Colonel Seppo Kolehmainen is the director of the Police College of Finland and, as such, responsible for the country’s police training. Here he talks to New Security Learning’s Harold Elletson about how technology and a close partnership with both academia and the private sector are helping to transform training.
In January 2008, Finland closed its two existing police training colleges – the National Police School in Tampere and the Police College of Finland in Espoo. The decision to close the training facilities was part of a review of how best to deliver police training in the face of changing requirements and new opportunities. Now all police training is concentrated in one central institution, the new Police College of Finland, which is located on a 21-hectare campus in Hervanta, a suburb of Finland’s third largest city, Tampere.
Under the direction of the Ministry of Interior and overseen by the National Police Board, the college is responsible for police training recruitment, the selection of students for diploma and other advanced programmes, advanced training and research and development . The director of the college is Colonel Seppo Kolehmainen, who is well aware of the opportunity that the restructuring of Finland’s police training now provides.
Since his appointment, he has worked hard to ensure that new methods of teaching and learning and new technologies are at the heart of modern Finnish police training. Centralisation has, no doubt, helped him in implementing change but so too has the support of his superiors.
“I am lucky that the National Police Commissioner helped me a lot, particularly with technical development,” he says. “I am quite satisfied now that we have the resources to develop our activities."
The location of the new police college has clearly helped Kolehmainen too. “Our location is good. It is near the technical university. The state technical research centre is also nearby. It has some projects and they test some techniques in our area. It helps for the centre to see how they work in practice and it gives us some information about students acting under pressure.”
Another neighbour is the Nokia Research Centre, where the communications company tests, develops and monitors new products. According to Nokia, its Tampere laboratory “creates engaging future experiences through new forms of interaction, communication and content” and conducts “research on platforms and end-to-end user experiences.” All of which means that, for an ambitious, technologically savvy training director, such as Seppo Kolehmainen, there probably could not be a better place to be based. Indeed, few, if any, police colleges are located in such an impressive academic and technological hub.
It is no surprise, therefore, that Seppo Kolehmainen is such a firm believer in technology and its importance in developing modern training solutions. He understood the potential of e-learning to transform police education at a very early stage, taking the first steps to develop distance learning and creating new models and programmes for the Police College’s students.
“I believe strongly in elearning,” he says. “In the future, it will not be necessary to come to Tampere. In 2020, students will stay where they live and use new techniques.”
Kolehmainen believes that so far the Finnish police “have just taken the first steps.” The college has opted to use a WebEx system and there are “some technical difficulties still to solve.” However, he is convinced that the future holds “lots of possibilities.”
A problem facing Kolehmainen, as a determined advocate of the benefits of distance learning, has been a certain amount of institutional resistance to change, particularly among older members of the teaching staff. In this respect, the challenge with which he has been confronted is similar to that which has faced police and military training directors in many other countries, as they struggle to come to terms with a rapidly changing security environment, a new generation of learners, a myriad of new learning opportunities and a rapidly accelerating pace of technological change.
“For old-fashioned teachers, it is a challenge,” he admits. “There are new methods and technologies, which require teachers to change their techniques. It is not easy for them all to accept.” Equally, he realises that e-learning is not suitable for every activity. “Not everything can be done by e-learning, for example the methods of using force. Some things have to be done by our own hands.”
Yet, although Finland only has some 12,000 police officers, financial constraints and the growth of sophisticated web-based crime create a powerful incentive for the development of online learning. “There is a challenge for the state to develop a structure. There is less money for travelling and, increasingly, officers will want to stay in the north, for example.”
Kolehmainen is conscious of the fact that crime is evolving just as fast as technology and training. “It is difficult to say whether training can keep pace with the evolution of crime,” he says. “I can’t say. “There will be new solutions and better solutions and I hope we will be able to help police colleges all over Europe. We need more education and better education.”
A major priority for the Finnish police is cyber crime, which is an area where the evolution of criminal techniques and capabilities has been particularly rapid. He admits that police training urgently needs to be improved to cope with the challenge.
“We have some specialists in the police college for this sector but we have to do more. Those who are using the Internet for cyber crime are two steps in front of us. We have to develop our system more. We are still working on it. We are not one hundred per cent happy with where we are and we should do more. There are a limited number of teachers who can do work in this field.”
Old-fashioned teachers, unable to cope with the changing nature of crime and technology, have been a particular problem in this area and Kolehmainen is convinced that new teaching methods will be as important as the adoption of technical innovations in developing new training solutions. “The solution concerning this field is both technological and pedagogical and it will help us to fight against crime and serve our citizens better. In a way, we should be careful when we research the kind of solutions that we take on because there are also structures which are not helping us in our mission.
“We should also strengthen our knowledge about the handling of situations, so that we can choose better solutions and use them better. There is a lack of knowledge about what is available to police services. With cyber crime, we need better knowledge about solutions that help us to train better. We all have to practise more and focus on solutions which help us. The markets are full of different systems but it’s a waste of money to use a system that doesn’t help. I hope designers can create new methods to learn better.”
Kolehmainen is a firm believer in the benefits of simulation and gaming for training. When Finland’s police colleges merged, it became possible to develop a training area with simulation and gaming at its heart. The Finnish police studied similar training facilities in other countries, which included the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands, where the Dutch police have constructed the ‘virtual city’ of Behrloo. The result is a system, which takes account of both Finland’s national requirements and international best practice.
“The main thing is that we can vary the circumstances,” he says. “Our students are working together in different circumstances. It helps to strengthen their experience. For example, we can have a situation where students have to decide whether to use firearms. It involves both technical and mental training. Our system shows teachers how hard a student’s heart is beating and the reaction of a student’s body. The system gives the teacher a picture. It analyses the heart, the breathing, the skin, etcetera.”
As far as the future is concerned, Kolehmainen is sure of one thing, which is that the pace of change will continue to quicken and training will have to keep up with it. “The speed of development is so fast at the moment that we can only imagine what might happen.”
In his technological and academic hub in Tampere, Colonel Seppo Kolehmainen probably has a better chance than most directors of police training of ensuring that his force continues to keep up with the pace of change.
Photographs: Col. Seppo Kolehmainen - © Police College of Finland; Close-up policeman - © Anna Byckling, Police College of Finland; Policewomen - © Paula Huvinen, Police College of Finland; Class - © Anna Byckling, Police College of Finland