Take Ownership of Your Professional Life
There was a time when an eager officer longing for more training opportunities could blame the training request denial on not being one of the “golden children” of the administration in power. With the advent of the economic downturn and a new era for law enforcement budgeting, denials have become the norm, rather than the exception.
Training for law enforcers has become rather widely accepted as a means to enhance service to the community, minimize agency liability, and arm crime fighters with the knowledge they need to more effectively do their job and stay safe.
The last point is particularly vital given the exploding war on cops taking place. Numerous shootings have dominated the headlines and underscored the dangerous nature of policing. It has been a deadly year for law enforcement professionals.
So, what’s the solution to the dearth of training request refutations? The answer lies in the idea that law enforcement professionals are just that: professionals. Professionals in other fields, such as law and medicine, have long grabbed onto the notion that ultimately it is they who are responsible for their professional development. If an employer cannot or will not pony up the bucks for course fees, time away from the workplace, or travel expenditures, it is the professional that does so.
While it would be terrific if the employing governmental entity would step up with the funds, the reality is many are not, whether legitimately or not, citing the economic downturn. The true professional moves on with plan B realizing that they need to fill the void since the training makes a large difference for them. That couldn’t be truer than the law enforcer of today with the highest stakes imaginable at play.
So, here you are. Your agency is denying your requests for training. Beyond the required firearms qualification and mandatory training refreshers on use of force, etc., they won’t budge citing budget cuts. What’s an eager police officer or deputy sheriff to do? You need to take ownership of your professional life. Here are a few suggestions on how to do so.
1) Buddy Share. You may be able to cut the personal monies you need to shell out to go to a course by spreading some of the costs among more than one person. Find a like-minded person from your area. Perhaps you could take turns driving and share costs to a distant training location.
2)Regularly Check Course Schedules. Not all courses all the time cost big bucks. Check regularly for special pricing. Websites like PoliceLink.com provide regular training schedules.
3) Grants. Often cited, but little understood, grants are a great way to secure funding apart from the agency’s fiscal constraints. Local businesses are an often overlooked source for support.
4) Fundraisers. Assuming that departmental approval is nailed down and local regulations are adhered to, a community fundraiser to send officers to training is yet another route. In order to get community support and media coverage, it should be on a topic that is of import to the community at large or has a big “cool factor.” Raising funds for K-9 programs and training is a prime example of a great mass appeal professional development tactic.
5) Community College. Check with your local community college or police training facility. They often hold courses that are much lower costs as the expense is subsidized by the college district funds.
6) Online Coursework. Many websites are now offering online coursework in the form of podcasts, videos, and other forms of distance learning. Long coveted for its flexible delivery schedule, sometimes web-based courses have lower costs as well (especially when you can eliminate the cost of travel, per diem, and hotel).
The “new normal” is an era when government fiscal expenditures has drastically cut into monies previously used for police professional development. Many officers have been laid off and departments have shuttered their doors. At the same time, demands for police services and the dangers of the job have never been more ubiquitous. It is the law enforcement professional that takes control of his or her knowledge-centered life that will continue to provide value to employers, their agencies, their families, and themselves.
Generally speaking, training expenditures related to your professional development are tax deductible. However, you need to check with your tax professional for your particular circumstances. And you should hope that your accountants go to professional development courses whether their bosses pay for it or not. It is their responsibility to be sure to be the best, most knowledgeable professional that they can be for their clientele. And so it is your responsibility to do likewise; perhaps even more so. After all, an accountant does not have the same high stakes that law enforcer does.
Dr. Richard Weinblatt, “The Cop Doc,” is a former police chief, ex busy jurisdiction patrol deputy sheriff, and criminal justice educator who has written articles and provided media commentary since 1989. He can be reached via www.TheCopDoc.com.