An exploration of factors motivating participation in professional development: a case study of police officers in Livingstone district, Zambia

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Simasiku, Elizabeth
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The University of Zambia
Police Officers have been stigmatised as being of less than average intelligence and coming from lower classes of society. This is accentuated by the fact that participation in Professional Development (PD) alone is not a benchmark for recognition in the Zambia Police Service. However, police officers have in the recent decades increased their participation in PD. Nevertheless, little was known as to what could be attributed to this phenomenal increase, hence this study. The study was steered by the following objectives to; identify the factors motivating the participation of Police Officers in Professional Development; establish the benefits of Police Officers participation in Professional Development; determine the constraints Police Officers face in their participation in Professional Development and to suggest respondents’ recommended solutions to the constraints they faced in their participation in Professional Development. The study was qualitative and it employed a descriptive case study design. It comprised of 25 respondents consisting of 23 police officers, one officer in charge and one District commanding officer who had successfully participated in Professional Development and were purposively selected. Data was collected using interview guides and a Focus Group Discussion. Data was thematically analyzed. The findings of the study elucidated that fulfillment of a childhood dream, inadequate knowledge and skills, desire to leave the police service and hope to improve the professional image of the career and service were major factors motivating the participation of Police Officers in Professional Development. The findings further revealed that the participants considered their individual participation in Professional Development to be a sheer waste of time and resources in that it did not led to automatic increase in remuneration and promotion but that it had workplace and community benefits. On workplace benefits, the findings of the study lucidly underscored that participation in PD helped Police officers to improve their oral and written communication skills like helping them to write better reports. Community benefits were that PD helped to reduce verbal and physical abuse (police brutality) on unarmed civilians thus helping in restoring professionalism to the service. The study also found out that although Police Officers had made strides in engaging in PD, the most prominent constraints they faced were jealous, negative attitudes and lack of support from some supervisors. The study also unmasked that there were bureaucratic procedures in accessing study leave. The study recommended that the Ministry of Home Affairs, through the Police High Command, should put a utilitarian value on PD such as making it a benchmark for promotion and attracting salary increment so as to restore dignity to policing as a career and reduce brain drain. The Ministry of Home Affairs, through the Zambia Police Service, should diversify the curriculum in the police training colleges. Further, the academic field, particularly the universities should introduce programs in tandem with police officers’ line of duty such as a Bachelor’s degree in Police studies. Keywords: Professional development, police officer, police service
Professional development--Police service--Zambia , Police professionalization--Zambia , Police training