Whether your agency is voluntarily succumbing to the pressure to do de-escalation and implicit bias training or being forced into it by politicians who are in a rush to be seen to be doing something and are not willing to take a measured evidence based approach to change, you need to think beyond the initial training course, and think about how to weave the core elements of the training into your agency culture.
We have seen too many agencies do the one off training on these topics before. This is where you bring everyone in and force them to attend training on this topic. There is always going to be resistance to politically driven, forced training so there is already a barrier to the topic being taught. The manner in which the training is delivered can either help to break down this wall, or reinforce it.
After the training is completed the Chief tells the public and the politicians that everyone has “been trained in ________________ “. As I have written about before, there is a big difference between having attended training in a topic and actually being trained in a topic. Often everyone just goes back to doing what they were doing before and if down the road an officer fails to utilize the training in a tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving event on the street the agency too often wants to hang it all on the individual officer, after all they were “trained in __________________________. “
In order for training to stick, learning to take place, the officer to be able to retain and recall the information and an actual change in behavior to take place the learners need to first understand why the information or skill being presented to them is important to them. The information needs to have context and relevance and be delivered in a manner that utilizes the research on how people best learn and retain information. This includes principles such as interleaving, desirable difficulties, spaced practice, reflection and effortful retrieval. The information or skills then need to be reinforced over time using many of these same principles through physical practice, imagery, scenarios and effortful retrieval practice.
This means that before you bring someone in to deliver the training, or build your own training, you need to be thinking beyond the course and thinking about ways to create a culture of learning where key principles, concepts, decision making skills and physical skills are continually practiced in context and reinforced. This culture of learning can include 10 minute roll call training, if then / when then discussions, short training videos followed by discussions, regular scenario training, tactical decision games and the use of performance enhancement imagery. This culture would ideally take the once a year block of annual training and break it up into a series of shorter trainings spread over the entire year.
We can do what we have always done and wonder why we are not getting better, or we can think differently about training, learning and leading and continually enhance the profession and the professionals who are part of the law enforcement profession.
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