At one point in our lives, every single one of us has interacted with a LESA community officer. Most of the time, we meet them in unpleasant situations. They are the ones we call after getting involved in a traffic accident or to report someone who has parked illegally and caused us major inconvenience. Most often, this hinders the general public’s overall perception of the work community officers do in our society. However, over the past few years the government has embarked on a series of initiatives to make a positive change for the role of community officers.
Apart from moving to new premises in Fgura and changing the name from local wardens to community officers, the most significant change has been in the training that is now provided to LESA officials.
Today, local enforcement is no longer limited to traffic offences and accidents or supervising construction sites. It also involves environment-related offences, assisting children near schools and educating people with different abilities. That is why training has been updated and redesigned to better prepare community officers for the new realities they face on the job.
For the first time, the Academy for Disciplined Forces opened its doors to offer an intensive six-week training programme that gives community officers the right tools to execute their job in the best possible way. What does it entail?
1. All community officers are first aiders
All LESA community officers are certified first aiders. As first-responders, officers are now in a better position to care for people in crisis as they wait for medical professionals to arrive.
2. Physical exercise is mandatory
Physical exercise is now a mandatory part of community officers training. Not only is this an attempt at promoting a healthy lifestyle but it’s also an effort to ensure that officers can use their physical strength to withstand the stressful circumstances they face on a day-to-day basis.
3. Social media
The theoretical aspect of training includes the usual credits on traffic laws and contraventions, report writing and work ethics, as well as lectures on leadership skills, stress management and customer care.
But the latest addition to the community officers training is social media. This has been added to better reflect the environment in which community officers operate, because afterall, social media has become an essential communication tool for law enforcement.
LESA educates its officers on how to use social media responsibly and safely, in order to preserve their own reputation and not to damage public confidence in the agency’s work.
4. Tactical communication
Community officers cannot serve the public effectively without good communication skills. They can only succeed if they master communication, both social and professional. Another aspect of the training course is tactical communication skills, which officers can use to communicate effectively with their community, earn people’s trust and get citizens to cooperate with their instructions.
5. Sensitivity training
We have all read reports in the past on negative contacts between citizens and officers due to lack of understanding of particular situations. Such reports have today decreased as the training programme is also designed to improve the knowledge and skills of officers to outline the critical issues involved in human relations. This includes dealing with cultural differences, people with disabilities, mental health conditions and people from minority groups.
Beefing up the skills set of community officers is not only an investment in the officers themselves and their work environment, but an investment for all citizens who will be benefitting from a better service.
This will not only improve our standard of living, but also help enforcement become closer to our communities.