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When I initially became involved in law enforcement training, I was told on numerous occasions that the most important commodity with respect to training classes was time...
Time and Money
When I initially became involved in law enforcement training, I was told on numerous occasions that the most important commodity with respect to training classes was time. After years in the field, I would like to add money as a close second, if not as of equal importance.
First I'll consider the importance of training time. PPCT's Defensive Tactics Instructor program runs forty (40) hours. In addition to learning the techniques and how to teach them, we incorporate Survival Learning/Human Factors material, Use of Force, Control Principles, and Instructor Development. For the Basic Defensive Tactics program, PPCT recommends a minimum of thirty-two (32) hours for the Basic Academy Recruit and a minimum of twenty-four (24) hours for an in-service officer. Once either of these programs is completed, the recommended time for a re-certification course is sixteen (16) hours.
Following the completion of a Defensive Tactics Instructor Seminar, I begin to get telephone calls and/or emails from the new instructors asking how they can teach the techniques properly with less than the recommended minimum hours. They go on to inform me that their chief has limited them to anywhere from four (4) hours to eight (8) hours per year to teach defensive tactics. Even if the instructor does not certify the department; that is he/she does not test the officers and does not teach the Shoulder Pin, the instructor would still need a minimum of sixteen (16) to eighteen (18) hours to cover the remaining core areas adequately.
At this point we trainers would do well to remember that the police chiefs, agency directors, et al are faced with the second important commodity regarding training, that of money. Officers want (and deserve) to be paid for proper training. However, depending upon the size of the department, such training often involves the necessity of overtime and its appropriate financial compensation. At this point it is easy to see that many police chiefs are faced with the same two difficult areas as trainers-time and money.
One of the main arguments for training time and money has been a training application of a popular engine oil company that says, "Pay me now or pay me later." Basically telling drivers to pay the price of changing your engine's oil regularly or you'll be paying for major repairs when the engine fails. The later, in law enforcement terms, is obviously the large amounts of compensatory and sometimes punitive awards given to citizens who sue departments on the bases of "failure to train" or "inadequate training." Any department that has lost such a court case is painfully aware of not only the stress of going through such a court process but also the financial burden the loss can put on the department. Liability insurance can cover such losses, but history shows us that the aftermath results in higher premiums for this coverage. Also, although there may be no scientific method to measure the results of stress upon the officers involved, it obviously takes its toll.
An alternative to going through the entire legal process is to settle the claim before it comes to court. Although this can be a financial advantage to both the liability carrier and the department, I believe it does a disservice to the officer(s) involved if in fact the officer(s) was/were "in the right." Also, if the case is settled out of court, and the officer believes he/she was justified in their actions, how will such an outcome affect the officer's future job performance?
There are no easy or magic solutions to the problems of time and money for law enforcement training. I believe the correct approach is for the law enforcement administrators to do the best they can to show/convince those who control the budgets of the importance of proper training. Change, as Mr. Bruce Siddle is so fond of saying, begins at the top.
After over thirty (30) years of training law enforcement officers, I am well aware that I shall never see the day when all departments receive sufficient training budgets from their respective government bodies. Some departments are so small that the only way they'll ever be able to afford proper in-service training would be to become part of a regional police force. And that idea is so controversial that it could easily be a separate article. Since it is so closely tied to budget issues, the time necessary for training sessions will be part of the ongoing struggle. I figure I'll still get those "How do I. . . ?" telephone calls and emails, but I'll feel better about them if law enforcement administrators continue to make sincere efforts at obtaining the funds for proper training of their officers.