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The Importance of In Service Training... Even for the Chief

The Importance of In Service Training... Even for the Chief

Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith

You’re out of the academy, done with field training and out on your own. You may be just off probation, ten years into the job, a detective, a supervisor, a manager; you may even be the chief, but chances are, you’re hoping to never have to sit in a classroom again. After all, isn’t most of what we learn in law enforcement “on the job” training? You probably learn something new almost every day just by being at work (and if you don’t, you’re not paying attention), but here’s a few reasons why you should look forward to, embrace, and even seek out in service training.

The Nature of Perishable Skills

Motor skills are by their very nature perishable. They require some form of repition or practice to maintain or improve the level of performance for each and every skill. Skills that will be performed under stress will require a higher level of repetition or intensity during their initial development and will still require constant “maintenance” through physical or mental repetition; ideally a combination of both. The old adage that you never forget how to ride a bike is true; however riding a police mountain bike down a flight of stairs takes it to a whole other level. And once you learn those police bike skills, as any IPMBA instructor will tell you, if you don’t consistently use and/or practice them, you won’t be able to perform them well, especially under stress.

“Routine” Can Either Train or De-Train Us

Routine is invisible by its nature, whatever you repeat will become your norm. If you repeat bad habits they will become second nature, if you repeat good ones, they too, will become “routine.” Repetition is repetition, and your brain doesn’t know the difference unless you make a conscious effort to eliminate the bad habits and replace them with solid tactics. Does “practice make perfect?” NO! As veteran police trainer and author Dave Smith tells his students: “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect.” Make sure that you don’t let the routine nature of some of our job functions, like making traffic stops, answering routine calls, even driving, “de-train” you into becoming complacent.

Lead by Example

What if you’re the boss? Even if you’re the Chief of a fairly large agency and it’s likely that you’ll never be in the position to handcuff a suspect ever again, do not neglect your in-service hours. Be the first one on the mat, be the first one in the range, sit in the front row at report writing class, be the first one to learn how to use the new booking system, and make sure your command staff does the same. When line level personnel see the bosses going to and getting excited about in service training, they will be more likely to do the same.

Encourage Competition

Cops tend to thrive on competition, but our society has spent a generation or two trying to downplay and diminish it. Don’t let this happen to your agency. Reward the officer who had the fastest time in speed cuffing class or the team who had the best collective score on the range. In fact, go out on a limb and have the commanders vs. the patrol officers in a shooting competition; the “losers” buy the “winners” a round of coffee and doughnuts the next morning. There is nothing wrong with healthy, well-managed, light-hearted competition to make in service training more fun, not to mention more effective. Performing under the “stress” of competition has great benefits to the learner, do not eliminate it from your training.

Don’t Make It All About “Bats and Guns”

Not all in service training is tactical in nature. If you’re a line level employee, is there something you’d really like to learn about but don’t know where to find the information? I know agencies that have held in service training on retirement planning and the pension system, basic fitness and nutrition, stress management, and many other “out of the box” topics. After a string of internal affairs issues, my department tasked my supervisory team to come up with in service training to give employees the skills to intervene in each other’s bad behavior, both on and off duty; it was extremely well-received and helped the department heal from a particularly difficult year.

Bring In the Civilians

Because so much of our in service training tends to be tactically oriented, we often leave out our civilian employees or provide them with separate training. Civilians, especially dispatchers, should be included in almost every non “hands on” class that sworn personnel attend. It’s also a good idea to allow the dispatchers to observe any simulation training you may conduct. Watching officers make deadly force decisions on the firearms simulator or search and clear a building during active shooter scenarios will help your dispatchers better understand what they are hearing on the radio and how they need to respond during an actual critical incident. Bringing sworn and civilian supervisors together for a leadership class can do a lot to bring consistency and cohesiveness to an organization.

Don’t Make “Remedial” Classes a Shameful Thing

Not everyone learns at the same pace or retains everything the first (or fifth or tenth) time. If you or someone else needs additional time on the range or in the classroom, realize that adult learners are a very diverse breed. If you’re the one managing the training function, don’t make “remedial” training shameful or painful for your employee. Find out what they need, why they aren’t learning, what might motivate them and then do what you and the organization can to help them. Managed properly, in service training can boost morale, help build and strengthen teams, and improve the performance of everyone, even those who need a little extra help.

What If Your Agency Won’t Provide Additional Training?

Every week I talk to police employees who tell me “I’d love to go to that class” or “I’d love to learn how to do that” but that “the department just won’t send me.” If that’s true, then bite the bullet and pay for it yourself. Some of the best firearms training I ever received was at a pistol class I paid for myself. Instead of a new hunting rifle, an expensive new purse, or a weekend getaway, use the money for a class that may help save your life someday. Nearly 50% of the attendees at the Calibre Press “Street Survival” seminar pay their own way. Make a deal with your boss: if you pay for the class, will they give you the training days? It never hurts to ask, and the boss may appreciate your initiative. There are also many police associations that will allow you attend their conferences for free if you volunteer to help with the conference. Make training and learning a priority in your life, even if the department doesn’t. And if you’re lucky enough to work for an agency that does, take advantage of every minute of in service training you can get. Whether you’re a brand new rookie or you’re a 20-year chief, you are always a student and there is always something new to learn.


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    jp911k9

    about 4 years ago

    2 Comments

    The chief and command staff most certainly need to be a part of in-service training if for the simple fact that they should know what they're officers are being trained in, so that when they arrive on scene of a critical incident or have to talk to a reporter or something, they know what's going on and why. And I agree with Sergeant Smith, I've paid for a lot of my training on my own dime. What she writes here is a great idea..."Make a deal with your boss: if you pay for the class, will they give you the training days? It never hurts to ask, and the boss may appreciate your initiative." However, sometime earlier this year, I submitted to go to local training that was free. I'm an instructor and FTO. My initiative was not appreciated. I was denied. Why? Because I was told I had too much training...?!?!? In this business, there is no such thing. Think my chief or any of the command staff attends any in-service with that kind of mindset...

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    masterjohn

    about 4 years ago

    2 Comments

    hi salam and how r u good job but one reqvest me join the job so help me othear detailes i hope fully reply me wait my e-mail m_masterjhon@hotmail.com

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    jtcotter

    over 4 years ago

    4 Comments

    I enjoyed reading this article, I have been on the job for 18 years and still enjoy inservice training. The agency I work for wastes my knowledge leaving me in a dorm training new CO's. I am finishing up my masters degree, and I am expecting to start teaching at the University for the Spring term 2011. I can never get enough classroom time!!

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    Anonymous

    about 5 years ago

    The chief should never be left out, who knows when he is driving home and sees something that needs to be handled. There is no such thing as an "off duty" LEO

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    about 5 years ago

    It is mandatory for each member of our agency. It is one week long and it covers just about everything. Class must be attended once a year and attendance is tracked.

  • Jpd_new_max50

    PETE114

    over 5 years ago

    1396 Comments

    Our Department runs a 2 day in-service training every year. The first day involves classroom stuff: Chief's briefing, legal update, policies, cpr re-cert, guest trainers, someone from the State's Attorney's Office, and so on. Usually each trainer takes up an hour with a 10 minute break. The next day the class is broken up into 2 groups. One half works on physical tactics, the other half works on rapid response, traffic stops, building searches, range work, or something else. They switch after lunch.

    We have 8-10 two day class groups to get the whole Department through. All ranks and Divisions are involved. This way everyone gets to get aquainted with others they do not normally work with.

  • Fort_oakland_logos_max50

    bullflip

    over 5 years ago

    28 Comments

    Good article by Sgt. Smith. Training and skills must be maintained for all LEO's. We must, even to our detriment sometimes, educate our upper ranks that this is a must in today’s work standards. Lead by example and set the standard thorough education and hard work.

  • Veteransadm_small_square_max50

    amrote

    over 5 years ago

    652 Comments

    This is one of the best articles I have ever read. So much of this is true in every way. Often times we see the brass at training that is required to be done and that is about it. As a firearms and DT instructor I gladly pay for advanced courses on my own. I have asked management for time off so I can attend on my own dime and they have supported me. My wife is very supportive when I want to pay for training so for that I am grateful.

    As instructors it is our duty to learn and pass on any and all advanced training that can save a fellow officers life. If I pay for advanced training and get the mindset that I paid for this myself so I am going to keep it to myself, then I am a sorry trainer. We owe it to our fellow officers to provide them the best training available to ensure we provide them with all the tools should they encounter a lethal scenario in the streets. Being a trainer is not about stroking our egos, but rather providing the best and most up-to-date training for our officers.

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    dtessierjr0017

    over 5 years ago

    4 Comments

    Training is the only way that we have to prepare ourselves for what may come at us. If your department offers it then get in every training opportunity you can! Plus it's also fun.

  • Green_lantern_max600_max50

    JDLDAL

    over 5 years ago

    10220 Comments

    you need all the training you can get , you never get to old to learn , and you never really no all you need to . so really it never really is enough.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    mragan

    over 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    Very good article by Sgt. Smith. A good well-rounded program like she describes benefits both the officers and the community they serve.

  • Img_0639_max50

    Star80A9

    over 5 years ago

    1228 Comments

    Great article with a lot of good reminders in it. It has inspired me to go check our training board and see what I can enroll myself in.

  • Me_2004_max50

    BSALLEN305

    over 5 years ago

    22 Comments

    No truer statement ever made, having worked for a Chief who never encouraged in-service training,for fear someone may learn something that would benifit them, and was afraid it may show his weaknesses. never be afraid to learn and grow it just might save your life some day or someone you know. Well written

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 5 years ago

    Continuous training benefits everyone!!!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 5 years ago

    This is an exceptional article.

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