Seth Godin wrote a blog post recently titled Defending the status quo. The post cautioned us about our natural tendency to defend the status quo and fight to continue to do what we have been doing. There was a key line in that post, which summed up what many of us in law enforcement training may be feeling right now, “When the world changes, it’s tempting to fight hard to maintain the status quo that feels safe.”
I am not sure this is so much a matter of believing that we cannot improve our training, as it is the fact that some special interest groups and politicians are trying to force us to change our training without any thought as to what that “change” looks like and without any planning, funding, research or evidence. Humans are naturally resistant to change; we are especially resistant to forced change.
The easy thing for us to do to appease those screaming the loudest is to do what we have done before, and that is rush to do “de-escalation” and “implicit bias” training so we can tick that box and then go back to what we have been doing. It may be the easy thing to do, but it is not the right thing to do. It is also likely a waste of two precious commodities: time and training dollars.
We need to start by acknowledging that we can improve the training we are doing. Effective and meaningful change however, is going to take thought, planning, effort, creativity and funding. We are going to have to look at what the research and the evidence shows is the most effective way to enhance learning, retention and recall and actually change behavior and then compare that to how we are currently conducting our training.
We need to find ways to create a culture of learning within our agencies where professional development training is woven into regular activities throughout people’s careers. We need to see “minimum standards” as a starting point and not a desired end state. We need to invest in ongoing professional development training for trainers in our agencies and not simply send them once every few years to recertify as instructors in their disciplines. We need to break down the silos in our Academies and training units. We need to teach decision-making and critical thinking skills at the academy and then work to continually strengthen those skills. We need to integrate agency Core Values into those decision-making processes. We need to create a culture of leading in our agencies. We need to teach leadership throughout people’s careers starting in the Academy and encourage people to step up and lead regardless of their rank, position or title.
It’s no longer a matter of “When the world changes.” It has changed. We can fight hard to maintain the status quo and be forced to change, or we can be proactive and begin to lay out a path to positive change that best serves the heroic men and women in our agencies and ensures our profession grows and improves.
Note: Here is a link to a webinar I did for the ILETS on Creating a Culture of Leading and Learning.
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