Taking responsibility for training when your boss won't

How can we get sound tactical training when our bosses won’t send us? Sometimes, we have to train ourselves

One of the greatest benefits of writing for PoliceOne is that I have the opportunity to talk with officers from all over the country. We talk training and tactics and there is some really good stuff out there that cops are doing, and some healthy discussions take place. But unfortunately, there is a flip side to some of these conversations as well. There are cops that cannot get the training that they want because they have a boss who won’t send them.

We all know that it can sometimes be a battle to attend any training that is not required. It seems logical that if an officer talks with his boss and says, “I have a weakness, and I would like to attend ‘X’ to learn more and correct this,” that a supervisor should be tripping over his desk to get you to the training you need.

That’s not always the case though, is it?

Many agencies are beginning to be run like corporations; training must be part of an overall strategic plan and coincide with mission statements and visions. If that training has anything to do with hurting bad guys, protecting yourself off duty, or trains you to take action that doesn’t use the words “outreach” or “partnership” you may have a battle on your hands.

In some places, it’s much more of a battle to attend training that benefits the officer than to attend training that benefits the department. Unfortunately, most officers in this situation give up on asking for these tactical training classes simply because they get tired of the same old response (candy coated variations of the word “no”), leaving these officers more vulnerable to being the victim of an attack.

No matter where you work, when you put on that badge you do not know what the day is going to bring. We need to be prepared to face anything that might come our way. This includes mental, physical, and tactical preparation. It is always 100 percent our own job to take care of mental and physical preparation because if we don’t personally take care of those two things, the tactical part is useless.

But how do we polish the tactical part? How can we get this training when your boss won’t send you? Whose responsibility is it to train us?

If you work for an agency that provides (and encourages) good tactical training opportunities, you are very fortunate. For the officers whose departments simply will not send them to the training they need, there is a second option.

We train ourselves.

I know several officers will disagree and will say, “I ain’t doin’ this job on my own time and my own dime.” Some will gasp, “What? Train myself?!” Others will just dismiss the idea: “That’s just BS!”

I agree, our employers should be making this training available and sending us, but whose life is on the line when we fail because of using poor tactics or inadequate training? That would be us, the front line officer.

Like many rural cops, I came out of the academy, learned how to do everything with a partner officer and “call for backup” was the cure for when things were likely to go bad. I was promptly then assigned to work 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. as a lone deputy covering 1,000 square miles.

I was in pretty good shape and had my head in the game, but was really nothing more than a 21-year-old punk kid with a badge and a belly full of fire. I knew nothing about officer survival and I made far too many tactical errors to count. Sure, I went to the annual defensive tactics and firearms update to keep my LE certification, but never had any opportunity to learn the real tactics that would keep me sharp and safe. Fortunately I recognized this, and the first “survival training” I received was reading Charles Remsberg’s The Tactical Edge on my own time (surprisingly, I found it at a Northern Wisconsin library). That was it, everything else was learn as you go.

In today’s world we have Internet sites like this one, online video sites like this one, and other ways for an officer to read up and study pretty much any topic they would like to learn about. Add to that, e-mail subscriptions and Internet forums where officers around the globe can talk shop and tactical issues easily and there is simply no excuse anymore for us to be clueless about anything. Even watching reality cop shows and paying attention to officers and bad guy’s tactics can provide some benefit — not much, but some.

If there is a survival/tactical topic that you feel you need to put some polish on and the boss doesn’t think it’s important enough to send you, think about trying to get there on your own dime. Learn about weapon retention, edged weapons, body language, and the long list of other topics that will help get you home safe. As the officer on the street, it is important that we make sure we don’t have any weak spots in our tactics. If you do, get rid of them any way you can, even if it means doing it on your own time and money.

Your life — or the life of one of your fellow officer’s — might depend on it.

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