ProTraining focuses on de-escalation and mental health training for police/security. There are three units within this program:
Online Interactive Mental Health Training;
In-Person Mental Health Awareness Training; and
Advanced Mental Health Awareness Training.
The goals of the first online unit are to improve the interactions police have with members of the public that may be in crisis (e.g., by increasing empathy and emotion recognition, developing de-escalation techniques, improving communication and tactics in responding to members of the public, etc.). The second unit is completed in-person and provides scenario-based training, where officers are given the opportunity to practice skills with professional actors. The third unit is an intensive 40-hour course designed for police professionals who are frequently in contact with persons in crisis.
Is the program based on research?
The Department of Psychiatry at the University of Alberta developed a one-day mental health training program with the Edmonton Police Service in 2013, which eventually became ProTraining. These program variations appear to be based on two published research studies.
Silverstone, Krameddine, DeMarco, and Hassel (2013) completed an evaluation, focused mainly on the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) officer satisfaction with regard to the one-day training program. Overall, responses from 381 EPS officers indicated that they found the training to be mostly positive. The actors, responsible for the role-play in the scenarios, also generally provided positive feedback, with the main criticism being that they did not feel like they had received enough training to provide feedback to officers.
Behavioural changes were examined in a separate study, conducted by Krameddine, DeMarco, Hassel, and Silverstone (2013). They obtained pre-training and 6-months post-training data for 170 Edmonton Police Service (EPS) officers. Their results demonstrated no statistical differences pre- vs. post-training with respect to the social stigma surrounding mental illness, the “desired degree of social distance” with regards to individuals with a mental illness, and officer knowledge about mental illness. However, there was a 23% increase in perceived confidence in officers’ abilities to respond to mental health calls, an increase in the number of calls related to mental illness over a one-year period (indicating that officers were better able to recognize these types of calls), a decrease in the average amount of time officers spent on each call over a one-year period (indicating increased effectiveness in response), a decrease in the frequency of use-of-force events during mental health-related callouts over a two-year period, an increase in officers’ ability to recognize mental illness (from pre-training to 6-months post-training), and a significant increase (10%) in supervisor ratings (from pre-training to 6-months post-training) concerning officer communication, de-escalation, and empathy with the public.
Has the program been independently evaluated?
No independent evaluations of the training could be located.
Was the program rigorously tested?
In Krameddine et al.’s (2013) study, the behaviour was assessed at baseline, as well as at a 6-month follow up, but no control groups were utilized.
Has the program evaluation been replicated?
No other peer-reviewed, published studies examining the effectiveness of ProTraining could be located.
Was the program tested in Canada?
This training was originally developed by the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Alberta and the studies discussed above were conducted in Canada (Krameddine et al., 2013; Silverstone et al., 2013).
The effectiveness of ProTraining has been examined in peer-reviewed publications through the use of training satisfaction ratings and behavioural change measures. While this is positive, caution is warranted given certain limitations associated with this research, including the fact that the tool used to measure mental illness recognition in Krameddine et al.’s (2013) study was not a validated measure, that control groups have not been used, and that other initiatives were being introduced in the Edmonton Police Service during the time the training was being evaluated, which could have resulted in some of the positive findings reported above (e.g., reductions in use-of-force). Given these issues, claims that this program “works” should be treated with caution. Additional rigorous studies are needed.
Assessor: Ariane Khanizadeh, Carleton University
Ariane Khanizadeh completed her B.Sc. in Psychology (Hons.) with a minor in Neuroscience at McGill University, where she completed two honours theses. She began her M.A. at Carleton University in Forensic Psychology in 2017, working within the Police Research Laboratory, under Dr. Craig Bennell’s supervision, and will be starting her Ph.D. in the fall of 2019. Ariane’s research focuses on the areas of police performance, outcome anticipation, decision-making, and police use-of-force.
Reviewer: Dr. Lois James, Washington State University
Dr. Lois James is an Assistant Professor at the Washington State University College of Nursing. As a core faculty member in WSU's Sleep and Performance Research Center, Dr. James studies the relationships between sleep, health and performance in police officers, nurses and top-tier athletes, among others. Dr. James also uses simulators to study the impact of suspect race on police officer decisions to shoot. She has also conducted studies on the use of de-escalation strategies by police.
Krameddine, Y. I., DeMarco, D., Hassel, R., & Silverstone, P. H. (2013). A novel training program for police officers that improves interactions with mentally ill individuals and is cost-effective. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 4(9), 1–10.
Silverstone, P. H., Krameddine, Y. I., DeMarco, D., & Hassel, R. (2013). A novel approach to training police officers to interact with individuals who may have a psychiatric disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Psychology and the Law, 41(3), 344–345.