Police driver training: The U.K. way
Part 1 of 2
As American Law Enforcement Deaths related to vehicle collisions remain high, training has been brought to the forefront. As more agencies grasp the need for more L.E. Driver Training, a serious evaluation must take place within the individual training programs. Every State has different qualifications, and each department conducts their training differently.
I have had the pleasure of visiting various training facilities and speaking to countless trainers around the United States. While many are doing a great job in the area of driving safety, the standards and methods remain different at virtually each one of them. The studies are limited at the effectiveness of various methods and many instructors struggle to remain up to date in the various techniques and best methods. While driver training is an essential part in keeping our officers safe, we must ensure that training meets high standards and the effectiveness can be measured.
The Association of Law Enforcement Emergency Response Trainers (ALERT) International Vice-President Randy Jacoby sees a problem with a lack of consistency within American L.E. Driver Training Programs. He cites the importance of knowing that every officer is receiving the same training and being able to place a value on that training.
"There is not a way to measure the effectiveness of the police driver training in the United States without some sort of standardized training system," he said. "ALERT International has developed a National Reference Guide but as a whole, departments have been slow in adapting it."
While much work has yet to be accomplished in the United States, The United Kingdom is leading the World in Law Enforcement Driver Training. Following the introduction of British Police Driving Schools in 1935, the next twenty years brought a dramatic decrease in collisions by Metropolitan Police drivers. The U.K. Government reported that police collisions dropped to a mere one-sixth of their previous amount. The United Kingdom utilizes a system of car control referred to as Roadcraft. The system was created specifically for the U.K. Police and was put together at the Metropolitan Police Driving School. The early success of the system led to the expansion on the civilian market in the 1950's. Roadcraft: The Police Driver's Handbook has been available to the public since that time and numerous advanced driving schools have been available to the general public for decades. According to Eddie Wren, the executive director of Drive & Stay Alive, "The key factor is that this is no Johnny-come-lately scheme, dreamt up by a few individuals on the basis that it seems like a good method. It has been refined and improved for more than seventy years by collective thousands of the world's top public road driving experts. The fundamental aim of advanced driving is to utilize observations, anticipation and planning, to allow a driver to have adequate time to deal with any situation that might arise. This is applicable not only to genuinely good drivers, travelling within the relevant legal speed limits, but also to emergency personnel driving at very high speeds."
While American Law Enforcement attempts to mirror what the civilian community has done in driver training, the United Kingdom's driver training system was started for the police and subsequently has improved the training for the entire country. Every officer in the United Kingdom must meet the exact same standards. While the standards may seem extreme to American L.E., they have no doubt made the jobs of the U.K. Police much safer. The standard driving course for police recruits is three weeks while the majority of American L.E. Officers undergoes just three days. Prior to U.K. Officers engaging in police pursuits, they must undergo an additional four weeks of driver training with a refresher course every three years. An instructor course will last six weeks.
With hundreds of different L.E. driving courses and systems being taught in the United States, it may be time to begin the standardization of this vital training curriculum. The thought is overwhelming but the potential gain in officer safety would be tremendous. Although many issues have yet to be resolved, Law Enforcement in America has no doubt become aware of the importance of driver training. How serious we are about the training is not yet known.
Part 2 of this article will focus on the success of the U.K. Roadcraft System and the emergence of that training in the United States.
Scottish Police College: http://www.tulliallan.police.uk/prospectus/rpd/driving.htm
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