Being a training officer is no easy job.
After all, it is your responsibility to meet the legal mandates of the law, as well as the mandates of constitutional policing. Making sure your officers are trained to this level, and held accountable, is no easy feat. As you outline your training plan, here are some tips to help keep training up-to-par while maximizing training time:
Before you begin creating a plan, you must understand the goals. It is your job to protect the department against liability, and as such, you must look for any training gaps. Start by answering these self-reflective questions:
• Are policies updated and accurate to current police practices and legal standards?
• Are officers receiving the most effective and efficient training?
• Are supervisors effectively supervising and holding officers accountable?
• Are internal affairs investigators effectively investigating allegations of policy and training?
Constantly asking these questions keeps your training ahead of the times. This is especially necessary with the constant evolution of societal hot topics: crowd control, mental illness and race relations, especially. Since these core topics are addressed on a daily basis, and are developing with time, it is crucial to change how you train and where to keep the focus of your operations.
Rather than focusing solely on state requirements, focus on the bigger picture: the law. After all, it is the law that guides policies, which guides training, which guides operations. Though it is your responsibility to train officers on policies, the best place to start training is clearly established law, before narrowing in on policies and operations.
Simply put, officer training is teaching officers department policies and procedures. While overly simplified, it is ensuring officers are prepared for the field, armed with information and knowledge about department and state procedures. But in order to know what an officer truly needs to understand, a trainer must conduct an effective training assessment.
In order for this to be the most beneficial, trainers are encouraged to perform this at least once a year. This can be broken up into five simple steps:
• Survey Department Members—What types of incidents are they dealing with? Is this something they need more training on?
• Collect and Review Data—What types of crime are most common in your area?
• Discuss Trends with Prosecuting Authorities, Civil and Employment Counsels—Ask around to see what trends they have discovered in the last year of cases.
• Legal Cases—Review all community legal cases weekly, if possible
• Current Trends in the Industry—Perform research and ask other trainers what current hot topics they are training on.
After completing the assessment, compile the data and decide on certain topics your training will cover. Once you have outlined certain objectives, the next step is to develop a plan.
Keep in mind this will be an ongoing, developing process. The point of training is not to meet a need, necessarily, but instead to increase knowledge and professionalism in the field. Think about it as training because you want to, not because you have to.
Take your objectives and determine aggressive, yet realistic goals, for accomplishing these objectives. By recognizing the desired outcome, you can work backwards by filling the goals with learning methods and activities to train your officers and keep them meeting these goals.
As you do so, create some form of documentation or evidence of learning. The best way to do this is through testing, ensuring officers are paying attention and retaining the taught materials. Training after this manner teaches officer, but also protects your department legally, eliminating “failure to train”.
Now that you have determined your objectives, created goals and developed a form of documentation, review the policy and training together. Keep in mind that policies are only as effective as the training and requirements. If the training is weak, unfocused or nonexistent, your policy will not be followed.
After issuing the policy, begin implementing training. Depending on available software and resources, check to see if everyone has reviewed, read, understood and is following the policy. For the benefit of your officers and the department, mandated testing is recommended.
Learning never stops in law enforcement. From the first day in the academy to the day before retirement, officers will constantly be learning new policies, implementing new procedures and developing new skills.
For the maximum result, training should be based around adult-learning methods, such as role-playing scenarios and interactive exercises, in addition to the traditional lecture format. As you design your training plan, consider this:
10% of what we read
20% of what we hear
30% of what we see
50% of what we see and hear
70% of what we discuss
80% of what we experience
95% of what we teach others
There is a reason “death by PowerPoint” is a phrase. Teaching solely with PowerPoints and lectures will result in officers learning 20-30% of what was taught—a dangerously low amount.
Instead, keep your officers engaged. Have them discuss the policy, practice it and teach others. Research other forms of adult-learning models to see how to maximize training time and transferring this information to long-term memory. As always, ensure officers understand the material taught by issuing tests throughout the learning process.
Most of this information was found in Daigle Learning Center’s webinar: Training Officer Liability. The entire recording can be found here.