Our profession, mirroring society at large, seems to be moving towards doing more with less. There’s less money available for training, greater liability concerns for departments, and the hard reality that video scrutiny is brutally present in both the media as well as administrative review.
But with today’s technology-driven focus, there seems to be a reliance on video clips and “app”-based shortcuts to fill the training needs for the hazards of this job. It’s becoming increasingly rare for information to be passed down as it once was: through senior experience, based on lessons earned through time in the patrol seat, on a one-to-one basis.
The constant is that all things change. Why would this not be any different for our perspective on training opportunities and creating positive results based training?
In today’s statistics- and results-driven culture, a new training paradigm has to emerge. I submit what I call the “micro training” model. It’s not high-budget or time consuming, and you won’t have to pass it up the administrative chain. Rather, this training model focuses on small, intensive teaching periods, used by patrol-level personnel to teach each other and pass along valuable ideas or concepts that may not be shared otherwise.
How Does It Work?
Training takes place in 15 – 30 minutes, in the field or in a semi-secluded environment similar to a lunch room, workout space, or equipment-review office. The shift’s subject matter expert and another experienced patrol person create a 20-minute lesson plan to address a specific training need.
For illustrative purposes we will use unconventional shooting platforms for patrol. The subject matter expert (often an ancillary assignment, like a range master) obtains a couple of red training pistols. The two “instructors” workout the details of shooting from their own assigned patrol vehicles with the red training pistols. (For safety purposes, their actual duty pistols are secured in the trunk or other semi-secure spot during the initial training.) With the actual obstacles present in the working patrol vehicle they use—not a stripped down range vehicle—they workout the issues. This will create dialog of the pros and cons of various shooting positions or ballistic properties of the vehicle.
It’s important to work through the use of your respective duty equipment layouts and the objects in the patrol vehicle you actually use daily. This provides the muscle memory elements you can discover work best or not at all depending on the actual controlled environment. As both proctors go through this process, it will create a base dialog that will start the training off.
Once the initial micro training is in place, it’s time to present it to the first participant. The subject matter expert (in this case the range master) acts as the proctor and the initial co-creator the instructor. The instructor teaches the training session with the proctor, ensuring the accuracy of information and that all the elements are covered. (Note: As with the initial session, the instructor and participant should secure their weapons and the red training pistols should be utilized. But the proctor should retain their duty pistol in the event some immediate threat was to develop that had to be instantaneously addressed.)
The 15 – 30-minute session should include free-flowing questions and conversation that goes in both directions. At the completion of the training the participant then becomes the next instructor and the former instructor goes back into service, allowing a new patrol person to receive the training. This process continues, with the only person remaining the entire time being the subject matter expert for uniformity throughout the training. Because each “student” going through the training knows that he or she will next be in the role of “teacher,” people pay attention. It also creates group cohesion and a sense of collaboration.
There may be some initial resistance to this type of model. But, in my experience, after the initial run personnel quickly realize that they have direct input in the process and that it’s all done for their benefit. In fact, they will likely suggest topics for future training. It’s sometimes possible to do the suggested training in a single work day or over the course of several days, depending on the number of patrol officers and call volume present.
Micro training is designed to work in the exchange of knowledge and experience that may not be addressed regularly in any regular department training being held. It’s a way of getting some practical repetitions in things that are vitally important to the job but may be neglected due to the budgetary or time constraints most Departments have. This training model can be done by the patrol-level supervisor for their shift, especially beneficial for newer officers.
I’ve used this training model, and it works. Shift partners were excited over the material presentation and the newer officers were able to present questions as well as receive information they wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise. The proctors were able to learn more about their shift partners and the shift as whole developed greater unity. Additionally, we found that many other topics and skills were touched on. We received many great suggestions from shift mates about what they wanted training and information on.
Possible topics could include high-risk stops, slow and methodical building searches, vehicle compartment searches, or other topics specific to your department’s unique service needs. After all, even with all the technological advances we see in our lives today, there still’s no app for this type of training.