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Brian Willis

Brian Willis

Brian Willis is a retired officer, trainer and author who now serves as deputy executive director for the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA).

William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.

BSing Wastes Training Time

War stories make for interesting conversation, but do they teach or entertain?

October 08, 2007  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

There is not a cop alive who doesn't have a trunkful of good police war stories. In fact, I used to think the reason cops were invited to parties was for our great storytelling ability. But knowing when to use that ability is key.

Stories are great filler for the ill prepared, can be good time killers, and some are just entertaining. Granted, some great instructors may be able to pack classrooms with students because their presentations are akin to stand-up comedy. But who is learning and who is losing? War stories are great when you're off duty, not during training time.

As a recruit, you have watched all the cop shows, maybe have some friends on the job, and feel hearing these enchanting stories brings you closer to your goal: police inclusion. It is conceivable that you may learn something from these tales. If you are an FTO, you have great war stories and figure if trainees are cast as the protagonists…all the better. Wrong!

For the recruit, your job now is to focus on the seriousness of the job. You must learn to be a cop in a technical and professional manner. Frivolity can come later. Of course there are the rookie rites of passage you'll be expected to go through—more seasoned officers giving you a hard time as the newbie. Believe it or not, these can be useful lessons, too. If you can't handle these rituals, you need to grow a thicker skin. Most of what you'll endure will simply be a test of your patience and of your sense of humor. And believe me, you'll need them on the job.

FTOs, you have a packed schedule. I don't know where you can find the time to entertain. You are to train recruits in the most effective and efficient manner within a very limited time span. Do not waste precious time. Sorry to burst your bubble, but most of your whimsical stories are true time wasters. Now, if a tale has a valid teaching point, use it. No recruit likes dry material. And local flavor can enliven an already valuable lesson. However, if you are not prepared to present today's teaching topics, and so resort to telling jokes and stories, the recruit is the big loser here. Your job is to train, not entertain!

War stories should not be used to train recruits unless they communicate a valid teaching point. It should be clear to both the recruit and the FTO just why a story was spun. Yes, it can be humorous, but after the giggles, review the teaching point. Do not forget that both the recruit and the FTO must have a common understanding. If one gets off track, both have a moral responsibility to bring the other back to reality.

It can be nice to have some fun on the job, but going to the ER for needless injuries or losing cases in court because you were frivolous with your training time is pointless.

Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

RobPilgrim @ 11/2/2007 1:29 AM

I agree. War stories are for the lunch room not the road while you are training. Rookies expect to be taught not entertained.

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