Think about the mandatory, scheduled in-service training programs for officers in your agencies after they graduate from the academy. Are any of those programs focused on developing your people in the areas of decision-making, investigations, wellness, stress management, financial management, investigative skills, incident management / incident command, professionalism in policing and leadership? Or, are the mandatory in-service programs focused on qualification and “hot topic of the day” of the day training?
In too many agencies little or none of the mandatory in-service training is focused on continually developing key skills necessary for officers to become great law enforcement professionals. The mandatory in-service training is focused on qualifying officers in control tactics, intermediate weapons, legal updates, firearms, first aide and CPR with some ethics training occasionally thrown in. These are all important issues, but there is a difference between qualification training and developmental training.
Depending on the current outcry from the media, politicians and special interest groups agencies add mandated training on whatever the hot topic of the day is. This training can come with a big price tag (often not planned for in the budget) and often has little, if any, demonstrated benefits, but makes some people feel better that officers have been forced to attend. This training is usually delivered one time and then the agency moves on knowing they can publicly say they “trained” their officers.
Law enforcement is a profession that demands a great deal from the men and women who chose to serve their communities through this career. Demanding professions require a culture of training and learning where the basic academy is seen as a starting point for ongoing professional developmental training. Annual qualification to maintain a demonstrated level of competency in key areas is important, but should not be the sole focus of in-service training.
The challenges facing the law enforcement profession today centre on leadership (or lack there of), professionalism, wellness and decision making at all levels. These are not one off programs. They require a culture where this training and learning is delivered consistently throughout an officer’s career. David Marquet, a retired US Navy Captain and author of the great book Turn the Ship Around, says, “There is a need for the relentless, consistent repetition of the message. Continually and consistently repeating the message is a mechanism for competence.” If we want competent, confident law enforcement professionals, we need to consistently and relentlessly deliver quality, developmental training throughout their careers.
Time on the job does not by default make you a better leader, magically give you the tools to make good decisions in complex environments or automatically make you a better investigator. These are all skills which can be learned and improved through ongoing, high quality, developmental training. This requires an investment of finances, time and other resources on the part of the agency and the training cadre. Make no mistake, this is an investment. An investment with a potential for an extremely high ROI (return on investment).
It is time for us as a profession to think differently about training and learning and developing our people.
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