WASHINGTON, April 20, 2015 — As a consultant to law enforcement on hiring, selection and training, I have opined for the last several months about the reasons for the current law enforcement crisis. My opinions are based upon over 25 years of observation and consultation.
This week, I interviewed a police lieutenant with about 15 years experience to test my conclusions.
Q: What is mandatory in-service training?
A: In-service law enforcement training is mandated by each state. The training is vastly different from state to state in terms of quality and quantity. In some states, that training is a brief review of revised state laws administered in a classroom during a 20-hour course.
The lieutenant I interviewed stated that his in-service training is 40 hours per year and consists of a review of state laws administered in both a classroom setting and during simulations in the field.
All officers who carry a firearm must also partake in re-qualification on a schedule that differs from state to state.
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Q: What is the quality of mandatory in-service training and firearms re-qualification?
A: In this lieutenant’s opinion, the in-service training he receives is “good,” meaning it is thorough and, at least in some cases, involves hands-on practice.
Q: What training have you received beyond state-mandated in-service training and firearms re-qualification?
A: His initial answer was, “There is never enough training” due to staffing requirements that prohibit removing officers from their posts in order to participate in training. He stated that law enforcement training is intermittent and inconsistent (some receive it and some do not) and sometimes lacks quality.
Q: How much supervisory training do you receive?
A: Like other law enforcement training, law enforcement supervisory training is intermittent and inconsistent and usually lacks quality. The lieutenant did not care for the supervisory training he has received to date and said it was not applicable to his duties.
Q: What type of simulation training and other hands-on training do you receive?
A: Additional training “is insufficient and inconsistent.” Training is administered when an officer requests training that he or she find interesting. This training might include hostage negotiations, bomb threats, K-9, technology, report writing; and the list goes on. However, the training is not standardized among all officers or supervisors.
Q: How does initial police officer training differ from training received by officers as their careers progress?
A: Police officers in his state receive very thorough initial training. Like other law enforcement training, initial officer training varies in quality and quantity from department to department and state-to-state.
No one denies that training in law enforcement is one of the keys to success, yet the training received is inconsistent both in quality and quantity. One can only conclude that standardized training that is hands-on and thorough is necessary in every department in a field where life safety is perpetually threatened.