsylvania.
The most significant of these recent curriculum projects has been the re-write of the deputy sheriffs basic training program. “We are doing this with cutting edge technology,” said Anthony Luongo, who is the program’s Curriculum Development Specialist. “We put together a seven hundred sixty hour program of training for the Deputy Sheriffs’ Training Board which is all done in multimedia format.” The student textbook alone is about three thousand pages. The program, that is entirely computer driven, requires 35 compact disks of data. “We figured it is somewhere in the neighborhood of about twelve gigabytes of information,” said Luongo, “When we finished printing out the instructor manuals it ran about 12,000 pages for the twenty-five topics.
The new program is attracting attention not just for its size and complexity but also its technological sophistication. Nearly all of the lecture and discussion topics are presented by instructors using a multimedia projector that integrates animated slides, graphs, photos, and videos. And all of the multimedia presentations are keyed to the students’ program notes. They have nearly everything in their notes that they see on the screen in the classroom. The students seem to like the technology because they don’t have to be taking notes all the time. It allows them to listen more to the instructor and participate in discussions without having to be afraid they will miss something important in their notes.
Instructors seem to like the new technology also. Temple has been using it for about four years now in some of the topics that they teach in their police academy and in the continuing education programs they do for police and sheriffs. One of the best features is, because the programs are on computer disks, the same program is presented each time and in every location where you do it--even if different instructors are making the presentation. That is important to Emil Minnar who is Temple’s Assistant Director of Deputy Sheriffs’ Continuing Education and to Frank Colantonio who has the same position for constables basic and continuing education. Both individuals direct programs that require a lot of travel and a large number of instructors. Minnar will use approximately two-dozen different instructors to teach programs to deputy sheriffs in about eight or nine locations per year. Temple has training scheduled in Williamsport, Erie, Altoona, Clarion, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Reading and Philadelphia and Scranton.
The constables programs, as the deputy sheriff training, also require multiple training venues. Temple’s Frank Colantonio estimates that he runs about forty programs per year from Northampton County and Allentown, to Reading, and down into Delaware and Chester Counties providing as much as forty hours of training to up to 400 constables a year. But because Temple is responsible for developing and producing the curriculum that other schools will use to training constables in other parts of the state, they must also provide teacher training to the faculty of these other schools on how to teach these programs. Again, Temple is looking to use new technology. “We have begun to conduct instructor training courses over the Internet,” indicated Colantonio . “I don’t think that has ever been done on a statewide basis for law enforcement instructors. Ambler Campus and the Fort Washington facility both have high technology classroom that we can use to conduct simultaneous classes at our Harrisburg Campus and at other locations around the state. An instructor teaching here at Ambler can see and talk in real time with students at the other locations.
Asked what is next, Jon Clark replied, “We don’t have time to think too far in to the future these days. We have just finished conducting a firearms training course for the County Probation and Parole Officers Education and Training Commission that was taught throughout the Commonwealth. In addition, we have been doing training for The Family Court in Philadelphia which has sent us Warrant Officers and security personnel for training here at Ambler, and we recently increased the 560 hour Deputy Sheriff's Basic training program to 760 hours at the request of the Deputy Sheriffs Training Board and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD). Finally, we are involved in providing the in-service training course, Special Needs Groups: A Law Enforcement Response, to every certified Deputy Sheriff in Pennsylvania. “It is really a tremendously exciting time,” said Clark.