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Training for success despite diminished budgets (part one)

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

Training in any agency should be a priority. Reductions in budgets are all too common, but this should not be an excuse for lack of training. Training costs money, but there are ways to contain training costs while also providing effective training for your personnel. 

The obvious goal for the budget-minded (uh, fiscally responsible) is the reduction of liability (cost), maximizing training dollars (cost again) while ensuring your officers’ safety. In other words, achieve the best training at the lowest cost. 

Here, in part one of this short two-part series, we’ll discuss some options for building a relatively low-cost training program. In part two, we’ll look at the effects of certain training techniques as well as the effects of not having an effective training program.

Cui Bono (Who Benefits?)
Agencies too often send their officers to ‘resume-building’ classes. This is where certain personnel go to school after school unrelated to their job function, just because they can. This can be a friend of the training supervisor, or in some cases the training supervisor themselves. 

This eats away at the budget, but worse than that, it destroys morale. 

Schools are a coveted commodity and should be scheduled with the goal of the agency in mind, not someone’s career.

One way to handle this is to spend money on instructor schools. This means knowing your personnel, what they excel in, and where they would be most effective. It does not mean sending an above-average shooter to a community policing school, when they would be best suited to becoming a range instructor.

Sending your personnel to instructor schools reduces costs because they can come back to your agency and teach others. Agencies with a certified instructor that send their officers away to learn the same thing (at a cost to the agency) aren’t really getting maximum benefit.

Sharing the Love
I’ve seen agencies send only a couple of officers to schools each year due to budget issues, but upon their return, those officers are not sharing the information they learned. Maybe the agency isn’t requiring them to share their newly-acquired information. Maybe they’re not sharing because they weren’t labeled “instructors” and there’s some fear of liability (by the way, you incur liability by not training!).

If you have knowledge, there’s nothing saying you cannot share it with others. I would not be able to live with myself, if one of my officers were hurt (or worse) because I didn’t share with them some tactic I’d learned that could have helped them. 

Hosting training is also a great way to reduce costs. You can usually get one or two free slots simply for hosting an outside instructor’s classes at your facility. Yes, there is ‘utility cost’ to this, but that is almost always offset by the training your people receive, especially if you keep the above in mind, and send the most appropriate people to fill those two seats.

In addition to reducing costs by hosting training, you can reach out to area departments and find out what instructors they have. Then you can come together and train each other. 

This can sometimes be challenging because there may be a lack of agency cooperation. Perhaps one agency doesn’t want to take on liability of training other agencies. It will take work, but the benefits will be there.

If you’re successful in creating such a partnership, you will have built a multi-jurisdictional training cadre. 

For this type of team, there are some things to consider. Scheduling your personnel to attend may be challenging. This is of particular importance when it involves yearly qualification courses. But with planning you can make this work. 

You will have been able to reduce costs, with the ability to train all of your officers instead of a couple, but furthermore you will have deepened the bonds you have with nearby agencies. That can be invaluable when the time comes.  

That’s all for now. Next time, we’ll look at ways to get the most of the training techniques you employ.  

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