Law Enforcement Training Best Practices

If you want your police officers to be successful in their jobs, training is an essential part of their job. Here are five ways you can improve training.

December 29, 2020

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There’s no way around it. If you want your officers to be successful in their jobs, training is an essential part of their job.

From educating your officers on policies to ensure compliance to equipping them in how to use the latest technology, training is a crucial part of working in law enforcement.

Training can also prove to be a challenge. In the 2017 State of Policy in Law Enforcement report, 78% of agencies reported a need for increased training on policy, while 67% of agencies did not feel they had the budget to conduct appropriate training.

As a result, many departments are looking for new ways to extend training dollars.

So what’s the best way to leverage your training efforts for maximum success for everyone involved? It could be as simple as re-thinking your training practices.

Though training itself is a non-negotiable, you are not necessarily limited to one way of educating your officers – and that’s a good thing.

Standard classroom training can certainly be effective. But since everyone learns differently, coming up with new ways of training could help your officers retain important information.

In addition to brainstorming new training methods, you could also consider making small changes to your existing programs could.

From taking your current training efforts online to adding a new step to your existing classes, adjusting your routine could make a big difference.

If you are interested in taking your law enforcement training to the next level, here are five best practices to consider.

1. Make Field Training a Mentorship Program

As you know, training isn’t all about the classroom. To be successful and safe on the field, your officers need hands-on training.

Among other things, they will need to learn how to respond in high-stakes scenarios, how to use your technology appropriately, and how to problem solve in fast-paced situations.

For these things, consider engaging your recruits through scenario-based training, which puts them in common situations where they have to apply the knowledge they have accumulated.

In addition to scenario-based training, why not create a high-quality, low-cost solution and utilize the best resource you have?

That’s where a field training mentorship program could be helpful.

According to the IACP, peer mentoring cultivates a culture of belonging, demonstrating to officers they are valued while acclimating them to agency culture. It could also provide a context for your officers to ask questions they may be nervous to ask in a larger group setting.

According to INC, there are several other reasons to implement a mentorship program, many of which have long-term payoff for your agency.

Think of a field training mentorship as an investment in your officers and your department at large. Pairing newer officers with veteran officers shows your commitment to equipping your employees to be successful.

When management invests in their team, employees are more likely to be loyal and productive. Also, training your officers with mentors promotes a culture of communication and engagement, which will likely pay off in the future.

Choosing your mentors

When implementing a mentorship program, it’s important to involve the right officers.

While it may make sense to choose those with the most experience, you will also want to consider temperament and personality.

Choose mentors who are patient yet firm. Of course, you want training mentors who can provide timely feedback to your officers and offer creative solutions to problems.

However, it’s also important your training mentor can quickly instill confidence in those they train.

While mentorship training would be beneficial for all new officers, millennial recruits may respond particularly well due to their desire for relationships and belonging.

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2. Test for Retention

Regardless of the type of training, it’s important to test officers afterward to ensure they comprehended what they learned. After all, what good is training if your officers don’t understand how to apply the knowledge?

Testing can both help your officers hone in on the “why” behind your policies, and connect them to real-life situations in which they would use what they have learned.

Testing your officers for retention doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, in most cases, the simpler, the better.

If you haven’t already, now may be a good time to consider streamlining your training and testing efforts by using the cloud.

Replacing your old approach with technology will save your agency time, so your officers can focus on doing their jobs well on the field rather than wasting time in the classroom.

It can also save you money on teachers, classroom space, and materials. It may not sound like much, but taking training online saved one department $87,000 annually.

PowerDMS offers an online training functionality that allows you to both customize and simplify your education efforts.

In addition to seamless virtual training, you will be able to test your officers for retention. This ensures they will know exactly how to apply the information.

Online testing can also save you valuable time with instant grading along with the opportunity to improve your training efforts as you go. Because you can see easily which questions employees are getting wrong, you’ll be able to adjust what and how you teach to ensure their success going forward.

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3. Keep Track of Training Records

Training isn’t a one-and-done effort. Because policies, technology, and best practices evolve, your training will evolve along with it.

By keeping track of training records, you can be strategic in how you train. For example, using a software to track your employee training means you can more easily stay current with certifications and licenses.

You can also use training software to set automatic reminders and make sure all your officers are current on training.

Tracking training data electronically will also help you empower your team for success as they seek to meet goals.

According to INC, investing in staff development will benefit your team in many ways, from attracting and retaining officers to keeping employees engaged.

Your readily available training data can also help you plan for performance reviews and promotions, ultimately save you time and money as you do so.

4. Move as Much as You Can Online

Think of the cloud as a “one-stop shop” for the documents your department frequently uses.

In addition to your policy and procedure materials, you can simplify your workflow and move all your training documents online. As aforementioned, investing in cloud-based training can have a big payoff in your department.

When you don’t have to pull officers from the field to train them in the classroom, you can save valuable time. You could also potentially save money on overtime hours.

Online training also means you won’t have stacks of papers and rows of file cabinets in your office. Going paper-free will not only save you time thumbing through documents; it will also save money on materials and supplies.

5. Never Stop Training

Ensuring your officers have the tools they need to be successful means they can better serve your community. For this reason, and because laws and best practices are ever-changing, ongoing training is a non-negotiable.

According to Chron, refreshing employee knowledge is key as old knowledge gradually becomes less useful over time.

“Regardless of how good the quality of the training was at the time, the learning deteriorates over time. Just as the muscles of a bodybuilder need to be consistently worked to keep them in shape, so, too, do employees need to use what they have learned and occasionally revise or update the training.

Single-event training can be forgotten quickly, so it is important for employers to evaluate, test and follow up effectively to get the maximum return on their training investment.”

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No matter how often you train your, think of officer education as an ongoing effort that will benefit your team.

Training your officers may be a costly, time-consuming effort. But by educating your officers, you will benefit your department and those whom it serves.

Think of training your employees as a long-term investment in your department. It may involve some legwork up front, but you will begin to see fruit gradually over time.

As you implement new training methods and best practices, you can make the process simpler and more enjoyable for everyone.

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