Police officers conduct training exercise in riot gear.
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November 16, 2017
    Article highlights
  • Reduce liability from missed trainings.
  • Easily demonstrate compliance.
  • Best practices for setting up a training records system.

Law enforcement is incredibly high-stakes work. Police officers must know how to keep themselves and other safe, enforce laws, and follow regulations and best practices.

Police officers go through hundreds of hours of training. And with recent changes in policing, there’s an even bigger need for more training. In fact, in PowerDMS’s State of Policy in Law Enforcement report, 78% of agencies said they had an increased need for training.

Most police departments use a combination of online and in-person training. And some send officers to specialized training courses conducted by third-party organizations or other departments.

With all of the different venues and types of training, police training records management becomes increasingly important.

Without a good system and software in place for managing training records, it can be easy to lose track of who has completed what course.

An officer may be out sick and miss an important course. Or an officer may not complete all the hours they need to maintain a specialized certification.

It’s important to make sure officers get the training they need. But effective police training records management can also protect agencies, reduce training costs, and help with accreditation and accountability.

Reduce Liability From Missed Trainings

Various court cases have made it clear that police departments have a responsibility for properly training officers. Inadequate training isn’t just inconvenient, it’s an issue of liability.

In Monell v. Department of Social Services, the Supreme Court ruled that a government organization can be sued as a “person” in a civil action for violating a citizen’s constitutional rights.

And in City of Canton v. Harris, the Supreme Court ruled that government agencies can be held liable if an employee injures someone or violates someone’s constitutional rights due to improper or inadequate training.

This makes effective police training records management a critical part of protecting your agency.

If an incident does occur, one of the first things the court will want to see is police training records.

For example, if an officer was accused of an illegal search and seizure, judges would want to see that officer’s training records. Having thorough, updated training records could save your agency from being found liable for deliberate indifference.

A good police training records management tool will let you record when the training occurred, what material the course covered, who taught the course, and which officers attended.

With a police training software, you have proof of training for every officer. You can spot which officers missed a course so you can make sure everyone gets the training they need.

Eliminate Duplicate Training

In our State of Policy in Law Enforcement report, 67% of police departments said they don’t have the budget they need to afford all the training they need.

Effective police training records management can actually help your department cut costs by using training resources more efficiently. Some training modules may be redundant, or certain officers may get lumped into training courses they don’t necessarily need.

When all training records are in one location, it’s easier to spot these overlaps and redundancies.

Police officers going through a run as part of their training program.

Police training software lets you specify who gets trained on what topics. You can see the last time an officer went through training on a topic, and assign them retraining without having to pull them into a classroom.

Easily Demonstrate Compliance

While there are no universal federal standards for police training, every police department is subject to state, county, and city laws and standards.

In many states, law enforcement departments must minimum training hours in certain areas, and regularly report training.

For example, Oregon requires agencies to retrain officers on firearms and ethics every year. The state also requires training on things such as mental health and leadership every three years.

Failing to comply with state-mandated training requirements can result in officers getting suspended. Having complete, accurate training records is key to showing compliance with such standards.

Good police training records management can also help prove compliance with accreditation standards. Many agencies choose to pursue accreditation through an accrediting body such as the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).

Accrediting bodies usually have strict standards for training. Showing proof of training can be the difference between achieving (or maintaining) accreditation and losing it.

Training records software makes it simple to show training hours and courses for each individual officer as well as overall training trends.

Officer reviews police training records in his car using PowerDMS.

Best Practices for Setting Up a Training Records System

The days of paper training records are long gone. And keeping training records on a server or spreadsheet can make them hard to access and maintain.

A police training software such as PowerDMS can simplify and streamline your department’s police training records management.

Here are some best practices for getting started:

Log everything

You shouldn’t have to go searching through filing cabinets or servers to find records for different officers or training events.

If you can’t easily find training reports, it’s as if the training didn’t happen. Proof of training is key, so make sure to keep all of your training records in a single, secure repository.

This includes online training, in-service training, classroom work, even training conferences or continuing education hours conducted outside your department.

Most online training software will automatically log officer engagement and hours in online courses. Software such as PowerDMS will record the time and date that officers complete training, and let you see how many hours they spent on the training.

For other training, such as conferences, it may be helpful to let officers log some of their own hours. This gives officers a sense of ownership over their own training, and takes some of the burden of record keeping off administrators.

With PowerDMS, you can give officers access to their training records so they can keep track of their development goals, see upcoming deadlines for certification, and make sure all of their training gets recorded.

You can create workflows so supervisors can verify that the training took place. And you can see which officers updated their training records and when.

Simpler Training Records Management

See for yourself how you can track all of your training records and more using PowerDMS.

Add certifications and their expirations

Another helpful aspect of police training records management is managing certifications.

No one wants to realize they are behind on required training a week before the certification expires.

Good police training records management helps command staff be proactive and make sure all officers are doing what they need to do for their certifications.

Juggling different certifications and expiration deadlines can get complicated, especially for large departments.

The first step is to gather all certifications and deadlines in one place. You may need to look back through the last five years or so of records to gather all the necessary information.

Once you’ve gathered the information you need on your officers’ certificates and expirations, you can use PowerDMS to set automatic reminders when deadlines are coming up.

It may take some work to get everything in one place, but once you do, you can proactively manage certifications and avoid lapses.

Set up online courses

Online training can be a cost-effective way to offer certain types of training or regular retraining.

With online training, officers can complete training hours on their own time. This can help your department cut overtime costs and avoid the scheduling conflicts that often arise in classroom training.

Online training also makes it easier to maintain training records. An online police training software will automatically log training hours and completion for each officer.

Administrators can view training records for each officer. They can also easily get a big picture of training in the department by seeing how many hours everyone has logged and in which areas.

Plain-clothes officer working on a police training management software.

Test for comprehension

Of course, police training isn’t just a matter of logging the required hours. Your department needs to make sure that officers understand the training and know how to apply it to their day-to-day activities.

With PowerDMS, you can create customized quizzes to test comprehension after a training module.

Testing helps ensure that officers pay attention to training and understand how to apply it.

With police training software, you can see test results for each officer as well as data about test scores across the department.

This lets commanders see the areas that an officer struggles in. It also shows trends across the whole department, which can reveal gaps in training and help improve training overall.

For example, if a large percentage of officers perform poorly on questions about use of force in incidents involving the mentally ill, it may indicate that you need to offer additional training in that area or revise your training content.

Run regular reports

Your department may only need to submit official reports to the state or accrediting bodies once a year or so. But that shouldn’t be the only time you look at your training reports and data.

With a police training software such as PowerDMS, you can regularly run reports to see who is on top of their training, who’s behind, and how your department is doing with training overall.

This helps you proactively address potential training issues, instead of waiting until a problem arises.

Utilize surveys

Training records and data can help show you the state of training in your department. But training records don’t tell the whole story.

Surveys can help you gather feedback and learn what officers think about particular training courses. Gathering this feedback can help you improve your training by making it more engaging.

You can also discover what kind of training officers want more of, which helps in deciding how to allocate training resources.

Your department can use surveys for many different aspects of operations.

For example, some police departments use surveys in the promotion process, asking officers to assess the qualifications of their co-workers. Others use surveys to measure morale. And some use surveys to gather routine information such as equipment orders.

In any case, your department should house survey results in a centralized location, just like training records.

A good training software lets you easily distribute surveys and make them anonymous when needed. It lets you see the overall results and store all the information in one central location.

Between all the different officers, certifications, and training outlets, keeping track of police training can be difficult. But complete and accurate police training records management is an essential part of protecting your agency, proving compliance, and managing training budgets.

A police training software such as PowerDMS can help you make sure every officer gets the training they need to do their job well.

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