This is an extremely challenging and emotionally charged time for the law enforcement profession. Training and leadership are more important than ever. Training needs to be delivered in a way that is most likely to result in learning, retention and the ability to recall and apply the learning. Training cannot be just “tick the box” or “flavor of the day training” delivered so an agency can say, “Everyone was trained in __________.” There is a difference in between actually being trained and simply having attended training.
Training needs to be relevant and engaging. Training needs to be delivered continually in a variety of formats. It is not enough to just have people attend in-service training once a year. We need to create cultures of training where every day is a training day. This can include:
- Breaking a block of 40 hour in-service training and delivering it in five 8 hour days, or ten 4 hour sessions, or twenty 2 hours sessions throughout the year.
- 10 minute training sessions on a variety of topics delivered at roll call.
- Continual “If Then / When Then” discussions facilitated by frontline supervisors.
- Training on leadership principles starting at the pre-service Academy, reinforced during FTO / PTO training and delivered throughout an officer’s career.
- Ongoing scenario based training where 3 or 4 times a year an officer is taken off the street for an hour and put through focused scenario based training before returning to active duty. Currently when officers attend full day scenario training they spent 80 % of the day sitting around waiting for their turn.
- Engaging online training that officers can complete in short chunks of time.
- Lessons learned videos involving incidents from your agency where trainers knowledgeable in the law, policy, tactics and human factors work with the involved officer(s) to extract and share lessons learned.
There are some key themes that should be reinforced during all training. This does not mean you need to spend an hour on each of these topics at every training session, but the principles and concepts need to be continually reinforced. These themes, principles and concepts include:
- Critical Thinking and Decision Making.
- Breathing. I mean actually teaching breathing so it becomes a habitual response to control arousal and allow for better decision making.
- The Core Values of the agency. This can be brief a discussion on what the values mean and the sharing of examples of people demonstrating those values on a daily basis. It does not have to be all the Core Values every time. It can be a brief discussion on one of them or referencing the Core Values during discussions on actual events.
- Everyone in an agency is in a position to lead. Challenge each and every person to accept that reality and step up and lead. Leadership is never about rank, position and title. Rank, position and title put a person in a formal leadership position, it does not make him or her a leader.
- For those in formal leadership positions they need to have the courage to lead. This means having the courage to do what is right when it is not what’s popular, easy or expedient. This applies to internal issues as well and having the courage to stand up and speak up when people are making false allegations of systemic racism, brutality and mistreatment of any group of people. Law enforcement is a profession of humans and like every profession, race and religion we will have a few who are racist and we will have situations where people will use inappropriate force or mistreat members of the communities they have sworn to serve and protect. These issues are not ‘systemic’ in the over 18,000 law enforcement agencies and 900,000 law enforcement professionals in North America.
- Ignored Behavior is Condoned Behavior. If you are going to ignore officers failing to wear their body armor, failing to wear their seatbelts, driving too fast, making inappropriate comments in training or at roll call, or officers using inappropriate tactics in training or on the street then you are condoning those behaviors with your silence. The same is true for ignoring false allegations and false narratives.
- Creating strong, positive relations with the communities they serve is everyone’s responsibility, not just the responsibility of those few officers assigned to “Community Policing” units. For people working patrol this can be as simple as stopping 2 or 3 times every shift and having non-enforcement interactions with people in the community. Those interactions can be with a business owner, someone sitting on their front porch, or people out walking their dog or mowing their lawn. Let them know who you are and find out what concerns they may have in their neighborhood that you should be aware of.
- Creating strong community relations means with ALL the communities your agency serves. It is easy to get focused on just one community at the exclusion of the others. Remind officers that the haters and groups with an agenda do not speak for the community as a whole. Thinking they do leads to an ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality. Getting out of your car and talking to “regular” people in your communities on a daily basis has be shown to increase the perception of the police by people in those communities and increase the perception of the people in those communities by the police.
- Remember who and what you represent. Each officer represents everyone who has gone before them in your agency, everyone who is currently part of your agency, everyone who will be a member of your agency in the future and every member of the law enforcement profession. What one of us does, or fails to do, reflects on all of us.
Law enforcement officers need to remain professional and stay committed to their mission to serve and protect. This is extremely difficult in the face of constant accusations, slurs, threats and attacks. This is why training and strong, courageous leadership is more important than ever.
Note: Let me address an issue I get asked about. I debated whether to address that here as this blog is about training, not politics. I decided I would address it here and then we can continue to focus on training in future posts. The issue is police marching with protestors and taking a knee to show solidarity.
I am not an advocate of either. Let me explain why.
For the past 6 years we as a profession have fought against the lie of “Hands up don’t shoot.” We have also fought against the false narrative of systemic brutality and racism of law enforcement against blacks. The symbolism for that false narrative starting in 2016 was “taking a knee” during the national anthem at NFL games started by Colin Kaepernick. I have concerns when I see police leaders and police officers taking a knee as a “Show of solidarity with protesters”, who are basically out protesting against the police. My concern is the symbolism of “taking a knee”. We don’t do that to honour an officer killed in the line of duty; we stand and bow our head. Taking a knee is a symbolism of “the fight against systemic racism and mistreatment of blacks in America by the police”, which is a narrative, unsupported by facts.
I am not sure when we as a profession started marching with protestors who are protesting against the police. I was involved with the Crowd Control Section of my former agency for 19 of my 25 years, the last 15 as the supervisor in charge of training and development. I served as Deputy Commander for World Petroleum Congress and G-8 Summit. We always trained our officers to remain professional and neutral, regardless of their beliefs regarding the theme of the protest. Their job was to ensure that everyone was able to safely and lawfully voice their opinions. When we march with protestors I believe we are sending the message that we condone all that they are protesting. Most of those protests are screaming about the systemic racism of the police and systemic targeting and mistreatment of blacks by the police. Blacks Lives Matter as an organization seems committed to creating racial tension and racial divide, rather than using their influence to address more significant issues affecting black communities. “All Lives Matter” is condemned by many of the protestors as a racist term. In fact at a protest in my city on Saturday one of the protestors held up a sign that read, “All Lives Don’t Matter Until Black Lives Do.” Think about that for a minute.
You do not have to agree with me. If you disagree please reach out so we can have a discussion. We need to stop trying to out yell those we disagree with and seek to understand by actually listening and engaging in discussion and dialogue.
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