What is Wrong With Law Enforcement Training?

I have been involved in law enforcement training as a primary instructor and assistant instructor almost as long as I have been in law enforcement. During this time as a trainer, I have noticed some frustrating issues. These issues are widespread and not a single department is exempt but some are better than others. In this article, I want to talk about some of these issues and how we can help resolve them.

Individual Responsibility

It’s a Matter of Duty

First, we need to talk about the individual officer and their part in this problem. The individual officer isn’t blameless. They all have a duty to themselves, their family, and the citizens they protect. With this duty the people they protect expect them to do the right thing at the right time using the correct amount of force ending the situation without unneeded loss of life or liberty.

Law Enforcement Training - Individual Responsibility
Invest time and effort into the disciplines. Image credit: Daniel Bales.

Invest in Your Discipline

To do this the individual officer must invest time and effort into themselves. This time and effort need to be spent in multiple disciplines. These disciplines include firearms, tactics, weaponless defense, report writing, court demeanor, and so on and so on. There are two disciplines that are needed in a time of crises more than the others, they are firearms and weaponless defense. I am not a weaponless defense expert and will leave that area to the dudes who wear pajamas and have ringworm.

Firearms Training and More

If you carry a gun for a living it is your responsibility to train yourself and or get training. This training should include dry practice, live-fire training, force-on-force, and tactics training. To get some of this training you can ask your coworkers, get a shooting buddy, talk with range staff, and talk with the other trainers in your department. I bet in your department you will find someone to help you. I will make one request to those needing help, you need to ask for it! If all of this effort doesn’t work, you can pay a private training company to train you in these areas. Even if you have worked with others in your department extensively, I would highly recommend that you get professional training outside of your department, it could be very eye-opening!

Take it Seriously

Next point, take the training given to you by your department seriously. Pay attention, take notes, and for god’s sake get off your damn phone. Just because you didn’t pay for it doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable or important!

Enough on that, get out and train!

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The shorter the grass the taller the tree - manscaping.
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Departmental Responsibility

Let’s move to another, the Departments themselves.

Law enforcement training - departmental responsibility
Modern law enforcement situations demand better and more realistic training. Image credit: Daniel Bales.

Prioritize Training Budgets

Some Departments see training as a dollar amount and not as an important lifesaving need. Departments have been known to move budget money from training departments at the first sign of budget shortfalls. Now I understand that law enforcement training is a very expensive endeavor. You have to pay the trainer or trainers, officers, backfill officers, ammunition, targets, range fees, and the list goes on and on. Looking at the situations today’s law enforcement officers are being faced with (Stoneman Douglas / Dallas Active Shooter) they are in need of better and more realistic training!

Raise Training Standards

With these difficult situations, minimum standards are not giving our law enforcement what they need to prevail. Training needs to exceed the minimum standards and continue to progress. Administrators should work to place more emphasis on moving monies towards their training departments making this area their biggest concern. I bet certain departments can make do without the newest office furniture and spend that money on training their officers!

The last group is my peers, the trainers!

Instructor Responsibility

Continuing Education for Instructors

If you are in charge of any aspect of your department’s training, it is your job to be a true professional. Attending an instructor school is the first part of becoming a professional. If you have never attended an instructor school you shouldn’t be involved in the instruction of students. As a professional, you should continue to look at increasing your skills as an instructor.

If you attended an instructor course, let’s say 5 years ago, but have attended zero schools after, you are wrong and failing your peers, profession, and your department. Even if f your department won’t pay because they say you have been to too much training, then as a professional you need to pay for yourself and attend training. If they won’t pay your salary for the time you are attending this school, you need to take a vacation or compensatory time. If they won’t supply you with the ammunition, you need to buy it yourself. No ifs, ands, or buts—you need to continue increasing your knowledge and experience by attending outside training.

Law Enforcement Training - Instructor Responsibility
If you are in charge of any aspect of your department’s training, it is your job to be a true professional. Image courtesy of Daniel Bales.

Instructor Demonstrations

I have a large disdain for one thought process that law enforcement training instructors have, it is not demonstrating in front of students. Demonstrating in front of your students is a required skill. Adults learn in three ways: auditory, kinesthetic, and visual. If you don’t demonstrate you are leaving out a very important aspect of your student’s ability to learn a new skill. If you can’t or won’t shoot around your students because you suck! STOP instructing! Go back into your hole to never be seen again!

Use the O.D.E.C. Instruction Method

As instructors, you also need to give your students some space to experiment. I have witnessed too many instructors stand over students and bark instructions about everything a student needs to correct all at once. One way to reduce this urge is to use O.D.E.C. This stands for Observe, Detect, Explain, and Correct. Using this method will assist your ability to help students by giving them the space needed to experiment during shooting exercises.

  • “Observe” the student for some time from the side of them, several feet away, but close enough to intervene if necessary.
  • “Detect” the students shooting errors while “Observing” them.
  • “Explain” only one problem at a time. Giving the student too much to work on can overload them, especially if they are newer shooters.
  • “Correct” only the area you gave the student to work on until they are able to master it. This is one way you can be a better instructor for your department.

Law Enforcement Training: Step up!

What it all comes down to is stepping UP! Department leaders need to move money to the highest liability areas. Trainers need to be professionals and never stop attending training, even if it means using their own money and time. The individual need to invest in their own abilities allowing them to perform at a higher than the minimum standard, and if you need help, ask there is nothing to be ashamed about everyone has to start somewhere.

If you want to attempt to make those around you better, start with yourself. Hopefully, by doing this you will see a change in your department and the officers around you!


Looking for a training course? Here are some Things to Consider Before Taking a Training Course.

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