07/05/2013

Anthony PowalieThe Art of Discipline
with Anthony Powalie

Training for success despite diminished budgets (part two)

Whether or not you belong to a large or small agency, there are ways to increase the effectiveness of your training without breaking the bank

Many police departments in America are in the same boat — they’re facing reduced budgets, while also seeing increases in criminal activity. Departments are doing (or at least contemplating) layoffs direct and/or layoffs through attrition. They’re also cutting training budgets.

We want to achieve the best training at the lowest cost, and there are several ways to accomplish this. 

In part one of this short two-part series, we looked at some options for building a relatively low-cost training program. Here, let’s examine the effects of certain training techniques, as well as the effects of not having much of training program at all.

Slippery Slope in Slides
Let’s consider training techniques, beginning with the use of PowerPoint presentations. The use of PowerPoint is a good way to disseminate information, but you still need hands-on training. 

Adult learning theories show people learn a subject best by a combination teaching techniques. Most people lose interest quickly with just slides. You should include photographs as well as videos if that is the only technique you are using, but do not use them as a crutch for lack of information or to just fill time.

Videos are a good resource also, but there are some things to consider here. We as police officers find ourselves drawn to police-related videos and we will use these in training to solidify our point. 

I would caution that for every video of an officer’s unfortunate death you should include a video of an officer surviving a similar situation. You cannot watch only tragedy and expect to get a positive result out of it. These videos, in my experience, can cause officers to hesitate in situations, and in extreme cases have caused officers to completely avoid situations because of the fear the videos have instilled. 

The officer needs to see that a particular situation can be survived and that not every encounter ends badly.  

Stress, Simplicity, and Sims 
Now let us consider the use of Simunitions for tactical training. Simunitions cannot be used in every training session, but they are highly-effective in stress inoculation. 

The idea is to be realistic as possible. Stress them out in training so they are prepared for an encounter on the street. When conducting this training, the scenarios have to be winnable. What I mean by that is that the scenario has to evolve based on the trainee’s actions. 

I’m sure you have been involved in training that, no matter what tactic you use, you failed. This makes no sense to me — the officer has to know that the tactics they use will work.

With Simunitions, scripts should be used for volunteers and must be tailored so the volunteers will react based on the officers’ actions; if the officer’s command presence is weak the volunteer knows to push it.  Remember, you have taught the tactics, and the officers are learning them, they need to know if they use them, they can succeed.

Now, when training in tactics, I would suggest standardizing your tactics that you train. Don’t teach 20 different ways to enter a room because it looks cool or because the latest school you attended showed them to you. 

Teach them one or two ways maximum to perform a task. If you give them too many tactics they will become confused when a high stress situation presents itself. They know you are the trainer, you don’t have to go overboard to prove that to them, keep it simple.

The Worst-Case Scenario
Lastly, let’s discuss having no training program at all. I realize this is a no brainer, but there really are some agencies that provide no significant ongoing training beyond some type of field training program. 

If your agency provides you no training, even within the department, you’ve been set up for failure. You are ripe for litigation or worse. I understand that in many places there is a lack of money for training. You can probably skate by for days, months or even years with no issues, but one day you will pay in a big way. 

Remember, you need training — there is just no way to get around that. Send officers to instructor schools, or network with neighboring agencies, and formulate a plan to provide real-world training with an emphasis on hands on where applicable and set your agencies up for success. 

You, your agency, and your citizens deserve it. 

About the author

Lieutenant Anthony Powalie is a 16-year veteran with the Painesville Police Department in Ohio. During his career, Powalie has been assigned to the county’s Bomb Squad and SWAT Team. Powalie has also been a Field Training Officer and Field Training Supervisor, and supervised his department’s street crimes unit. Powalie is currently the team commander and trainer of a Multi-Jurisdictional Entry Team. Prior to joining Painesville PD, Powalie worked for two other local police agencies and was a Corrections Officer for seven years prior to becoming a Police Officer. Powalie is married to a very supportive woman and has four children. Powalie is a certified instructor through the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission and instruct in several tactical areas.
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