Why do we continue to run “Stress Academies” where trainers scream and yell at recruits and punish them with physical exercise? Why do we still run academies where the prevailing mentality is, “Shut your mouth and do what you are told.”? Why are we still crushing recruits with PT in academies to the point where people end up injured and occasionally hospitalized? Why do we continue to teach in ways that are contrary to what the evidence and research says about learning and retention?
There are two issues I would like to address:
- Training is not seen as a specialty unit requiring specialized and ongoing professional development in teaching and coaching. As a result we don’t know what we don’t know.
- We want to hold on to “Tradition” and the “The way we have always done it.”
Too few agencies and academies see training as a specialty position that people have to compete for like, SWAT, canine, and Hostage Negotiators. As a result there are often limited prerequisites to become a trainer, and few if any professional development requirements to continue as a trainer. Often the requirements to become a trainer are simply completion of the POST mandated instructor development course at some point prior to or after becoming a trainer and possibly additional certification in a specific discipline such as DT or firearms. While an instructor development course is a good start it should be seen as just that, a start. You also need to look at when the last time the instructor development program was updated and ask whether or not it is evidence based. Too often DT and firearms instructor courses are simply advanced student courses. You do a lot of repetitions of the skills, but do not necessarily learn how to effectively teach, diagnose issues, provide effective feedback and coach those who are struggling. As a result some trainers don’t know what they don’t know and as a result simply maintain the status quo.
If training is not seen as a specialty unit then there is often little or no money budgeted for ongoing professional development for the training cadre. Trainers bear a responsibility for their own growth and development, as does the agency. The impact of training, and trainers on their agency and the profession as a whole is too great not to make this investment. Some agencies and academies get this and make development of their people a priority. Sadly, many do not.
I do not consider myself an expert in training, teaching or coaching. I do consider myself a student of the craft and have committed over three decades to the study of this field. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I still have to learn. If there are mistakes to be made as a trainer, I have made them, and continue to make them. I have been fortunate over the years and have had a lot of really smart people who were willing to share their knowledge and experience with me. I was also fortunate that for the last 8½ years of my career with the Calgary Police Service I was the sergeant of a full time training unit and every day got to work with a group of people who loved to teach, loved to learn, loved to challenge the status quo and every day pushed me and each other to be better and do better.
Since the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA) was started I have attended every conference except one (I missed the 2021 conference due to cross border COVID restrictions) so I can hang out with, and learn from some of the best and brightest in the world of law enforcement training. Prior to ILEETA I attended a number of ASLET Conferences. I read continually and have attended pretty much every course Force Science offers. Every conference and course I attend, and every book I read reminds me how much I still have to learn and figure out.
In August of 2015 I started the Excellence in Training Academy, a membership site for law enforcement trainers and leaders willing to invest in their professional development. I have conducted over 325 hour long interviews with researchers, authors, trainers, coaches, curriculum designers, experienced leaders, law enforcement officers and military operators. For each interview I do between 2 and 10 hours of preparation. I learn from the preparation and from every interview I do. Each interview reminds me how much I still have to learn and figure out. I have also conducted over 100 hours of interviews for the ILEETA learning Lab. Twenty years ago I started teaching my Excellence in Training Course to share what I had learned and am continuing to learn.
When we don’t know what we don’t know it can be hard to see what needs to be changed. If all we have ever known is “how we do things here”, it can be hard to see potential issues with our training. If you, or any of the people in your training cadre, regularly use any of the following phrases it should be a red flag that there are potentially huge issues:
- That is the way we do things here.
- That is the way we have always done things here.
- That is the way is was when I went through training and I turned out just fine.
- There is nothing wrong with our training. It is just this new generation. They are soft and need to stop complaining and toughen up.
- Stress is the key to effective training.
- We need to weed out the people who don’t want to be here.
The above list often ties in with the issue of traditions. Some traditions are important to pass along the history of an agency and honor the sacrifices of those who have gone before. Other traditions such as constant screaming and yelling, physical exercise as punishment, stress as a tool to “weed people out”, crushing recruits with physical exercise and beating the crap out of recruits need to stop.
The question now becomes, “So, where do we start?”
I would recommend you start with a Training Unit membership to the Excellence in Training Academy(https://excellenceintrainingacademy.com). For a small investment of only $49.95 Canadian a month (approx.. $40.00 US) you can give your entire training cadre of academy, in-service and field trainers access to over 320 interviews and 23 webinars with new content added weekly. You can use select interviews and webinars as part of the onboarding process with new instructors. You can have everyone in the training cadre listen to specific interviews or webinars, identify their personal takeaways then discuss as a group what, if anything, you could implement from that interview or webinar. You could let people listen to interviews of particular interest to them and then every week have one of the trainers do a presentation to their peers on the key ideas from that interview. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like a complete list of all the interviews and webinars in the Members Content area of the website.
Read broadly and deeply on a variety of related topics and have discussions with your fellow trainers on the implications and applications of what you are reading. I once read that being surrounded by unread books is an important reminder of how much we still have to learn. There is a recommended reading list at the end of this post.
Join the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA). I believe every law enforcement trainers should be a member of this professional association and make it a priority to attend the annual conference at least once, ideally every year. Reach out to the ILEETA office (email@example.com) to inquire about Bundled Memberships for agencies.
I would highly recommend putting as many of your trainers as possible through the Excellence in Training Course (Yes, it is my program so I am biased.). Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss hosting a course.
Another great option would be the 5-day Methods Of Instruction course my friend and mentor Chris Butler has developed. This will be offered in the US starting in 2022 through the Force Science Institute. If you are outside of the US you can contact Chris at email@example.com to see about hosting a course.
The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is another resource that offers a number of highly rated programs for trainers.
- Make it Stick
- How We Learn
- Powerful Teaching: Unleash The Science of Learning
- Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons From the Science of Learning
- Peak: How All of Us Can Achieve Extraordinary Things
- The Coaches Guide to Teaching
- Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery
- The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Heads of Basketball’s Best Players
- GSP: The Way of the Fight
- The Story Tellers Secret
- The Emergency Mind
- Chasing Excellence
- Uncommon Sense Teaching
- InsideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives
Challenge the status quo. Ask why you do what you do in the way you do it and if it is evidenced based. Seek exposure to knowledge and ideas on better ways to teach, train and coach. Challenge yourself to figure out what you don’t know. When you know better, do better.
Winning Mind Training – Providing practical training to law enforcement professionals in the areas of instructor development, Performance Enhancement Imagery, leadership and mindset.
Dare to Be Great Leadership – Providing practical leadership training.