A few years ago the Calgary Police Service (where I spent my 25 year career) had 550 officers who became eligible for retirement over a 5 year period. That translates into a minimum of 13,750 years of experience and wisdom potentially walking out the door in just 5 years.
The Calgary Police Service is not unique in the large percentage of officers who are becoming eligible to retire in recent years. The key here is not the number of officers but the percentage of your officers in your agency approaching retirement. If you have 10 officers in your agency and three of them leave you are in the same position as the CPS in that almost 30% of your agency can walk away.
You may be wondering what the point of this rant is. The point is this. The Calgary Police as an organization did not have a plan to capture any of that wisdom before those officers retired. Does your agency? Not likely. Without a plan to capture the wisdom of those who have gone before us we are often doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over. We will make enough mistakes on our own without having to relearn valuable lessons.
Now you may be thinking your organization is too big for you to do anything about it. That is a bit of a cop out. I would challenge you to at least start a dialogue in your department to see what you can do to capture some of that wisdom and experience. Can you come up with a list of questions someone could ask them then see about getting some local writers, students studying journalism looking for practicums or summer students majoring in English or literature that would be willing to conduct the interviews and then write the stories for you. You could even limit it to one or two questions such as:
- What is one thing that you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?
- If someone close to you was starting out in their career in law enforcement what is one piece of advice you would give to them to help them have a successful career?
As some officers can be a little cynical by the time they get to retirement you may have to give them the caveat that the advice cannot be “Don’t do it.”
As a trainer what are you doing to capture the wisdom of those trainers who have gone on before you? Have you spent time with them (even if they are retired) and asked questions about lessons they learned, mistakes they made, one thing they wish they had known when they started their training career, or the one key piece of advice they would give to a new trainer starting out? Have you asked them about the history behind the skills, drills and tactics currently being taught in your agency? Have you asked about recommended reading, websites they found most valuable, trainers who influenced them or contacts they are willing to share with you? Have you found out who their heros were and who their mentors were? Have you asked them if they would be willing to be a resource to you in the future?
Too often we just let all that wisdom, experience, knowledge and history walk away.
The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights I have gained through 25 years as a cop and over 20 years in training law enforcement professionals. In that time I have made a lot of mistakes, learned a lot of lessons and been fortunate to learn from some of the best and brightest in the world of law enforcement training.
The books If I Knew Then: Life Lessons From Cops on the Street, If I Knew Then 2: Warrior Reflections (to be released this spring), W.I.N.: Critical Issues in Training and Leading Warriorsand W.I.N. 2: Insights Into Training and Leading Warriors all serve as invaluable collections of insights and wisdom from law enforcement professionals in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. These must read books along with Officer Down by Brian McKenna and Blood Lessons by Chuck Remsberg are all available at Warrior Spirit Books.