“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.”
John Maynard Keynes
I know this post will piss some people off, and I can live with that. As a great trainer said while addressing these same issues in a class I was attending at an IALEFI conference almost 20 years ago, “It only hurts if it ought to.”
I am continually disappointed by the inability of some police academies commanders and instructors to let go of old ideas regarding “training”. Recently a LinkedIn post and a news article got my blood boiling.
The LinkedIn post was from an officer who was invited to participate in what sounds like hazing of new recruits on Day 1 of the academy:
“Took part in my first “day one” or what we called it when I was going in the academy “Hell Day” for the new class that just entered the academy.
Quickly realized that stress induced environment from “day one” is designed to break down every wall in your mentality when you enter, and the academy rebuilds it by the time you leave. The day is a right of passage, a necessary evil if you will, to break you down as a person to allow your fellow colleagues to merely build the foundation of a police officer that necessary for your community. From there the rest of the department will finish your development on them as a complete officer. Don’t know a single person in that class, never met them, but I genuinely hope they all come out to join the family.
Thank you to the academy for allowing me to help break their walls so they can hopefully mold them into Officer that both we and the community needs during this difficult period. Tough times don’t last, tough people do.“
If the hiring process is designed to select people whose character and values align with the organizations Mission, Vision and Values, why do you feel the need to “break down every wall in your mentality when you enter” and “break you down as a person”? The focus of the academy should be to build on the strong foundation these individuals bring to the agency. You hire individuals, then seek to turn them into clones and robots. Why?
The academy and their staff should exemplify and model the agency’s Core Values. Four of their Core Values are Professionalism, Leadership, Accountability and Ethics. A line from the agency’s Mission Statement says, “We promote dignity and respect while recognizing the needs of our diverse community in our responsibility to maintain order and protect individual rights.” Is this what is being modelled?
The news article chronicled the high number of recruits walking away from a state police academy in the first two weeks. Below is an excerpt from that article:
“Department data obtained by NBC 10 showed that 46% of the men and women who signed up because they wanted to protect and serve have dropped out. Half of the female recruits and 45% of the males resigned.
Most of the recruits who have dropped out did so in the first two weeks, during the phase of the academy known as “resiliency training.” Academy leadership call this training “hectic” and “extreme,” saying it allows them to see how recruits handle intense stress.“
This is not “resiliency training”. It is an archaic mindset that puts the test before the training. The job of the academy should be to provide mental skills training to help the recruits develop resiliency over the course of the academy and throughout their careers. If they must have these mental skills before attending the academy, then make it part of the selection process. These environments are not conducive to learning.
The article went on to say:
“The academy underwent an investigation after an unauthorized training exercise left 20 trainees injured last year after they were required to bear crawl across hot pavement. The academy is under new leadership following the investigation.
Leadership stands behind the intensity of the authorized exercises during the first weeks of the academy, saying that it is comparable to the intensity of police work.“
Proponents of this type of academy want to blame “the new generation”. This is not a generational issue. Abuse that is condoned by people in leadership positions is the same reason people are walking away from the policing profession, yet some are trying to justify why it is ok in a police academy. They also want to say I am advocating for “lowering standards”. Removing this type of abuse from academies is not lowering standards, it is raising the instructional standards for the academy and the training cadre.
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”
With all the research available on teaching, learning, stress, wellness, resilience, modeling, and leadership it is inconceivable that any Academy Director does not know better. If they do not, then they need to educate themselves and their staff. Start by reading Do Hard Things by Steve Magnus then attend the annual ILEETA Trainers Conference, join The Excellence in Training Academy and listen to some of the over 440 interview, or attend Chris Butler’s Methods of Instruction Course, which is facilitated through Force Science in the US and Raptor Protection and Safety Services everywhere else, or attend an Excellence in Training Course.
We need to do better. We owe it to the profession and the heroic men and women of the policing profession.
Winning Mind Training – Providing practical training to law enforcement professionals in the areas of instructor development, Performance Enhancement Imagery, leadership and mindset.