Leading in Learning

In recognizing its role as a leader, the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia (PSA) is committed to making itself a learning organization. PSA focuses on both individual and organizational learning. Testifying to this fact are numerous formal career development programs accompanied by six internal policy statements that help ensure personal and professional growth for its employees while simultaneously supporting mission accomplishment. PSA’s Commitment to Continuous Learning Policy is a living document that attests to the role of learning in PSA’s success. The Mandatory Professional Development Hours Policy ensures that PSA employees take the time to develop themselves, constantly broadening their skill base and career horizons. PSA’s policy statement on the mentoring program has been used as a best practice by other federal agencies and by organizations in the private sector as well. PSA’s annual agency-wide training needs assessment guides the development of meaningful training opportunities for all staff. All of PSA’s professional development programs were developed through best practice research, have maximum participation and generate high workforce-wide interest.

Through PSA’s mandatory professional development program, Pretrial Services Officers are required to complete 40 hours of training annually. These hours may be earned in a variety of ways, including attending formal training and professional conferences, shadowing other officers to learn other Agency processes, on-the-job training, or short details to other Agency units. Supervisors are rated on how well they develop their employees. Employees are rated on how proactively they have pursued fulfilling their professional development requirement. PSA’s Training and Career Development Center enables employees to succeed by actively assessing their learning needs and bringing competitive, state-of-the art training into the Agency on an on-going basis. Learning opportunities include job-specific classes such as officer safety, self-defense, policies associated with warrant and record checks, and use of WALES/NCIC management information systems; as well as classes that provide general learning such as time management, project management, how to make effective presentations, and conflict resolution, among others.

In addition to training sessions held throughout the year, PSA has held its Annual Training and Professional Development Conference since 1998. This conference offers two days of training to all agency staff through dozens of workshops in a wide range of topics for professional and personal development.

Research shows that leadership is more effective and successful when accompanied by ongoing learning. In a national survey of pretrial agencies, just over half report providing leadership training for their supervisory staff.[i] PSA stands out in its wide range of learning opportunities made available to all segments of the workforce.

[i] The 2009 Pretrial Release Programs Survey, Pretrial Justice Institute, Washington, DC, 2009.