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Consistency in Training
How do we ensure that the training received by the cadets and/or line officers is the same as that given the Staff Instructors, Associate Staff Instructors, Instructor/Trainers, and Instructors?


Jack Leonard
Associate Staff Instructor

Remember the old children's game known as "telephone" or "gossip?" You would sit in a circle or around a table, and the initial child would whisper a phrase or sentence to the person next to him. That person repeated it to the next, and so forth until the message had traveled the length of the entire group. The thing was, the message announced by the last child had little or nothing to do with the initial message. It was changed, watered down, or lost all together during the process.

We face a similar difficulty when conducting PPCT training. Bruce Siddle instructs the Staff Instructors, Associate Staff Instructors, and Instructor/Trainers initially. They in turn provide certification training in Instructor Schools. Finally, the Instructors train the cadets or in service officers. The question/problem is, how do we ensure that the training received by the cadets and/or line officers is the same as that given the Staff Instructors, Associate Staff Instructors, Instructor/Trainers, and Instructors?

First, whoever is conducting the Instructor School must follow the instructional outline provided by PPCT whenever possible. These outlines are available for all law enforcement courses. Second, refer to the Instructor Considerations section of each chapter. This section shows problems others have experienced in the past and how best to deal with them. Third, remember to teach Instructors how to provide instruction. Do not turn an Instructor School into a class that winds up being merely an advanced class in whichever discipline you are teaching.

Take Speed Cuffing for example. I begin the training the way I was taught. After the officers have learned the Relative Position Model, I have the students work on their step slide, both forward and back on the 2 1/2 line. Next, I have them start with their hands by their sides, step in raising the hands to a "belt high" position, then stepping back while lowering their hands. As they move forward, I have them also extend their arms, so that they will be cuffing as far away from the subject as possible.

Next, I explain how to grip the handcuffs, including adjustments that must be made for officers with extremely small or large hands. I then have them move the cuffs forward and back, as if they were sawing logs parallel to the floor. After that, I show them how to "load" the cuffs, and I have them practice pushing the single bar onto their index fingers. They are then shown how to "flip" the cuffs, and they practice pushing the single bar of the second cuff up against their index fingers.

I then go to teaching them how to grip the subject's thumb on the first hand to be cuffed. When satisfied, they grip the thumb first and then push the first cuff onto the wrist as the wrist is pushed into the cuff. Each time this drill is performed, the students are step sliding in and raising their arms as taught in the initial drills.

It is not necessary to complete the Instructional Outline here; one can easily see the benefits of combining exercises while following the outline. Another example is the brilliant exercise devised by Staff Instructor Aubrey Futrell for the Straight Arm Bar Takedown. He has his students stand in Relative Position 2 ½, and the subject reaches back with his closer hand gripping the belt or pocket of the officer. The officer then places both of his hands behind his head, steps back on the 2½ line with his outside foot, and turns and kneels on his inside knee. The subject is taken down "with no hands," and this exercise demonstrates the importance of both proper hand placement and that it is the kneeling action that provides the force for the takedown.

One other area to be explored is how often do Instructor/Trainers provide basic instruction for line officers? This is an excellent reminder of just how difficult the Instructor's job is and why consistency in instruction is so important. While attending a PPCT Use of Force Training Conference, I overheard one of our Instructor/Trainers telling a group of I/T's that he found it difficult to teach officers defensive tactics at the basic level. He stated that he was never going to teach another basic class as long as he lived. He stated that he wanted to teach only Instructor level seminars for two reasons. First (and in my opinion foremost), he could make much more money teaching Instructor Schools. Second, teaching Instructor Schools was much easier due to the high level of motivation found in officers who paid the higher cost of Instructor Schools as opposed to Basic training.

I suppose I can understand his rationale, but I think he was missing the proverbial "boat" with respect to the reason most of us become Instructors in the law enforcement community. The primary goal, as I see it, is to make the jobs of the officers we train safer and easier. Certainly it is nice to be able to make some money in the process, but the bottom line is whether or not the officers in our courses learn and retain the techniques for use "on the street."

I respectfully recommend that those Instructor/Trainers who have not taught a Basic class recently consider doing so. Think what it will do to your instructional perspective to teach basic defensive tactics to a recruit class numbering thirty-five to forty, in a gymnasium with poor acoustics. Or, perhaps train a group of in-service officers who attend the class with the complete conviction that they forgot more about law enforcement than you ever learned. Dealing with recruits who know nothing and/or in-service officers who know everything provides you with valuable teaching experiences you can then pass along to your students in Instructor Schools. After all, they are the ones who will have to deal with these two divergent groups of students.

Finally, I do not want this to sound like a parental lecture of "do as I say, not as I do." I provide basic instruction to all recruit classes at the Allegheny County Police Academy, located just north of Pittsburgh, PA. I have taught Basic Defensive Tactics there since 1993. I sincerely believe that teaching these Basic classes makes me a better Instructor at PPCT's other levels of instruction. It certainly serves as a regular reminder to break all techniques down to their lowest common denominator and emphasizes the importance of consistency in our instruction.

About the Author: Jack Leonard is a retired peace officer with over twenty years of law enforcement experience. He was first certified as a Defensive Tactics Instructor in 1981, and he has been teaching PPCT courses since 1987.