After you graduate the academy and the FTO program, you may think you're done with the classroom, but this is far from reality. In addition to mandated in-service and state training, I urge you to take courses to enhance your skills and performance. Start small and work your way up to more advanced classes. When it comes to selecting schools, do it with a plan in mind.
Basics Add Up
Most new officers have their academic taste buds set for exciting schools. Everyone wants to attend advanced firearms, auto accident reconstruction, forensics, or some high-speed school probably better suited for a more advanced or seasoned officer. Some of these schools may be for an advanced certification.
Stop and think of your needs now and how each school can assist you in becoming a more seasoned officer—gradually. I have always said that you need to learn to be a good police officer first, and then the other stuff can follow. Having a career plan is important; the learning must have a basic foundation.
Check your academy announcements for upcoming classes. Some might not sound that appealing, but anything that can provide you with skills needed for the more advanced schools or certifications you're interested in is worth looking into.
So what should you focus on? Here are some suggestions.
Advanced Report Writing
Advanced Report Writingis always offered and this is one that everyone should have under their belts. Yes, I know you took academy report writing basics and you think you write a good report. But, this is something we do every day and this skill can always be enhanced.
Interview or Interrogations
Interview and Interrogations skills are not always just for detectives. Learning to conduct a legal conversation with a purpose is a great skill to hone up on.
Emergency Vehicle Operators Course (EVOC)
Emergency Vehicle Operators Course (EVOC) is always a good choice. Just knowing the number of officers that die every year from traffic-related deaths should cue you here. You could be operating a different vehicle today than the one you trained with at the academy, or maybe you have become lackadaisical in the past few months. Whatever the case, this is a good skill to focus on; it is your life you are protecting here.
Courtroom Testimony and Evidence Presentation
Courtroom Testimony and Evidence Presentation is one that nobody wants to attend, but here is where all of your work goes on display. All cops want to win in court, and by now you may have lost a case or two. Take this course to learn how to increase the batting average.
"Tactical Talking" is an essential skill on the job. There are a few good courses out there; Verbal Judo and Management of Aggressive Behavior (MOAB) immediately come to mind. How we glean information and learn to communicate is critical for our safety and job performance. If you can take only one course this year, this topic matter is my suggestion.
Street Encounters with legal updates are critical as well. Every state has its own rules of engagement coupled with the Constitution. How well you understand how to operate within these parameters is one thing, but new court opinions and laws change constantly. Learning to work legally and effectively is a balancing act at times; this class can help.
I know you wanted me to recommend some high-speed tactical courses and you think the above suggestions are boring. But putting away bad guys and doing it legally, safely, and effectively is what it's all about.
One thing I learned years ago is that most skills are built on the basics. No top pistol shooter or martial artist ever forgets the basics that are taught from day one; neither should you.
Train with meaning and heart.