Online Police Training

How to implement an online training program in your police department.

December 23, 2020

Article highlights

In the hectic pace of today’s law enforcement departments, officers spend as much time as possible serving and protecting citizens and keeping communities safe. But to bring their A-game, officers need to receive ongoing police training to do their jobs safely and effectively.

The problem? Police departments

often face difficulties finding the time and funding for training. While ongoing training is crucial, it can be expensive and disruptive to pull officers from the field.

Besides the cost of the training and materials, you need to factor in the cost of officers attending in-person training. If you don’t have a relief factor for staffing, you not only need to pay officers for their time attending the training, you also need to pay the officers’ replacement for overtime. That adds up quickly.

Plus, issues such as scheduling conflicts, instructor problems, and more make in-person training difficult to execute. Overdue certifications and up-to-date learning can easily take a backseat to day-to-day tasks.

And sometimes, in-person training proves ineffective. For example, does this sound familiar? Your county’s accrediting bodies, state statutes, or county policies mandate that you provide training on bloodborne pathogens, sexual harassment, and other redundant training.

To meet these requirements, you schedule intensive, multi-day classroom training. Then, officers take a test afterward to gauge retention of the material. But, since it’s the same test every year, it’s impossible to know if officers actually comprehended the policies or simply copied the answers or regurgitated them from the previous testing.

This is exactly what happened at Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Captain of special operations, Penny Phelps, shared how deputies dreaded these long, 12-hour training days, which left zero time for hands-on, scenario-based training that reflects conditions in the field. It was ineffective, time-consuming, costly, and drudgery for deputies.

That’s why so many departments are turning to online police training, which helps solve many of the problems cited above. Police training software can save law enforcement agencies money, time, and headaches, while helping reduce liability and achieve compliance. Plus, online training is easy to update and allows officers to learn at their own pace, which helps them better retain information.

If your agency is considering a move towards online police training, this handy guide can help you implement an effective online educational solution to supplement (not supersede) that critical in-service training.

Benefits of Online Police Training

While online training yields many benefits, it will never replace in-person training. But increasingly, police departments are feeling the pressure to cover topics such as anti-harassment, diversity, and even IT security training to limit the liability of the department and the municipality.

In-person training works great for learning hands-on techniques and role-playing scenarios, but it’s not suited for every training topic.

Conducting OSHA, anti-harassment, driver safety, diversity, IT security, and similar training in a classroom setting can be costly. And it’s not the way most officers want to spend their time. But if you shift these important topics to online training software, you won’t need to pull officers from the field for these mandated training sessions. Instead, you actually free up more time for hands-on training that truly requires in-person education.

With a “one-to-many” educational approach, online training allows departments the flexibility to cover important topics whenever the officers have time to complete the training. By giving officers anytime/anywhere access to courses, they can complete training on their computer, phone, or tablet.


This not only frees up officers’ time, but it also allows them to learn at their own pace and on their own schedule. Plus, they can review any previous training for a refresher whenever they need it. And what happens if training gets interrupted?

If officers need to step away from a course or a test, a good online training software like PowerDMS will save their place, so the next time they log in, they can pick up right where they left off.

You can also use online training as a “warm-up” to maximize those in-person training sessions when you do need them. By giving officers online pre-work, they’ll better understand the main topics and information before they even arrive for the onsite training.

Providing this primer before the in-person training means you can save valuable time and keep officers more engaged in going over the tactics and procedures instead of starting from scratch.

How to Implement Online Training in Your Department

If you have been relying on in-person police training, how do you actually add in online training? Follow these guidelines to help jumpstart online police training in your agency.

Identify the right training to move online

Before you convert any of your training to an online approach to save time and money, it helps to start with an inventory or review of your current situation. As mentioned earlier, not every training course is a good fit to be hosted online.

Look through your list of police training courses and determine which ones would be good candidates to offer online. Work together with your training staff to revisit your existing training materials.

A good rule of thumb – look for topics that could easily be taught in a lecture format. Again, these are typically topics that would be covered in a classroom and/or mandated by the municipality or state.

Worried about retention? With a good online police training solution like PowerDMS, you can create a bank of 50 questions from which the software pulls randomly and creates a 25-question test unique to each officer. These randomized tests limit cheating and allows the command staff to change and improve future training based on the responses.


Keep it simple

A word of caution: Don’t over-complicate your thinking about what online training needs to be. It can be as simple as you need it to be in order to be effective. You can include learning goals, training objectives, references, and whatever else you need to make the courses compliant with your state’s or county’s accreditation standards, statutes, or policies.

In some cases, for example, your online police training can be as simple as a PowerPoint presentation and an audio recording of the trainer providing a voice-over for all your slides. You don’t need a complex production team or video department to do that. You can simply tap into the suite of word-processing and presentation software that’s probably already on your computer.

Research shows that short, to-the-point training can be more effective than longer, full-day training. According to an article on Forbes, “Some companies derail their training programs by training their teams in painfully boring marathon sessions. The most effective training is done in short bites.”

So, keep the training direct and focused on a single topic, rather than trying to cover everything all at once. (This is part of the problem with all-day police training – it tries to do too much in one mega-session.)

Give your in-person training a boost

If you want your officers to show up for your in-person training prepared and ready to dig into the meat of your training, add in some pre-work via online training. This allows officers to review key points, policies, and even some of the tactical information before showing up to training day. This means that when they do arrive, you don’t waste their time (or yours) by covering some basics they could easily just read, watch, or listen to online at their convenience.

You can even add some pre-tests to your online police training to ensure officers understand the basic strategies and techniques before they step foot in the classroom. This helps officers focus on the content and increase the chance that they will retain the information.

Keep track of all your training in one system

If you are just starting to implement online training, don’t make the mistake of putting it on a shared drive or in a closed system that only tracks training completed in that particular police training software. In doing so, you will create silos of information, which can make proving completion difficult.

Instead, make sure you keep your online police training all within the same system. This makes it much easier to track, especially as you continue to add more online training modules down the road.

With PowerDMS, you can track all of your training from a single, secure solution. By including your training in with a robust policy management solution, you can corral all of your most important content in one location. It also makes including policies in with your training that much easier. Plus, you can assign policies and training courses to specific officers or groups with our easy-to-use automation tools, furthering your compliance efforts

Getting Started

Back to that Monroe County Sheriff’s Office story. Using PowerDMS for redundant training allowed the department to cut down on the man hours spent in training. Instead of spending 36 hours sitting in a classroom, deputies now spend just four hours in hands-on training, which saves Monroe County $87,000 each year in overtime costs. With an ROI like that, everyone wins.

With PowerDMS, it’s easier than ever to get started. More than 2,500 law enforcement agencies choose PowerDMS because we provide the tools to keep your officers safe and protect your agencies. In the process, you shave time and dollars off your training efforts while boosting engagement and retention.

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