5 keys to policing you won’t learn at the academy

By using our training and our noggin we can all become better public servants


Training is the key theme repeatedly drilled into our heads from the first day of the academy and beyond. Whatever the situation that ends up on the six o’clock news, everything always comes back to training. 

If it was a bad situation, it is blamed on lack of training — or the wrong type of training — and if something casts a positive light on law enforcement it was because of the “extensive” training the officer received. 

Without doubt, the more training we get for encounters we face in our police careers, the better. However, I would like to point out five things that the academy — or continuing education and in-service training — cannot teach us. These are traits we either inherently possess or they’re things we will have to quickly learn on our own.

1. Common Sense: How many videos have gone viral online because of bad decisions of police officers? Yanking 90-year-old ladies out of vehicles because they didn’t pull over right away, or arresting a mother with four kids in the car for no seat belt are a few examples. 

Justifying a felony stop or drawing our weapon sometimes requires thought — not just how we were trained in the academy.

2. Good Instincts: A good street cop will develop sharp instincts over time. When something just isn’t right, a good cop will sense it. On the flip side, if a cop doesn’t have or cannot develop these instincts they will eventually stand out among their peers as that one guy/gal on the shift that just doesn’t get it.

3. Mortality: There is something about putting on that uniform and badge as a rookie that gives us some sense of immortality. Thinking we are invincible because of the uniform can get us hurt. We usually learn that we are not immortal very quickly after that first big fight or vehicle crash.

4. Being Personable: Learning to talk to people and respect them will diffuse more situations than any rookie can possibly imagine. People want to be respected. Even suspects who don’t deserve respect will comply and — even confess to a crime! — if you approach them without talking down to them. For them, we have the reputation of being ‘A-holes’ so if we can prove to them that we are not, they are more likely to cooperate.

5. Listening: Develop this skill and you will have more success on the street than you thought possible. I’ve seen so many encounters of officers that are so busy listening to themselves while telling someone “how it is” that they miss little bits of information that the suspect or victim may be trying to tell them, bits of information that may or could be vital to the investigation or to help end an encounter.

You may have a story that goes hand in hand with one of the traits above. Good or bad, if it can be a learning experience for all of us please share it below. By using our training and our noggin we can all become better public servants. 

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